Seattle City of Literature will have center on First Hill

8445863019_336acfdb40Seattle’s quest to become an International “City of Literature” will have a home on First Hill.

The Sorrento Hotel announced Wednesday that a new “book-filled conference room at the hotel, where readers and writers can work, meet, and learn more about the UNESCO Creative Cities network” is part of the project underway to overhaul the 105-year-old landmark.

“Cultural tourism is a major tenet of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, and the Sorrento understands the impact cultural tourism can make, both here and abroad,” Seattle City of Literature director Ryan Boudinot is quoted as saying in the announcement. “For those who love books and writing, in Seattle and beyond, this is going to be a destination unlike any other.”

CHS reported last fall on the “Pike/Pine-style” makeover for the Sorrento with a new management company, overhauls of The Hunt Room restaurant and Fireside Room lounge, and a new look for the hotel’s Madison-facing courtyard. You’ll also soon see a giant mural on the hotels parking garage.

The Seattle City of Literature initiative seeks to include the city’s writers and literary history in the United Nations’ Creative Cities program. According to the announcement, Seattle City of Literature will organize readings, conferences, book clubs, festivals, and more at the hotel. The new meeting space is scheduled to open by spring.

In the meantime, a longtime favorite Sorrento event for lovers of literature won’t be taking place this month. January’s Silent Reading Party has been canceled, organizer and Stranger editor in chief Christopher Frizzelle announced, citing the work underway to update the Fireside Room. “I am sad to say they’re getting rid of that carpet. I love that carpet. I really wish they wouldn’t get rid of it,” he writes. “But seasons change, carpets change… Happily, the new management is not getting rid of the silent-reading party.”

Capitol Hill food+drink | Thomas Soukakos’s friends will like Omega Ouzeri and so will you

Omega opens Thursday (Images: CHS)

Omega opens Thursday on 14th Ave (Images: CHS)

Thomas and Alexander Soukakos (Image: CHS)

Thomas and Alexander Soukakos (Image: CHS)

Here’s a business model for thriving in the rich but competitive Pike/Pine food and drink economy: Earn loads of friendships in your 20 years of experience in the Capitol Hill restaurant business and then build a place where all those friends will want to hang out.

Good luck to you!

But Thomas Soukakos has it down.

“I’m all about my friends,” Soukakos tells CHS summing up his two decades of Seattle food and drink experience as he prepared to open his new Omega Ouzeri Thursday on 14th Ave. “My friends will come here.”

Omega, Soukakos says, is the food and drink experience he has always wanted to create. Starting with El Greco on Broadway in 1994 and creating his two Vios restaurants took Soukakos on a path that in many ways mirrored his life with family and a cautious, humble approach to the restaurant business.

“Life gives us curves,” Soukakos said. “I forgot about it.”IMG_7376 Continue reading

Capitol Hill gets ‘efficient’ as two new-era microhousing projects face design review

"It doesn't feel like microhousing at all!" -- Guy in rendering

“It doesn’t feel like microhousing at all!” — Guy in rendering

As CHS reported last fall, Seattle’s new microhousing rules left plenty of room for aPodment-style development on Capitol Hill. One of the biggest asks for microhousing critics was to subject the “efficiency unit” building type to the Seattle design review process. Critics — and the rest of us — can see their dreams become reality at Wednesday night’s meeting of the East Design Review Board.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 2.13.46 PMBoylston Flats
1404 Boylston is familiar territory for the board. The seven-story “affordable” apartment building with 105 units averaging around 440 square feet a piece and slated to replace the 1905-built Emerald City Manor apartments took its first run through early design guidance back in November.

At that meeting, the board didn’t like what it saw and kicked the project back to microhousing developers Tyler Carr and Kelten Johnson and architect S+H Works to sort out the issues for another EDG round. Continue reading

First Hill Streetcar delays are prompting SDOT director to visit Czech manufacturer

The most useless Seattle transit tracking app ever -- Vesselfinder.com shows the Maltese vehicle carrier Tiger underway to the States with one of Seattle's streetcars aboard -- Check out the latest position at vesselfinder.com

The most useless Seattle transit tracking app ever — Vesselfinder.com shows the Maltese vehicle carrier MV Tiger underway to the States with one of Seattle’s streetcars aboard — Check out the latest position at vesselfinder.com

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SDOT director Scott Kubly (far right) meets with the City Council transportation committee.

City Council member Tom Rasmussen is not happy about delays with the First Hill Streetcar. While his office never responded to CHS as we broke the news last week that streetcar service won’t be started as late as the end of July, Rasmussen did have a lot of questions for the director of the Seattle Department of Transportation during a Tuesday council meeting.

