AAMA Transforms Aurora Avenue
In the mid 1980s, Aurora Avenue (which is also State Highway 99) had become a corridor of neglect and crime, sporting gang-generated graffiti, littered with thousands of posters, and hosting a prominent number of prostitutes and drug dealers.
Merchants began to lose customers and residents in the area began to feel unsafe.
The Aurora Avenue Merchants Association (AAMA) was formed to reverse this trend. The AAMA, in cooperation with residents, residential neighborhood groups, the Seattle Police Department’s North Precinct, and many other City employees, has made Aurora Avenue safer, cleaner, and a more pleasant place to shop.
The AAMA has attacked sex and drug traffic through the years. The effort began in 1986, when the Aurora Avenue Merchants Association started a prostitution watch network, putting warning signs on telephone poles, taking license numbers of “johns” on a hotline, and reporting those numbers to police.
We have continued our crime watch by:
- Working hard to get the Drug Loitering Law passed
- Campaigning to have No Loitering/No Trespassing signs posted to allow police access to private property
- Checking our hotline and reporting incidents to the police
- Notifying firms, agencies, or individuals if any vehicle they owned stopped on Aurora for drugs or a prostitute
- Providing Seattle Police Department North Precinct with bicycles for the North Precinct Bicycle Patrol, Swat Team rifles, and a video camera
- Working with motel owners and managers to help them spot a “bad customer.” Motels along Aurora devised self-governing rules for preventing crime that are still being used today
- Taking pictures of criminals to assist police officers in removing them from our street
- Cooperating with the North Precinct Citizen Advisory Council to be sure that crime remains under control
- Encouraging the visible presence of uniformed officers along Aurora. The Bicycle Patrol is a welcome addition whenever they appear
- Advocating to relocate a police station to 130th and Aurora
- Monitoring government policy regarding public safety, so that our concerns are heard by State, County, and City leaders.
Attention to Appearance
Shopping is more pleasant when the atmosphere is clean and well kept. AAMA efforts begin with businesses minding their own premises, of course. But we are all responsible for the street. We began our “clean telephone pole” campaign by writing to businesses that placed signs on poles, requesting them to refrain from doing so. Volunteers cleaned messy signs off poles. Residents began to join the effort.
Our visual augmentation efforts have continued with:
- Actively supporting the ordinance to ban advertising flyers from power poles.
- Forming our own graffiti removal and litter clean-up committees that respond to incidents immediately
Transportation Affects Us All
Aurora Avenue is State Highway 99 and a vital corridor that serves as an alternative to Interstate 5. AAMA takes seriously all efforts at balancing the uses of this corridor to honor its dual roles as busy business and residential center and a means from north to south. The vitality of Aurora is important to the entire region, not just Seattle.
Our transportation planning efforts have included:
- Monitoring WSDOT plans to “improve” Aurora in the neighboring city of Shoreline so that we would be prepared to fight for our portion of Highway 99
- Advocating to balance the uses of State Highway 99, to maintain turning access, ample parking for businesses, and minimizing bus lane and HOV designations
- Working with the Seattle Engineering Department to remove segments of the median barrier to facilitate left turns into businesses and side streets
- Opposing the WSDOT and City of Seattle plans to limit business access by installing medians and imposing bus-only lanes. Despite AAMA objection, the afternoon peak period removal of parking has been implemented, which negatively affects about 100 businesses
- Delaying a WSDOT plan to place HOV lanes along the entire Aurora Corridor from the Battery Street Tunnel to 145th Street
- Convincing the U.S. Postal Service that their plan to discontinue delivery of mail to individual businesses and to put “postal delivery boxes” on every other block was not viable
Aurora Avenue is a community of businesses, residents, and organizations that care. The AAMA continues its fight to keep Aurora Avenue safe and business prosperous for all.
We have continued to work with the local schools and community organizations to foster an awareness of businesses and job opportunities. This association was proud to receive third place award in the “Neighborhoods USA” division honoring associations that were able to organize and protect and improve their neighborhoods.
