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Light rail moves out Christmas House
Keith Galpin said the city of Bellevue had been eyeing his property for a downtown park site for nearly a decade, but it was eminent domain and light rail that finally forced the Christmas House owner to leave his Northeast Second Street shop.
Sound Transit plans to tear down the old red house and use the land for a staging area when it constructs a tunnel under 110th Avenue Northeast, as part of its East Link extension project. Galpin said the city will later use the property for a new park.
Galpin’s parents, Gerry and Shirley, opened the Christmas House 40 years ago on Main Street. He took over the holiday decor business in 1982, when his father died. Shirley Galpin died in 2008. Galpin said he bought the Second Street house in 1997 because of the homey setting for his Christmas displays.
Now he’s looking for a new home.
“Because they have the court on their side, I have to vacate,” Galpin said of an eminent domain lawsuit the city filed against him.
Galpin said he's made peace with having to vacate his storefront – now out of place among high-rises and a Marriott hotel currently under construction next door. But the value of his property remains a point of contention.
He said he's not satisfied with the city's recession-level appraisal of his property, which was used in its purchase offer. Because of the lawsuit, he said a new appraisal had to be done. If the matter of just compensation isn't resolved during mediation in mid-March, the case will go to court in April.
The city does not discuss matters of pending or current litigation, but Bellevue councilmembers did approve a new contract with Pacifica Law Group LLP in early February for $184,000 to continue to prosecute condemnation of the Christmas House and neighboring business, Trend Imports. The auto sales business plans to relocate to Northeast Bel-Red Road.
Galpin spent this week packing the last of his inventory, having liquidated a good portion of it during Christmas. He said he'd considered retiring, but was encouraged by long-time customers to keep the family business going.
"All of them were, 'You need to stay in business. We come here every year. It's part of our Christmas tradition,' " he said, adding he was touched by the loyalty of local customers. "That's probably what kept us in business for such a long time."
Galpin said he's interested in several properties along Front Street in Issaquah, and could reopen his business as soon as fall. He added his staff, many having worked at Christmas House for the past 30 years, would also appreciate it.
"They're the ones probably pushing hardest for me to reopen," he said with a laugh.