When pressed about why the manufacturer Inkekon had still not shipped three streetcars from the Czech Republic, SDOT’s Scott Kubly said the delay was more about poor timeline setting. Inekon had to redesign several key components from their stock streetcar model and Kubly said the city had not anticipated the extra manufacturing time.

However, Kubly’s heavy handed response to the delay suggests he and SDOT are taking an even more serious response to the issues.

Kubly said he began holding daily phone calls with the CEO of Inekon last month and that he is planning a trip to the Czech Republic in February to inspect production and press the importance of delivering the cars as soon as possible.

“This is frustrating,” Rasmussen said during the meeting. “How do you know they’re just not putting you off and not making excuses, and if they really buckled down they could get this thing done sooner?” Continue reading

CHS Pics | Slummit Block Party, LLC

(Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

(Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

IMG_6877Last week, CHS reported that the artist enclave Summit Inn had been sold to a developer with plans to transform the Inn “into conventional apartments” with a total overhaul and inevitably higher rents.

Saturday night, some of the Inn’s remaining residents and other Summit Ave neighbors got together for a winter edition of the block’s annual music festival. Here are a few scenes from this weekend’s Slummit Block Party, LLC.

Meanwhile, the Summit Inn’s new owner Brad Padden‘s plan — “Substantial Alterations to an existing 40-unit apartment building. Renovate all units and decrease unit count to 35 small efficiency dwelling units” — is wending its way through the Department of Planning and Development.

Blotter | Hill bar burned by utility scam, 27/Yesler shooting, hate crime arrest

See something others should know about? Email CHS or call/txt (206) 399-5959. You can view recent CHS Crime coverage here.

  • Bar rip-off: A Capitol Hill bar was nailed for $1,500 earlier this month in a recurring scam Seattle City Light has been trying to warn customers about. Here’s how the ruse played out:
    Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 11.41.41 AM“In retrospect it all falls apart (online billing records show no such balance, the phone number itself doesn’t show on Seattle City Lights website, etc) but it was so scary to imagine losing our ability to operate, staff losing hours, etc that we went into a blind panic,” the victim of the scam tells CHS. She said the timing of the call was unfortunately perfect with her fears about the prospect about being closed for a three-day weekend overwhelming her sense. She says the hope for nailing these bad guys is slim but that there’s a chance insurance can help them recoup the lost cash. Continue reading

Central Area Neighborhood Greenway begins with bike markings, better pedestrian crossings — and ‘speed humps’

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 10.48.31 AMcentralgreenway_map_vertical_feb27-212x550 (1)Work on the first phase of the Central Area Neighborhood Greenway is underway creating new bike route markings, new stop signs and better pedestrian crossings along a route connecting 21st, 22nd, and 25th Ave from John to Jackson. You’ll note that SDOT is also adding “approximately” one speed hump per block on the route.

CHS included the work in our list of transit projects to look forward to in 2015. The “Hybrid” option for a bicycle and pedestrian friendly parallel to the 23rd Ave corridor will begin at I-90 and pass up through the Central District along 26th and 25th Ave before a jog over to 22nd north across E Madison to Capitol Hill. Through a mix of signage, pavement markings, speed bumps, roundabouts and other traffic-calming features, the route will complement a $46 million overhaul of 23rd Ave. When complete, the 23rd Avenue greenway is likely to be the longest greenway in the city.

Seattle Bike Blog says the first phase of work is slated to be wrapped up later this winter. SBB also provides insights on some of the most important bike and pedestrian work still to come to make the greenway a reality.

If the plan doesn’t get mucked up for the northern end of the route, the area should connect nicely to Montlake’s bicycle and pedestrian resources included in the Seattle-side 520 replacement project.

Updates and more here:

Phase 1 runs between E. John Street and S. Jackson Street along 21st Avenue E, 22nd Avenue E, and 25th Avenue S. Installation elements include:

  • Bicycle pavement markings
  • Stop signs on all streets crossing the greenway
  • Flashing beacons for pedestrians and bicyclists at arterial crossings: 25th Avenue S and E Yesler Way; 25th Avenue S and E Cherry Street
  • Enhanced pedestrian traffic signal at 22nd Avenue E and E Union
  • Approximately one speed hump per block on the route

This work will necessitate some temporary on-street parking restrictions, pedestrian and cyclist detours, and some light construction noise. Access to businesses and residences will be maintained except when temporary restrictions are necessary. Normal work hours will be 9 AM to 4 PM. Installation is expected to be complete in late Winter 2015.