Our community cooperation efforts include:
- Working with the Greenwood Boys and Girls Club to assist them in reaching out to our neighborhood children
- Forming a PIPE partnership with Bagley Elementary School
- Donating funds to Bagley PTA in support of revamping the play area for neighborhood children
- Supporting the Licton Springs Park renewal
- Monitoring the City’s comprehensive planning and alerting our members of regional as well as neighborhood concerns for businesses and residents
Into Our Future
Since our start, our activities have been focused on protecting the economic vitality and safety of Aurora Avenue merchants, customers, employees and residential neighbors. The AAMA will continue to challenge criminal activity, neglect, and any government plans that decrease the viability of Aurora Avenue as a prosperous and vital business community.
More about Aurora Avenue
Aurora Avenue is a vital growing product of consumerism, a history of not only Seattle but also of America and how the automobile changed us all. Aurora Avenue between Green Lake and 145th is one of the oldest business districts in Seattle and is not only a neighborhood business district but also a historical picture of America.
As you approach the North Section of Aurora Avenue also known as State Route SR 99 with its’ older name of North Trunk Highway after passing over the George Washington Memorial Bridge (commonly known as the Aurora Bridge) that was built and dedicated in 1932 you approach the calming waters of Green lake. At the westerly curve of the highway the world famous Twin Teepee restaurant was established in 1937. This restaurant was once owned by Seattle restauranteur Walter Clark and one former cook went on to greatness by founding the Kentucky Fried Chicken fast food chain. Today the property is being re-developed.
The easterly curve currently occupied by a 76 gas station is the inheritor of the location formerly occupied by Duke’s which was one of the first gas stations located on the highway.
Before the Aurora Bridge was completed people had to go out Elliott Avenue across the Ballard Bridge, come up the road now known as 15th N. W. and down the valley (Now called Holman Road) and up again to the North Trunk highway (Aurora Avenue) crossing at 105th heading to the Lake City area to join the Bothell Everett Highway and traveled on up to the fledgling cities of Everett, and Mount Vernon.
The area of Winona and Aurora was the hot spot . It had three gas stations, Duke’s Texaco, a shell station and a McKale Station, a Buick repair shop, and the Aurora Cycle Shop established in 1937. It also had a trolly line that ran around Green Lake, up to Phinney Ridge, over to Ballard and back to Seattle. The area had ice cream stores and was a thriving little section of suburbia even before the Aurora Bridge was finished.
Auto oriented businesses also clustered around the Winona intersection, one of which was Sid McDonalds’ Hudson motorcar company. A current bicycle store is still on Winona and now shares the block with Aurora Suzuki a motorcycle store. Beth’s CafÃ© just south of the intersection was established in 1952 and the McKales Gas Station property is now occupied by a 7-11 store. All McKale Gas Stations throughout the city had as their slogan Where service is King . Al Houdine owned the Buick repair shop and an ice cream store. Many second and third generation owners still run those businesses and in fact Sid McDonald opened his store every day and sold Hudson parts until he passed away in 1996.
On the corner of 80th and Aurora was a Flying A gas station. This building is still preserved. In the 30’s and 40’s there was a Bartell Drug Store just south of the Flying A and the Chubby and Tubby store (now closed) together with a Safeway store to serve the pioneers residing out of town around the Green Lake area.
At the corner of 85th that was once only a dirt road with no stop signs, there was a hardware store on the Southeast corner and the Sun Hill Motel established in the 1930’s is still just past the Northwest corner of the intersection.
Until 1957 this was where the City of Seattle ended and country began!
Just outside the city limits at 88th was an out of town hotspot called the Whitestone which offered dining and dancing while close by was the Green Lake Motel used by travelers heading further North. At 87th on land now occupied by Fraser’s Auto Sales was the first U-pump gas station, a radical innovation called Gas O Mat . At the Gas O Mat customers were actually allowed to pump their own gasoline into their Model T’s, Hudsons, Studebakers or Buicks.
