For decades, Alfy’s Pizza fed and entertained hungry patrons from its quirky 1978-era building at 4820 196th St. S.W. in Lynnwood. A generation of kids, teens and families made the restaurant a mainstay in the area for buffet lunches, family dinners, weekend get-togethers and youth league sports banquets.
The business fell on hard times in the 2010s and by early 2018 the once-bustling site was vacated, first being listed for lease and then for sale.
Then on Sept. 8, 2022, a huge overnight fire destroyed the building at the site, leaving little more than a burnt-out shell of unsalvageable wood, bricks and concrete blocks inside a fenced-in, paved wasteland.
Now a local lawyer wants to bring new life to the just-under 1-acre parcel with plans for a multi-story mixed-use building. He hopes it will become not only additional office space for his firm and various collaborators but another gathering spot for South Snohomish County residents.
Steve Cho is a Bellevue intellectual property lawyer and his firm, AMPACC Law Group, is headquartered in Mountlake Terrace. Cho bought the Alfy’s Pizza building and parcel in 2021 for nearly $2 million. His new land-use and building plans for the site are now being reviewed by the City of Lynnwood, a process that is expected to take a few months.
Cho hopes city officials give him approval to move ahead with the project before the end of the year. “The plan is to develop it as quickly as possible,” he said.
If Cho gets his wish to erect his proposed Cho Office Building, then the last remaining remnants of what was a popular Lynnwood hangout for many will be gone in a matter of months.
Cho sees the development of the old Alfy’s Pizza site as a win-win for both his law firm and the public. “The building will be a two-story mixed-use building where the community can gather,” he explained. “The first floor will host three to four businesses such as a coffee shop, a bakery, a sandwich shop or the like. The second floor will be a co-working space for lawyers, CPAs and other professionals.”
While the City of Lynnwood still has to give its OK, David Kleitsch, the city’s Director of Development and Business Services, called the potential plans noteworthy for a stretch of one of Lynnwood’s busiest arterials.
“The project would develop the parcel and bring significant new private investment to the 196th Street corridor,” Kleitsch said.
Cho believes the two-story building he envisions for the site could be constructed in 12 months once plans are approved, giving him an occupation target of late 2024 or early 2025. It’s much later than what he had hoped when he purchased the parcel in 2021, due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic and, more significantly, the building’s devastating fire last year.
As a contractor began gutting the old Alfy’s Pizza building for him last year, Cho was hoping a simple remodel of the structure would be enough to transform the site from a vacated restaurant destination into a functioning office building. But news of the fire — and its destructive extent — hit Cho hard.
“I was shocked,” he said.
Cho had submitted architectural drawings for the building’s renovation in January 2022 but the plans were withdrawn after the fire collapsed the structure’s roof and a majority of its exterior walls.
Cause of the fire has been officially ruled as “undetermined” by South County Fire, although fire investigators believe it was set by one or more trespassers on a chilly September night.
“Due to the events leading up to this fire, the investigator has a strong suspicion that this was an unintentional fire, possibly started by a vagrant, to stay warm, that became out of control,” said the official Fire Cause Report issued by South County Fire and obtained by the My Neighborhood News Network via a public disclosure request.
The report adds that trespassers had been found in the building two weeks prior to the fire.
With the City of Lynnwood review of land use and building plans underway, a rebirth of the old site of Alfy’s Pizza is moving closer to a reality. And while the Cho office building is what’s currently on the table, Cho left the door open for the possibility of someone else swooping in to do something entirely different with the property.
“I have received some interest from others,” Cho said about the site on 196th Street Southwest. Could selling the property be an option for the lawyer? “For the right number, perhaps,” Cho said.
— By Doug Petrowski