Broadway OfficeMax is closing in February

IMG_9040Ripple effects from a multi-national corporate acquisition are once again making an impact on Capitol Hill. This time, it’s not a local brewery takeover, but the closure of an office supply chain store.

CHS has learned that the Broadway OfficeMax will be closing its doors in late February, just one year after it opened in the mixed-use Lyric building. Around 400 other OfficeMax locations were slated to close last year as part of Office Depot’s 2013 takeover of the company.

UPDATE (1/28): An OfficeDepot corporate spokesperson said the Broadway store would close on February 21st.

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An employee at the Broadway store told CHS that staff were notified of the closing a few weeks ago. Pillar Properties owns the Lyric apartments, but the company does not control the OfficeMax commercial space. A Pillar spokesperson said they’ve reached out to the individual who owns the space for more details on what may come next. We’ll update here if we hear anything.

The Broadway OfficeMax was one of six nationwide “vector” stores — a smaller-format concept meant to target urban neighborhoods. CHS broke the news of the company’s move on to Broadway in August 2013 and was there in January just before the store’s grand opening. At the time, store employees said the companies strategy was to offer a range of businesses services to the neighborhood’s independent shop owners. The Broadway location also includes around 90% of office supplies found in OfficeMax’s regular sized stores.

An OfficeMax corporate spokesperson did not return CHS’s request for comment on the Broadway closure.

It’s unclear what the future holds for the atypically large Broadway space that sits between Thomas and E Olive Way. With nearly one square mile more than 5,000 square feet of retail area, the space is small by box store standards but probably too large for many independent retailers. It’s possible the store could be divided in half with two separate entrances.

Broadway recently lost two longtime retailers when Redlight and Aprie fashion stores shuttered in November. Lifelong Thrift is preparing to take Redlight’s place, but is seeking some extra funds to help pay for the move from 10th and E Union.

Down the block, Metro Clothing is holding a liquidation sale to make way for of major changes in inventory. Metro owners assured customers on Facebook the sale was not a signal the store was closing.

Meanwhile, Broadway’s Castle Megastore sex shop is making plans to move to E Pike.

City’s Neighborhood Councils look for place as District 3 race begins

d3-1Seattle’s transition to a district-based City Council will mean an extremely busy 2015 campaign season. It will also mean shifts and changes in some of the old ways of getting things done. One framework in the city seemingly due for a shift is the East District Neighborhood Council.

“If it’s in campaign season you’ll ask [candidates] ‘hey can we get spotted unicorns’ and they’ll say ‘you bet we’ll get a boxcar full of them.’ If you can get outside of the election zone, it’s nice to have them come,” said Department of Neighborhoods district coordinator Tim Durkan, the city rep charged with organizing the East group. Durkan, we should note, is also a CHS contributor. But having candidates show up at this particular council’s meetings is one thing. Sorting out how existing community bodies fit into the new system is another.

Lindy Wishard, chair of the East group and a member of the Madison Valley Community Council & Merchants Association said that it will be important to connect at some point with the eventual District 3 rep.

“We have some very conservative neighborhoods and we have some very liberal neighborhoods and we have everything in between,” she said. “I think it’s important for whoever gets voted in to be aware of all areas of the district.” Continue reading

#caphillpsa: Capitol Hill signs — Starbucks apologies, Comet code of conduct, City Market on Tom Brady’s balls

(Image: Comet Tavern)

(Image: Comet Tavern)

It’s a sign. One of the most effective ways to communicate your thoughts on the Hill on the Hill is to create a big, giant sign. CHS has a pile of Capitol Hill sign updates to share, below.

  • As you can imagine, we’ve been sent the Starbucks apologies banner that popped up on the side of Benson’s Grocery several times over the weekend. But Dan Nolte sent it first.

    This appeared on Bellevue at Pike over the weekend -- thanks to @noltedan (and everybody else) for sending

    This appeared on Bellevue at Pike over the weekend — thanks to @noltedan (and everybody else) for sending

  • We assume the sign makers “Mark and Sam” are referring to this. But maybe they meant this?
  • Benson’s, by the way, knows a little about the city’s on-premises advertising rules regarding signage.
  • We look forward to the Amazon, Microsoft, and CHS editions of the apology banners. Continue reading

Done with Broadway Alley, Villa Escondida — ‘the Mexican diner that Seattle’s been dreaming of’ — vows to reopen

(Image: Villa Escondida)

(Image: Villa Escondida)

(Image: Villa Escondida)

(Image: Villa Escondida)

Seattle Central College alum Jose Perez has shuttered his first restaurant venture as Villa Escondida is on a search for a new home — preferably on or near Capitol Hill, we’re told.