At 90th and Aurora now occupied by the Taco Bell was Denny Hill Fuel a business that sold sawdust and coal for the houses around the area. Before that the site was occupied by Pasquale’s grocery store, a neighborhood type grocery store serving the Green Lake area. On the other corner of 90th you will see Acme Auto Electric established in 1946 with the same family ownership where second and third generation family members are still helping the motoring public.
Next to Acme Auto Electric is the pld House of Pizza building, formerly the Flying Boots CafÃ© and across the street is the Aurora Seafair Motor Inn owned by John and Annie Min who also own the Green lake Motel at 89th, the Evergreen Inn at 85th and the Ambassador Motel at 122nd, making them the largest motel owners along Aurora Avenue.
Occupying both corners of 92nd on the East Side is Aurora Collision Center established in 1952 on the Southeast corner, a leader in the repair of heavily damaged automobiles who has currently expanded to both corners. The Northeast corner of 92nd and Aurora had a long history of car sale lots and was occupied by Lang Towing for some 10 years. On the west side of Aurora at 92nd, where Chevrolane car sales exists today was an Easy Haul old time gas station. This gas station was another innovator in that it was the first business to begin renting trailers in the North Seattle area. Also on the west side between 92nd and 93rd is Aurora Auto Wrecking established by the Fitpatrick family in 1934 and currently (since 1963) owned by the Conley family currently managed by third and fourth generation family members. Across the street on the East side is Olson Lumber Company established in 1958 which also has second and third generation family members working in the yard .
On the West side of 94th the current Klose Inn motel was established in the late 1930’s right next to the old roller skating rink called The Roller Bowl . Many a soldier and sailor during the 2nd World War years skated the evening away at the Roller Bowl . The Bekins family now owns the site. On the Southeast corner of 94th currently occupied by Japan Auto Service was a great business called The 3 G I’s’ which was established in 1946 by three former GI’s who put up a tent and sold war surplus They had a really great radio jingle that went like this
We are the 3 G I’s those happy go lucky guys We don’t pay no rent, cause our business is in a tent!
Moving up the east side of Aurora we come to Quiring Monuments , founded in 1925. This company is an innovator in monument building, has won many national awards, written up in the Wall Street Journal and Time Magazine and discussed on the Paul Harvey program. Quiring Monuments was a winner of the Mayor’s Small Business Award in 1999 and is managed by the original owners’ son, Dave Quiring.
On the West side of Aurora between 95th and 96th is the newly re-developed Crown Motor Inn which was re-built in 1998 and replaced the older landmark Aurora Tavern .
Just south of 100th we see the Burgermaster Drive Inn . This Burgermaster has been at this location since 1960. Prior to Burgermaster the site was occupied by Shadow Towing . The strip center across from the Burgermaster between 98th and 100th replaced the former McAlister Motel and Trailer Park . Built in 1985 it started the renewal of this section of Aurora. After it was built, Oak Tree Shopping Center was built with ˜Larry’s Market , Starbucks and Oak Tree Cinema as well as many other fine stores. The site was previously the site of the Oak Lake School which had been closed down by the Seattle School District and had become a serious blight along Aurora Avenue
The area above 100th during the 20’s and 30’s was country . The Johnson family owned a large farm before Oak Lake School was built and there was a feed store on the west side, together with North Park Heating and a lumber yard. Today the building (rebuilt after a 1994 arson fire) houses the famous Rich’s Custom Upholstery Corvette sign, the Futon Factory and a fine Szeuchan restaurant “Asian Pearl”
As we move up to the wonderful intersection of 105th and Aurora we recall that on the Southwest corner was the North Star Motor Court build in the 1930s to rent units to travelers going to Everett. The property is still owned by the daughter of the original owners, Dr. Evelyn Richter, who until 1987 practiced medicine in the building located on the Northwest corner of 105th next to Cyndy’s House of Pancakes in a building that was formerly known as Gilly s Hardware and the North Park Post Office . On the Southeast corner was a Shell Gas Station (built in the 1930’s) and the current Shucks Auto Supply Store was formerly a Safeway Store built in 1936.
