We often hear about development pressure changing communities all over the region. Case in point: A popular farm-themed shopping destination in Bothell might soon be replaced by condos.
The family that owns Bothell Country Village has a lucrative offer from a developer. It’s not a done deal yet. Some residents and shop-owners are still looking to save this neighborhood icon.
'It's Like Going Back In Time'
A home-grown shopping center with eclectic charm, Bothell Country Village hosts dozens of quirky shops and eateries. They’re all clustered around duck ponds, boardwalks and historical buildings reminiscent of the town’s roots in farming.
Visit any morning of the week and you’ll find kids chasing roosters under the willow trees or running around the railroad cars and pirate-themed playground at the center of it all.
But these days, there’s also concern that this summer may be its last.
“It’s like going back in time. It’s a slice of heaven in a way. So it’s really a shame if it goes,” said Kathleen Gedeon, who owns a knitting and crocheting store called Yarn of Eden.
She grew up in the area and found her spot here nearly five years ago.
“And I fell in love all over again with the ambience,” she said of her first trip back, when she knew this was the place to start her shop.
“This is the perfect place for people to create. And so, I was planning on this being our forever home,” Gedeon said.
Since her store first opened, there have been nearly constant rumors of a sale. But this time is different.
“We actually got a letter from the owners. I’ve never gotten a letter from the owners, so that’s a big deal,” she said.
“And after the letter came out, this place was crawling with people doing surveys – for a good three or four days, we must have had at least 20 people out there, doing whatever they need to do to approve this.”
Petition Drives Aiming To 'Save Country Village'
Since receiving the letter, shop owners and Bothell residents have been looking for ways to save the village, which has been around almost 40 years.
An online survey with more than 3,500 local signatures says it’s as important to Bothell as Pike Place Market is to Seattle. Another petition calls on city leaders to intervene.
But Bothell City Manager Jennifer Phillips said it's a private transaction. The move is driven partly by new zoning under the state Growth Management Act, a law that requires communities to concentrate more housing near urban centers.
The owners have already sold off nearly half the Country Village property for condo development.
You can see heavy equipment at work on the back parcel, nine acres where there used to be a pony farm and a kiddie railroad ride.
The offer for the rest of the family’s land came in unsolicited, said co-owner Bryan Loveless.
Deal Pending Confirmation Of Feasibility Study
“You know we did not have the property on the market and were approached by a couple different buyers for it. And it just seemed like the right time to consider selling it,” Loveless said
He said his family has been pretty torn up about it. Two of them have shops in the village. And one runs the office. But they’re all getting near retirement.
Their dad, Rod Loveless, founded the village and even built the story-high spotted chicken sculpture out front. He is 92 and just went through an expensive hip surgery.
He felt it’s time to let go. Bryan Loveless says the family puts a lot of stock in their father Rod’s guidance.
“We tried many times to sell this as a shopping center and keep it that way. We love our shop owners. We always wanted what’s best for them. But there just comes a point in time where it’s just time to sell it,” he said.
What’s happening at Bothell Country Village is not unique in our region. Population growth is putting pressure on communities all around Puget Sound to add housing.
And Loveless says the developers who have made an offer for the property aren’t interested in the petition drive from supporters of this park-like place, even if everyone pledged to chip in and buy a share or pay admission.
“It’s a fine compliment that they like the property so much, and we’re very appreciative of that,” he said.
But it can’t compete with the offer that’s on the table.
“Right now we’re under contract with a buyer and we’re committed to that legally. So unless that falls through, it would be difficult for us to sell to a group that bands together,” he said.
Loveless thinks there is a 50-50 chance the sale will go through. The results of the feasibility study will decide that, probably around the end of September.
In the meantime, the family is asking the public to keep coming out to enjoy the village, support the shop owners and visit the wildlife. They’ll all be there at least until March.