Word spread over the weekend of the affordable Mexican eatery’s preparations to shut down inside the Broadway Alley retail complex. A few fans had one last opportunity to eat at the restaurant Saturday night.

In a Facebook post, the restaurant’s management chalked the closure up to a “contract disagreement.” The restaurant had recently been unsuccessful in winning a beer and wine license for the location.

CHS covered Broadway Alley’s unusual mixed-use history here in 2012. It continues to house several Capitol Hill businesses including the much-loved and expanded Tacos Chukis.

CHS reported on Perez’s first restaurant venture last spring as Villa took over after Mexican sandwich shop Torteria Barriga Llena also pulled out of the Alley. The family connections to Capitol Hill’s Mexican food scene run deep:

“I always wanted to do it but never had the opportunity,” said Perez. His cousin,Misael Dominguez, has previous experience opening up businesses and is kicking in financial support. “He’s the one, I guess, that is teaching me all the stuff.” Dominguez, when we spoke with him last, was opening La Cocina Oaxaquena at Melrose and Pine last spring. Dominguez managed Ballard’s La Carta de Oaxaca back when the restaurant first grew into prominence. Roberto Dominguez, the managing partner of La Carta de Oaxaca and Mezcaleria Oaxaca on Queen Anne, just opened the beautiful the beautiful and mezcale-stuffed Mezcaleria Oaxaca Capitol Hill on E Pine.

The recipe of affordable Mexican food and breakfast options seemed to be catching on. Earlier this month, the Seattle Times named Villa Escondida to its roster of “best new cheap eats for 2015.” “This is the Mexican diner that Seattle’s been dreaming of,” the Times wrote in a sentence now likely filling you with deep levels of regret. Hopefully that regret won’t last long.

Keep an eye on the Villa Escondida Facebook page for updates about a new location.

Capitol Hill nonprofit has one question for you: ‘What would you most like to see in the new Hugo House?’

download (4)Last fall, CHS reported that Capitol Hill nonprofit Hugo House had begun work on a plan to build a new center as part of a mixed-use development at the site of its 11th Ave home. The literary arts organization is asking for community feedback on what shape its new venue should take with an online survey and Monday night community forum:

Hugo House is going to have a new home! Come help us dream up an even more dynamic center for writing and reading and listening.

What do you most wish to see in the new Hugo House—whether it’s something you hope we continue to have, a practical addition, or a wild wish for something new? We wouldn’t dream of making decisions about our new facility without you: the teachers, the students, the event attendees—the writers. This forum will give you a chance to tell us what would make the new house a home.

We’d love to see you there—and please invite anyone on your friends list who you think might be invested in the future of the House.

The “community conversation” starts at 6 PM at Hugo House, 1634 11th Ave.

You can also add your voice via this one-question survey:

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 11.03.45 AM

Note: You’ll have to enter at least five characters so F-U-N won’t count. We always preferred essay questions over multiple choice, too.

One group is already rallying to ask for Hugo House to include a performance venue in its plans:

Right now, the building is home to an 1800 square foot black box with fixed seating for 87, theatrical lighting grid and built-in sound system – this stage has been a place for local Seattle playwrights to debut the bold new work being produced in our city, and to lose it would be a serious setback in transforming Capitol Hill into the arts district it strives to be.

In the announcement of the new development project last fall, Hugo House and the longtime property owners of the more than 100-year-old building said they were working with a developer to determine “the exact mix of uses as part of the design and permitting process.” The announcement notes the property owners have “generously supported all facility costs, including rent” for Hugo House throughout its history.

Chop Suey re-born

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(Image: CHS)

Earlier this month as many mourned what they believed to be the impending death of Capitol Hill music venue Chop Suey, CHS reported on the progress being made by new owners Brianna Rettig, Brian Houck, and Erin Carnes to overhaul and reopen the venue.

Due to contractual restrictions, people involved in the deal weren’t able to speak on the record. We’re happy to share that Stranger music writer Dave Segal has finally confirmed the details of Chop Suey’s rebirth with the new owners:

Will Chop Suey maintain its current booking agenda, with a focus on local and underground rock, hip-hop, and electronic, or do you intend to change direction and add other genres to the mix?
We’re all about rock ‘n’ roll, but honestly, we just want to give local artists a home and national acts the best sound in Seattle.

Segal also reports that much-loved talent buyer Jodi Ecklund will continue to be part of the new venue when it re-opens this spring.

