by Ralph Nichols 
Tukwila-based O’Keefe Companies, whose principal and managing director Tom T. O’Keefe is the founder and past chairman of Tully’s Coffee, has acquired Normandy Park Towne Center.
O’Keefe told The B-Town Blog he will rejuvenate the 53,000-square-foot, single-story retail space, and is planning a grand re-opening for the community – and the five businesses now there – sometime in May.
Towne Center, at 1st Ave. S. and S. 199th St., opened in 2007 but soon was mired in financial difficulties brought on by the nationwide recession.
Things only got worse when a major improvement project to 1st Ave. through Normandy Park was delayed by problems with a contractor, which proved costly to businesses in the new development and discouraged other retailers from locating there.
Columbia Bank of Tacoma, the construction lender, took the property back in December after the original developer defaulted on its loan. O’Keefe Companies closed its purchase on March 31.
“I will put on a very creative leasing campaign to fill with tenants space that has never been occupied,” O’Keefe said. “Currently five businesses are operating there. The bad news is that they’ve been operating by themselves for a number of years.
“I have met individually with every business owner and they are excited about my plans to fill the space that will rejuvenate their businesses as they had planned for” when they moved in.
Normandy Park City Manager Doug Schulze said in a statement, “This acquisition is very significant and a positive step toward the creation of a vibrant and successful commercial area.
“O’Keefe Companies has the experience, motivation and financial ability to bring new businesses to Normandy Park Towne Center.”
O’Keefe Companies develops, acquires and manages office buildings, industrial buildings, retail centers and multi-family projects in the greater Puget Sound area, including RiverPoint Corporate Center in Tukwila.
The group formed within O’Keefe Companies that took title to Normandy Park Towne Center is Medina Fund Four LLC.
“I’m the manager of the LLC,” he said. “O’Keefe development will be the property manager. We manage everything we own.”
He became interested in Normandy Park Towne Center, which includes four new buildings, when it became available last year. “Unfortunately with the market timing, the original developer lost the title given the economy. I was able to buy it at a very competitive price from the bank.
“I’m a big believer in the demographics in the neighborhoods of Normandy Park,” O’Keefe continued. “And this is what I do for a living. I develop new commercial projects or buy what’s referred to as value add, which is competitively priced.”
O’Keefe Development Corporation was established in 1986 and since then has developed or acquired over 3,800,000 square feet of projects valued at approximately $400 million.
Prior to that, O’Keefe was a commercial real estate broker for nine years with Coldwell Banker Commercial Real Estate Services in Seattle.
He founded Tulley’s Coffee in 1992, but his only affiliation with Tully’s today is as its largest shareholder.
O’Keefe and his wife, Cathy, have also been actively involved in community organizations for over 30 years. Their charitable efforts focus largely on the health, education and welfare of the children – including cystic fibrosis and juvenile diabetes – in the Puget Sound region.
This involvement is one of the reasons why he met with Schulze before closing the deal. “My goal is to immediately immerse this project in community programs,” including art shows and fundraisers in the short term.
Beyond the commercial potential of his Towne Center, O’Keefe is eying the possibility of leasing space for a new Normandy Park City Hall, police station, parks and recreation center and, “most importantly, for a new city library.”
“Maybe there are opportunities for some of those uses at this location,” he added. “We’re going to have various discussions about those opportunities. I acquired this as a retail center but there is an opportunity for municipal services as this location.”