Peggy Sturdivant
An annex on the dock of the old Azteca site, 6017 Seaview Ave. N.W. This photo is from Sept. 22, 2008. Click image for additional photos.

At Large in Ballard: Golden Tides rises again at old Azteca site

“And the tide rises, the tide falls.” Henry Wordsworth Longfellow

During the last few years who hasn’t wondered what is going to be the final product of construction and renovation on the dock just south of Ray’s Boathouse? Whether you remember the business as a former ferry dock, Golden Tides nightclub or an Azteca Mexican Restaurant, people are very curious about what will next be unveiled at 6017 Seaview Ave. N.W.

The site owner is Ballard High School alum John A. Goodman, president of Goodman Real Estate, founder of Pinnacle Management Services and chairman of numerous other business affiliates, such as Triad Development.

Purchased through a business entity called GRE, Golden Tides LLC it is still unclear whether the property will be for business or personal use. A generous contributor to local causes such as Ballard High School Foundation and Boys & Girls Club through his company and The Goodman Foundation, Goodman is reticent about media attention. I’ve heard him referred to as one of Seattle’s “stealth millionaires.”

During the last few years, I’ve walked by the site weekly, studied the Proposed Land Use sign and checked in regularly on the remodeling process through permits dating back to Jan. 4, 2006.

Golden Tides LLC purchased the site for $1.4 million in October 2004 from long-time Ballard restaurateurs the Mitchell brothers. Dave and Mark Mitchell had been leasing the property to Azteca Mexican Restaurants after they sold their own restaurant at the site to Acapulco’s. Their long-time restaurant and club was The Golden Tides.

I’ve read the permit applications and the lengthy Shoreline Environmental Assessment report required because of the site’s location on tidelands adjacent to property owned by the Department of Natural Resources. I’ve spoken to one of the architects, Gregory Wharton of Studio Meng Strazzara. I know there will be three fireplaces, an elevator, a dock adequate for 10,989 square feet worth of boat sales, and residential space for a caretaker on the third floor.

Beyond official documents that outline proposed marine retail use for the first and second floor with two enclosed parking spaces and 34 exterior parking spaces, there is little to add that hasn’t been visible from the street in the form of a new sidewalk, gated wall and landscaping and three years’ worth of renovations.

For months, I tried contacting anyone connected to the project including John A. Goodman. He finally responded by email to my multiple questions: “This will have office use and caretakers unit for marina.”

I responded with compliments on the scope of the renovations and the landscaping, mentioned swirling rumors about its usage and asked yet again if he could provide more specifics about the project. His reply: “Really not much more to say.”

Does it ever happen that when you’re with someone rather quiet or shy that you start talking too much?

This location is located just where boats pass between Ballard and Magnolia on their way to more open waters, by the site of the original Ballard Beach. In its vicinity have been a boatyard, ferry landing and a mill before the first of several restaurants were located there.

David Hughbanks, lifetime neighbor, remembers pulling worms from the pilings at low tide to use later for fishing. He also recalled the Black Ball Ferry Line at this location that brought the milk trucks from Port Ludlow on their 6 a.m. run.

In its final years as a restaurant location, the Azteca was an undeniably a stunning venue where you could sip a margarita at sunset while sharing a table with a child who was equally charmed with a hand-patted tortilla and a small cup of crayons. Unfortunately, the dock was rotting and so unsafe the architect said even examining it was a dicey proposition.

It has been rumored that the site will be a private residence, or at the least, a dock for Goodman’s yacht. What is not rumor is the extent of work that has been done in and around the site.

A 100 foot breakwater was removed and replaced after dredging with one that is 140 feet. Creosote piles were removed and replaced with metal. An annex was built and attached to the 1946 building which has been reframed and rewired.

Goodman Real Estate often works with an artist for finish details; in this case there are extensive installations of wrought iron.

John A. Goodman lists 30 years of multifamily and commercial real estate investment experience on his company Web site. According to their site, the firm’s success has been in identifying distressed, mismanaged or underperforming properties.

“We reposition them, and then hold them as owners and operators," according to the company's Web site.

One local property in their portfolio is Market Street Center, anchored by Habitude and Stone Gardens. Still, Goodman didn’t answer the question of whether the property is simply another asset in his large portfolio (34,540 apartment units, 2.5 million square feet of office and retail space, three golf courses, and five luxury hotels, as well as development land).

Whatever is next for this historied site, the unveiling is near at hand. Golden Tides LLC applied for a temporary Certificate of Occupancy on March 9, 2009. Commercial buildings can have a residential or caretaker’s unit of up to 800 square feet; this one is just 676 square feet.

In lieu of publicizing the business there is the fact of new curb cuts, restoration of a public viewpoint and John Goodman’s response.“This will have office use and caretakers unit for marina.”

The Department of Planning and Development reported that not one person submitted public comment in response to the proposed land use notice. I suspect there will be plenty of public comment when the beautifully forged gates open on John Goodman’s version of marine retail on Seaview Avenue.

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I was expecting there to be

I was expecting there to be some new information in this article. Oh well. I was mostly concerned that there won't be more people hindering my trek to Paseo.