A partner in the new venture tells CHS the Chop Suey name will live on as part of a larger project around the venue.

Carnes, the co-owner of The Escondite, a live music venue and burger joint in downtown LA, and her musician business partner Rettig are set to begin an overhaul to both the interior and the exterior of the 1937-built building at 14th and Madison. The 2002-born Chop Suey business was on the market for just under $100,000 this summer as the Japanese company that owned Chop Suey decided to bring its investment to an end. In 2009, the club was purchased by the same ownership as K’s Dream, a live music venue in Tokyo.

One performer with knowledge of the new set-up told CHS music and performance will remain part of the new club’s offerings but that the way events are booked and promoted is set to transition to a “for rent” format that leaves elements like marketing and ticketing to the acts to handle. But the partner CHS spoke to Monday morning tells us that format will not be the plan and that the club is sticking with Ecklund.

So, what else will join the live music components at the new project? In Los Angeles, the Escondite is known for its burgers. Though, with a name like Chop Suey, other food formats come to mind.

The news joins a long list of Capitol Hill changes met with an initial wave of sometimes justifiable sadness at the pace of “new” hitting the neighborhood, followed by sometimes confounding and mitigating developments like new owners, new plans to return, and/or new formats featuring the beloved fixtures.

Light rail remains on track to serve Capitol Hill by early 2016

CHS Turner Places Rat Slab for Half of the Ped Concourse.JPG

Workers pour concrete for the pedestrian concourse inside the Capitol Hill Station. (Image: Sound Transit)

With all of the delayed transit projects around Seattle, here’s some encouraging news: light rail service on Capitol Hill is still on track to start by early 2016. According to Sound Transit, the project also remains $150 million under budget with the total cost expected to come in around $1.8 billion.

The University Link line will extend from downtown to connect with Capitol Hill and University District stations. Sound Transit began boring for the Northgate Link tunnel in November, which will add three more stations north of the University Station: U District, Roosevelt, and Northgate.

Construction on the Capitol Hill Station is around 78% complete. Recent work has included erecting structural steel over the station entryways and installing elevators and escalators.

As for the housing and retail development that will surround the station, Sound Transit is still evaluating proposals submitted in December. The board is expected to announce the winning contractor(s) in early March. Sound Transit denied an earlier request by CHS to obtain copies of the proposals they are considering.SiteMapv4-W-Map-1024x807-600x472

There are just four developers left in the running to build all or part of the 100,000 square feet “transit oriented development” that will include housing, commercial, and a community spaces:

  • Capitol Hill Housing – Site B North
  • Gerding Edlen – Master developer for all sites
  • Jonathan Rose Companies/Capitol Hill Housing – Master developer for all sites
  • Lowe Enterprises – Sites A, B-South, and C

As part of the agreement, the City of Seattle will allow the project to stretch to an 85-foot height limit — some 45 feet above the current maximums for the 10th Ave E neighbors of the project. The extension will help the development plan make space for goals driven by the community design framework while providing enough units for developers to profit and create affordable and low-income housing in the project.

Meanwhile, the First Hill Streetcar will be further delayed. CHS recently reported that  service is likely to be delayed for several more months as the streetcar’s manufacturer, Inekon, continues to face assembly delays in the Czech Republic. The six streetcars for the First Hill line were planned to be ready by October 7th as per the $26.7 million contract with the Seattle Department of Transportation.

What they’re saying about the Elysian-Anheuser-Busch InBev deal: why they sold, the ‘Loser’ joke, what’s next

"Elysian in the mirror" (Image: jillbertini via Flickr)

“Elysian in the mirror” (Image: jillbertini via Flickr)

Friday was a busy day for CHS. The news that Capitol Hill-born Elysian Brewing was selling out to Anheuser-Busch InBev brought the fourth highest daily total of readers to CHS ever. (Our roster of biggest news days ever is at the bottom of this post.) We barely had a chance to read what others were saying about the deal. Here’s a look at the soul searching and insights we’ve found about the deal. Let us know what we missed.

Elysian + AB InBev notes

  • In case you missed a few of our later updates, tweets from two Elysian employees didn’t paint a happy picture around the circumstances of the deal’s announcement Friday:

  • The Washington Beer Blog knew the deal was coming — and knew it would come with some big questions — Is Elysian Brewing evil now that it’s part of Anheuser-Busch?
    Dick said something that I think is very important. “We hope people will continue to judge Elysian by what’s in the bottle.” There is no doubt Dick understood that people would freak out, but he really does hope people can see past the business end of things and just continue to enjoy Elysian beers. Continue reading