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.panorama-600x153

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

IMG_9312

(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

Capitol Hill EcoDistrict | Metrics for Capitol Hill –- Version 1.0 of the EcoDistrict Index released

We’ve asked Joel Sisolak, project director for the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict, to contribute to CHS about the district and the environment on a semi-regular basis. If you’re an expert and want to share with the community in a recurring CHS column, we’d like to hear from you.

IBM estimates that 2.5 quintillion, that’s 2.5 billion billion (2.5 x 1018) bytes of data are created every day. The bulk is from social media, machine data (e.g., coming from automated sensors like the ones on the Capitol Hill Community Solar project), and transactional data from when we buy stuff. Companies like IBM are racing to improve their ability to sift, interpret and sell this data as a commodity. In 2015 the market for data analysis services will reach $16.8B and is expected to grow exponentially into the foreseeable future.

The promise of big data, according to Steve Lohr at the New York Times, “is smarter, data-driven decision-making in every field.” The private sector is cashing in. Community activists are catching on and seeking ways to access and analyze data for the public good. Maurice Mitchell, a community organizer in Manhattan, claims that “prescriptions for our most pressing social issues emerge from the patterns found in the bonanza of collected data points.” He points to how analyzing data from the NYPD’s stops and arrests helped to uncover the racially disproportionate application of stop-and-frisk.


City Council set to formally recognize the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict
The Seattle City Council will vote Monday on Resolution 31562 formally recognizing the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict. The district plan moved forward in 2013 as Capitol Hill Housing partnered on programs to encourage green building and retrofitting and reach out to local businesses to encourage waste reduction and water savings. “City departments are encouraged to explore tools and incentives that may advance the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict and remove identified regulatory barriers that thwart EcoDistrict initiatives in the context of the City’s broader sustainability and neighborhood development goals,” a portion of the resolution states.


On Capitol Hill, we will use publicly available data to help track progress in meeting the goals of the EcoDistrict. Last month we launched the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict Index, a set of performance metrics backed by data from a variety of sources, from local street counts to the U.S. Census. Performance targets are set for the year 2030. We aligned the timeframe with our partners at the Seattle 2030 District, in part because we share a commitment to reducing the water and climate impacts of buildings, but also because 15 years seems long enough to make real progress and short enough to express urgency in addressing serious challenges related to climate change and neighborhood health.

Continue reading

Writer Dotty DeCoster remembered

Dotty and her family (Images courtesy David Collett)

A nearly 50-year resident of Capitol Hill and First Hill died last week — CHS was lucky to call her a friend. Dotty DeCoster, who spent her last six years on First Hill after four decades on Capitol Hill, was a writer, researcher, and historian who often worked for little more than her love for some of her favorite subjects — the people, places — and sometimes birds — of Capitol Hill, First Hill, and Central Seattle.

She was an activist:

A political radical, DeCoster was involved with “old guard” leftist groups like the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE), and experienced the sexism within them.  “It is almost impossible to imagine what it was like in the mid-to late 60s if you were a woman.  If you went to a radical meeting you weren’t allowed to talk.”   Like other women at the time, DeCoster began to see the need for a separate space for women to exchange ideas.  Through the Free University, DeCoster encountered discussion around “the woman question”, became part of the anarchist Women’s Majority Union, and worked on the feminist journal Lilith. Quickly, radical women’s groups surfaced which were addressing the problems that mattered to them, driving the changes which would grant women further autonomy.

DeCoster’s family tells CHS she died during the week of complications from colorectal cancer. She would have turned 71 on February 1st. She is survived by daughter Tara, son Tristan and granddaughter Esme.

Despite her move to a First Hill apartment on Spring, DeCoster still identified as “Capitol Hill” and her knowledge of our history stretched back over the decades.

“In the late ’60s, the housing here was in pretty bad shape even on Capitol Hill, not just in the Central Area,” DeCoster said in a 2000 interview. “After the Boeing Crash, housing prices were so cheap that a lot of young couples bought houses here, and still live here because they can’t afford to move, but there were a lot of children here in the ’60s and ’70s. That’s not true now. You see a lot of weekend children.”

Over the years, we were lucky to share some of DeCoster’s work. You learned where the steam at Pike and Harvard comes from. You learned about Broadway’s stairway to nowhere. You learned about the vanished nighthawks of First Hill:

They also have an odd habit while perching.  Rather than sitting on tree limbs or wires or rooftops facing you (with the perch on the horizontal) they sit sideways, aligned along the perch.  Called “goatsuckers” some places, they used to be a delightful addition to the August falling star show viewed from the Capitol Hill ridge crest.

Thanks for your work and your sharing, Dotty. We learned a lot.