The history of this area begins in the late 1800’s when Oak Lake Cemetery was founded by David Denny in September of 1884 on the east side of 110th and Aurora. David Denny was forced to sell his cemetery in 1893 due to a stock market crash in which he lost everything . The name of the cemetery was changed to Washelli by the new owners.
In the early 1900’s a group of business people purchased the property on the west side of Aurora at 110th and tried to sell land for a housing development. This development failed because it was too far out of town and so in 1919 the group formed Evergeen Cemetery . In 1927 the two competing cemeteries were joined and become Evergeen-Washelli Today some 3rd and 4th generation family members of the original groups still own stock in the corporation but the major owner is Dave Daley who has been involved with the cemetery since 1964. Evergeen-Washelli is a green oasis along the Aurora Corridor that is appreciated by all who drive along the street.
In the late 1920’s Playland was developed. Playland was located between Aurora Avenue and Greenwood Avenue and encompassed Bitter Lake. The current street known as 130th going East and West did not exist as a main arterial during the years that Playland existed. Along the Aurora edge of Playland was the Aurora Speedway dominated for many years by race car drivers Shorty Templemen, Allen Heath (a one-armed race car driver) and Logan Harter (called Lovely Logan). The raceway also included some dog races besides the car races on a circle track. Many a Seattleite got their first taste of speed watching cars race around the track at Playland . Also included in this fantasy land was a Ferris Wheel, a midway, hot dog stands and of course many, many rides for young and old alike. Playland for many years was a favorite outing place for Seattleites. After Playland was developed the surrounding area also became a place to go for fun and entertainment. Where Sam’s Club is at 135th was the Aurora Drive In Theatre where families came to be entertained by the new fangled motion picture . At 127th there was a Triple XXX and many dance halls including Bert Wheelers and the famous Palladium Ballroom located on the corner of 125th and Aurora currently occupied by Cochran Electric
Playland was sold in the early 50’˜s to Howard Parker. Today there is a school on the Greenwood Side of Bitter Lake, and tennis courts and a community center on the east side of Bitter Lake. At one time the building currently housing the Rite Aid store, Bally’s Fitness Center Ross’s , and all the stores along Linden Avenue was used by Gov Mart . This business was a huge store and the forerunner of today’s big box stores , Lowe’s” ,” Home Depot and Sam’s Club’s . A person had to join Gov Mart on a yearly basis and could then purchase goods at a reduced rate. It was called Gov Mart because the low prices and memberships were first offered only to government workers at its’ downtown store on 4th Avenue in the old Trianon Ball room Building. When the Gov Mart opened along Aurora Avenue the owners decided to open the stores to any and all!.
Auto dealerships began their move to the area along 130th in the 1960’s. This area was then considered the suburbs. Olympic-Lincoln-Mercury moved from the University District in 1967. Westlund Buick-GMC was an older dealership that began in 1936 as Hal Steiner’s Hudson then became Hal Steiner s Studebaker and in 1952 became a Buick dealership. Westlund-Buick-GMC moved into the area in 1983 was considered the new guy on the block for dealerships at that time, even though the dealership building was previously occupied by Lillis Olds. Town and Country Jeep/Chrysler moved into the area in 1966. Dealerships moved out to Aurora Avenue to answer the needs of the population explosion out to the suburbs. Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, Richmond Beach, and Edmonds all were experiencing huge growth as residents were all looking for their own little piece of heaven . They all needed cars to get themselves to their places of employment. Along with the new car dealerships along the Aurora Corridor came the used car lot owners. Thus the Aurora Corridor continued its destiny as an auto-oriented street.
