by: David Ham Updated:
SEATTLE, Wash. - The South Korean government bought nearly half a block of property on West Mercer Street between First Ave West and Second Ave West to build a new consulate office.
"The consulate felt a great need to relocation to provide a better service to its visitors and the local community in the greater Seattle area," said Consul Chul Ho Choi.
"The current Consulate office is too small for our expanding programs, events and civil services."
The consulate's offices now are in an office building downtown on Sixth and Lenora.
The South Korean government bought the property for $2.4 million last December.
It means current tenants of the buildings now will have to leave before the buildings are demolished.
"So many people have come in here and made their friends met their neighbors. So that's going to disappear," said Mary McIntyre, who co-owns Streamline Tavern.
The bar has been a Queen Anne staple on West Mercer for more than 30 years.
"We know we can hang on until December. We have until December to move," said McIntyre
Other businesses that will have to move are a Radio Shack, an antique store and a dry cleaner.
"I think people might miss certain merchants, but it might give the neighborhood more of a lift. Some of these facades are kind of run down looking," said Leiba Husock, a longtime Queen Anne resident.
Construction for the project isn't expected to begin until mid-2015.
The consul said the new space is needed.
"We have actively engaged with the community for the past two years. For example, we hosted various Korean War Veterans events, promoted Korean Culture through Korean Food Competition, Korean Food Festival, and Korean Cultural Weeks. In recent years, we have experienced an increase in customer volume and owning our own space would help us do our job better," said Choi.
The Consulate is a representation of the South Korean government in Seattle. It handles visa requests for those visiting South Korea and passport processing for Korean citizens in the United States.
"We look forward to working with the locals living in the neighborhood and the city of Seattle to make our transition as smooth as possible," said Choi.