It appears that a legal dispute lurking inside one of Capitol Hill’s most anticipated development projects has reached the surface. Thanks to a tip from neighbor Marcie, we found this letter from the law firm of Cairncross and Hempelmann taped to the door of what had been intended to be the new home for restaurant Terra Plata, the latest project from Seattle chef Tamara Murphy.
The letter describes some $45,967.94 in unpaid rent that lawyers say Murphy’s Terra Plata, LLC owes the Melrose Project, a corporation backed by Capitol Hill all-star developer Liz Dunn. It states that Terra Plata has lost the lease it signed back in September — indeed, large “for lease” signs now hang in the unfinished space’s windows.
The law firm’s letter documents the lack of rent payment and Murphy’s company’s continued assertion of “rights” to the property and goes on to demand that Murphy’s company relinquish these rights in writing by Sunday. And, of course, pay the more than 45 grand owed.
Two people familiar with the situation have told CHS about tenant issues with delays on the ambitious Melrose Project. We have been told about missed dates and frustrations over lack of communication from the people running the project. Dunn’s projects are known for their reuse of historical building elements and a respect for the vernacular of the areas where she builds. While Sonic Boom, Velouria and STILL Liquor have recently moved in to the building, the spaces for other ventures including Murphy’s new restaurant are still works in progress. The view through the windows of the wedge-shaped space where the restaurant was to be built shows a mostly unfinished space with a partially finished concrete floor and exposed piping and wiring.
Murphy, who is also working to ready Elliott Bay Book Company’s new cafe space by the time the book retailer opens in mid April, had stated that she hoped to open Terra Plata this month.
UPDATE 5:30 PM:
We’ve heard from both Murphy and Dunn who confirmed that the deal to make Terra Plata part of her Melrose development has indeed fallen through. Here’s Dunn’s e-mail to CHS: “I don’t know who taped the letter up there and after seeing this I just went and took it down. However it’s true – in spite of our very best efforts, this deal did not work out, and the space is now available. That’s really all we can say at this point.”
Murphy said she is considering her response to the situation and preparing a statement. She also sent us an e-mail with the subject line: this was put in our private dining room and this picture:
Looks like the project wasn’t quite shaping up as planned. It’s a sad situation for both sides. We hope to have more of an opportunity to talk more with everybody involved.
No word on if this will impact the other marquee restaurant lined up for the Melrose building. Sitka & Spruce pulled up its Eastlake roots to make the move to Capitol Hill. We’ve heard from one tenant that owner Matt Dillon is still in. On the S&S site, Dillon says he’s hoping for a spring opening on Melrose.