3,000 new residents and the need for ‘open green space’ on First Hill

Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 7.19.36 PMFirst Hill might get a whole lot greener — at least in the spring and summer. 

Earlier this month, more than 150 residents of the First Hill community and representatives from the Seattle Department of Transportation, Seattle Parks & Recreation, and the Department of Planning and Development gathered at Town Hall Seattle to discuss ideas for revamping certain streets in the neighborhood to allow for more dynamic and multi-purposed public open green space. 

“Not only do streets need to function as mobility, but they need to be the front door, the place where people go to meet. They’re social spaces,” said Susan McLaughlin, project manager for the First Hill Public Realm Action Plan. 

“Over the last decade First Hill has grown by over 3,000 new residents,” said Lyle Bicknell, principal urban designer with DPD and one of the speakers leading the town hall. “These new residents and workers need quality green space, in addition to those who already live here.”

During the session, First Hill residents gleaned insights into how parts of their neighborhood might be transformed within the next few years. Continue reading

Capitol Pill | Re-Solve


We’ve asked Karyn Schwartz, owner of the Sugarpill apothecary on E Pine, to contribute to CHS about health and Hill living on a semi-regular basis. If you’re an expert and want to share with the community in a recurring CHS column, we’d like to hear from you.

I tend not to celebrate holidays when you are supposed to celebrate them. I am particularly not fond of New Years, which has always seemed to me like such a random day to stay up later than I want, drink shitty champagne and make promises that I don’t even know if I can keep.

Resolutions are hard enough; making them on the same date as a billion other people, in a state of post-holiday exhaustion seems a little crazy. I am always so grateful for the grace period between January 1st and my Capricorn-cusp birthday to actually think about what I want for my own New Year, and to consider what the habits are — either in actual practice or in thoughts or belief — that I am ready to contend with. Continue reading

This week in CHS history: Twilight Exit shooting, M Street Grocery closes, Unicorn is born

8473084494_d34cec0053_oHere are the top stories from this week in CHS history:

Crash leaves light pole leaning precariously on 23rd Ave Metro wires

IMG_7362IMG_7368A single-car crash that knocked a light pole onto Metro trolley wires near a troublesome curve in 23rd Ave near E Aloha caused no significant injuries but was set to take hours to unsnarl Saturday night.

Police and Seattle Fire responded just after 10 PM Saturday after a car struck the pole and sent it leaning on the dual wires used to power 23rd Ave Metro trolley routes 43 and 48. The car’s driver was not seriously injured but was taken into custody at the scene. A DUI unit was called to the scene.

Crews were being gathered to evaluate the leaning pole and the Metro wires supporting it but were expected to take up to two hours to complete the inspection. Traffic in the area was diverted off 23rd Ave during the response.

UPDATE: The road was reopened to traffic around 1 AM.

New at the Broadway Farmers Market: Central Seattle’s own Malus Ginger Beer

996496_596024903762173_281111596_nFour years ago, a ginger beer maker got her start on what has become a collection of Seattle food and drink venues with a table at the Broadway Farmers Market. Later this year, Rachel Marshall will open a Rachel’s Ginger Beer on Capitol Hill inside the 12th Ave Arts complex.

Sunday, a new creator of the spicy drink tells CHS he is making his debut at the market and joining Rachel’s which has continued to keep its place at the weekly event. Here’s John Struble on his Malus Ginger Beer:

Malus Fermented Ginger Beer debuts at the Broadway Farmer’s Market on January 25 and will return every other Sunday thereafter. Crafted with a strong regard for herbal history, Malus Ginger Beer is Seattle’s only fermented non-alcoholic ginger beer. Malus’s process of fermentation is what separates its ginger beer from our admired fellow producers, Timber City and RGB. The craft of fermentation, more closely related to the production of beer, wine, and kombucha, is the linchpin of Malus’s methodology. Malus uses organic ingredients, including Northwest wildflower honey.

ad-04The Central District resident touts his drink as the only non-alcoholic fermented ginger beer in Seattle. The beer lists only four simple ingredients: water, ginger, honey, and lemon. (UPDATE: Struble let us know he believes his is the only non-alcoholic fermented ginger beer being made in Seattle. We’ve clarified above.)

Struble says he plans to carry Malus beyond ginger. “Malus has unearthed a centuries old recipe that promises to taste unlike any other root beer,” he writes, “with healthful ingredients that epitomize Malus’s herbalist tradition and stout opposition to the heavily medicated culture created by the American Medical Association.”

In addition to the Sunday markets (11a to 3p at Seattle Central, Broadway at Pine), you can also find Malus at Bannister, Café Presse, Central Co-op, Chuck’s Hop Shop, E. Smith Mercantile, and Revolver Bar.

You can learn more at malus-seattle.com.