Track 29 Moving – Maybe?
After more than twenty years in one place, Yakima’s most bizarre mall might be on the go.
Track 29 owner Del Matthews plans to move the majority of the boxcars and Old West storefronts that involve the kitschy downtown landmark to a new location across the way, at the southwest corner of Yakima Avenue and Front Street. In the last few weeks, rumors of the move started to circulate with the unexpected closure of one of Track 29′s most successful renters, an eaterie controlled by the Buhrmaster Baking Company. Matthews confirmed in an interview that he plans to dismantle the boxcars, potentially as early as Q4.
he announced he has locked down financing to pay for the relocation, and he is already started submitting documentation with the city of Yakima for approval. “At the end of the day it may be good for the sellers, and it may be excellent for Yakima,” Matthews claimed. He anticipated merchant sales would double or perhaps triple once a scaled-down version of Track 29 is moved due to the improved visibility to motorists on Yakima Avenue and the new location’s vicinity to the North Front Street Important District. But the move isn’t without a hitch or 2. They fear Matthews is attempting to eject them. “If I could snap my fingers and have it occur tomorrow, I am all for it,” announced Mike Bastinelli, co-owner and general chief of Russillo’s Pizza, which re-opened on Track 29 early on in the year.
“But what the heck are we meant to do for 6 months?”. Found on Yakima Avenue next to the railroad tracks, Track 29 turned into a landmark just about from the moment it opened in 1987. The gimmicky brainchild of developer John Edwards, the Old West-style hamlet features a chain of boxcars cut out on one side to accommodate storefronts for shops and cafes. A raised wooden boardwalk completes the theme. But by 1994 it was fighting and over time it gained a rep for being cheap. Closed off by chain-link fences from the nearby North Front Street Consequential District, foot traffic is low. Companies are cyclical, and those that remain say they struggle to survive. Matthews “hasn’t spent a penny on this place over the years,” related Coralie Greenhow, a seamstress and owner of Coralie’s tailor shop. Greenhow and other tenants say Matthews called a special meeting earlier this summer to claim that he planned to move the mall to a carpark he owns over the road at the corner of Yakima Avenue and Front Street. With Matthews was George Pechtel, president of the North Front Street Business organisation. They presented their vision for a smaller Track 29 situated on what’s now an empty car park across Yakima Avenue.
The main town would be rebuilt but have a ground-level boardwalk and the boxcars would not be sitting on wheels or a railroad track. The tenants are not quite so keen about the plan. The move could take up to 6 months so that the storefronts can be disassembled and then rebuilt at the new location. Entrepreneurs worry they will not survive the move. “Not one of these businesses down here would survive,” added Greenhow.
“I can not be out of work for 5 – 6 days, much less 5 – 6 months.
Greenhow, Bastinelli and other renters say they remain mystified and confused about Matthews’ plans for the property Track 29 sits on now. “We’re all holding our own,” expounded Greenhow, who’s been at Track 29 since the mid-1990s but has not had a replenished lease with Matthews in years. “In my opinion he deserves to be fixing this place up and leaving it where it is “It’s a cool place that has been neglected,” said Bastinelli, a previous radio reports correspondent, adding that he is worried “Del is just trying to dispose of us. Matthews, who purchased Track 29 in 1996, conceded the renters have “legitimate questions” about their capability to survive a logistically tough move.
He denied that he is making an attempt to expel anybody, announcing the city’s outstanding development of a $43 million railroad underpass project is to blame. “I have no idea what to inform them just yet,” he claimed, “because I don’t have it all worked out just yet. He maintained that poor access into and out of Track 29 from Martin Luther King Jnr Boulevard and Yakima Avenue is the only reason for needing to move the shopping area.
The entrance on Yakima Avenue is a touch limited by a jersey barrier that makes left turns for eastbound traffic dicey. Once the underpass project gets under way, access will only become worse, Matthews claimed. He plans to leave Tequila’s restaurant right where it is — tucked within two old Pullman autos — as well as the Taylor Tots day care. Both are found nearest to MLK Boulevard. Matthews is assured Tequila’s can live without the remainder of Track 29 and highlights that Taylor Tots doesn’t depend on foot traffic.
Asked about rumours that he wants to convert the Track 29 property into a pay-to-park car park for nearby govt workers, Matthews shot back : “This ain’t Joe Morrier you are chatting to,” referring to the Yakima shopping mall owner who charged for parking even as the mall was sputtering toward closure. The area will be opened up for more parking, Matthews recognized. Opposite of Track 29 are a collection of previous warehouses that include an antique mall and offices for many state departments, including the Dep. of Agriculture and Work & Industries.
Matthews owns the brick building fronting Yakima Avenue, as well as the large parcel that Track 29 sits on, stretching from Yakima Avenue to MLK, according to county assessor records. Last year, Matthews purchased a parcel, just about an acre, from Helliesen Lumber & Supply that fronts MLK and South First Avenue. Matthews asserted he thinks the city of Yakima should help him move the shopping mall since the railroad underpass project is a city deal. “It would be nice if the city would step up,” Matthews announced. To that city officers had a short response. “We’re not paying for it,” recounted Michael Morales, the city’s assistant director of commercial development and a top helper to City Boss Dick Zais.
He revealed city officers worked closely with fruit warehouses and other businesses to reduce the impact of what’s sure to be one of the largest public works projects in the city’s history. The Lincoln Avenue underpass will be built first beginning later this autumn. Construction on the MLK underpass isn’t predicted to get under way till 2011. The city is still short $8 million for the MLK underpass so nobody should be worried about construction beginning anytime soon, Morales claimed. For the moment, renters are still waiting to hear something more from Matthews, who hasn’t yet given them official notice. Greenhow concerns that any day now she’ll be out on her ear.
“We have not seen the wrecking ball or a construction wagon out here yet,” she announced.
ON A SIDE NOTE CONSIDERING TRACK 29 IS IN MY OPINION A HISTORICAL LANDMARK AND A VERY IMPORTANT PART OF YAKIMA’S RECENT HISTORY. I BELIEVE THE CITY OF YAKIMA SHOULD HELP MOVE THIS SHOPPING CENTER IT IS TO IMPORTANT TO LOOSE. AND SHOULD MAKE IT A HISTORICAL ATTRACTION.
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