SODO is evolving into an auto dealership destination.
There’s a growing sense of team spirit in Sodo, but it’s not coming just from the Mariners, Sounders and Seahawks. The neighborhood is evolving into an auto dealership destination: Mercedes-Benz of Seattle joined BMW there last month, and Tesla, Honda and Toyota dealers also are planning to move to Sodo.
BMW of Seattle, which has a front-row seat to Safeco and CenturyLink fields, is excited to have a new neighbor on Airport Way South. “The more, the merrier,” says Steve Bates, general manager at BMW.
Brad Miller, who co-owns downtown Seattle’s Honda and Toyota dealerships, is cheering, too. Those dealerships will be relocating next door to Mercedes in early 2015. “To have Mercedes-Benz of Seattle as our neighbor, literally, we couldn’t be more thrilled,” Miller says.
The excitement of so many new Sodo dealerships was also attractive to Tesla. It will open a new store next month in a location formerly occupied by Stadium Nissan on Sixth Avenue South.
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“Being next to a lot of the other auto dealers that have gone down that direction, with Mercedes and BMW bringing higher-end consumers, that was certainly a draw,” says real estate broker Casey Trees, who is representing Tesla.
The city of Seattle is playing more spectator than coach as Sodo attracts dealerships. No zoning changes have been made to accommodate them, says Bryan Stevens, spokesman for the Seattle Department of Planning and Development. The growth “seems to be market-driven, but it’s great to see these businesses find a new home within Seattle,” he says.
Room to grow
Sodo’s big draw is space, says Jason Graham, general manager of Mercedes-Benz of Seattle. “For us, a big issue was parking — space to actually build a true world-class Mercedes-Benz facility and still allow parking for our customers, employees and all the vehicles we need to sell.”
Offering two levels, nearly 50 service stalls, two automated car washes and 150 spaces for rooftop parking, the new Mercedes dealership has plenty of room. “We plan for growth,” says Graham.
Spreading out was impossible at its former location on East Pike Street on Capitol Hill, where Mercedes-Benz of Seattle endured 53 years without parking, Graham says.
Tight space and downtown’s rising real estate prices led the Honda and Toyota dealerships to look south, too. Leases were expiring and Amazon.com snapped up the Denny Triangle property Toyota is on.
“We were either going to find a long-term solution to our real estate needs or we were going to go out of business,” Miller says. “It was that simple.”
Honda, Toyota team
The Honda and Toyota dealerships will be on the same property in Sodo. On a little more than 2 acres, they’ll each have their own building on the ground floor for showroom, parts and service. Those buildings will merge on floors 2 through 6, mingling Honda and Toyota shoppers in more than 400,000 square feet of space.
Customers will “be able to shop both Honda and Toyota without ever getting wet because [the cars] will be housed and displayed in what will amount to a parking garage,” says Miller.
Formerly on Capitol Hill, BMW has had four years to settle into its 300,000-square-foot dealership in Sodo and reflect on its move to the neighborhood. “That we have car dealerships coming down here just makes the fact that we moved here the right decision,” says Bates.
“I think it’s great that we’ve got [more] car dealers coming,” he says. “I’d love to see them lining up [in Sodo] so that customers can start at one end and drive to the other and get virtually any brand available to them.”