Today the 114 year history of auto-related businesses is changing and yet not changing.
Most businesses along Aurora depend on customers driving to their establishment. Goods and services offered may have changed but along Aurora the automobile is still appreciated, provides a large number of jobs along Aurora Avenue and contributes greatly to the tax base of this city.
Recent surveys taken by the Aurora Avenue Merchants Association indicate that gross sales along Aurora Avenue equal and sometimes surpass the gross sales from Seattle’s downtown core. Employment exceeds 5,000 along Aurora Ave.
Aurora Avenue (old Highway 99) plays a very important part in maintaining the economic vitality of Seattle. The recent opening of a new crispy Kreme donut shop at 125th are continuing examples of the importance the Aurora Avenue Corridor plays in the vitality of the region. The recent additions to Aurora such as Home Depot, Lowes’, Les Schwab, Crown Inn, Oak Tree with its’ Larry’s Market and Theatre, Best Western Hotel, Sam’s Club, Extended Stay America, Albertsons, Pet Smart, Staples and the upgrading of the K-Mart together with many other businesses and investments made and currently being made indicate that Aurora Avenue ole Highway 99 is alive and well after 114 years.
One interesting facet of Aurora Avenue is the co-existence of small neighborhood stores with large corporate and big box stores. The diversity of the businesses is amazing while all work together to protect the economic vitality of the street.
The Broadview Historical Society has many pictures of the area and occasionally the Shoreline Museum features an exhibit of the area.
Beyond Playland were family farms mixing in with the businesses being developed, among those businesses were the equally famous Bert Wheeler Dance Club (143rd on the west side). Later the Big 4 auction house was established in the area and the Fish Bowl Restaurant opened up on the east side of Aurora at approximately 135th. The Fish Bowl was actually shaped like a fish!
In the 30’s and 40’s 130th was a long, long way out of town, but as the soldiers came back from the war, homes were built and people began to populate the area. Many business people located along Aurora to serve those people. The County planned its zoning to recognize that Aurora (Highway 99) while being the main north/south highway to Canada and Mexico, could provide jobs for the surrounding neighborhood citizens.
In 1922 when the Haller Lake Community was established one of their first projects was to build a corduroy road out to Aurora (Haller Lake neighborhood is between 125th and 145th on the East Side of Aurora and, yes, it does have a lake!
Today the 114 year history of auto-related businesses is changing and yet not changing.
Most businesses along Aurora depend on customers driving to their establishments. The type of goods and services may have changed but along Aurora the automobile is still appreciated, still provides a large number of jobs and still contributes greatly to the tax base of this city. Recent surveys taken by the Aurora Avenue Merchants Association Inc. indicate that the gross sales along Aurora Avenue equals and sometimes surpasses the gross sales from Seattle’s downtown core. Aurora Avenue today provides 5,107 jobs, and a secondary means of traveling North/South when the I-5 corridor is tied up with traffic due to accidents. Aurora Avenue (ole Highway 99) continues, after 114 years to play a very important part in maintaining the economic vitality of Seattle.
Aurora Avenue is not only a state and city highway but is a neighborhood of businesses and nearby residents. The draw to Aurora Avenue shopping opportunities is hugel. The recent additions to Aurora Avenue such as Lowe’s (formerly Eagle Hardware), Home Depot, Les Schwab, Crown Inn, Oak Tree Shopping Center with its own Larry’s Market and Theatre, Best Western Hotels, Sam’s Club, Krispy Kreme with the many small diverse businesses and strip centers together with many different types of restaurants indicate that by these investments in Aurora Avenue “ole 99” is alive and well!
Today business has replaced the farms along SR 99 (Aurora Avenue). So come drive our street and appreciate its’ development with us. As with all things in this world, Aurora Avenue is constantly changing but for today, it is a well preserved piece of America so come and appreciate it!
It is the history of our country!
Aurora Avenue Merchants Association, Inc.
951 North 100th, Seattle, WA 98133