Typically when we see retail vacancies here on the hill, all we can do is pray that a local entrepreneur steps in before the next Money Mart; it is rare that we, the community, actually get to choose what we want in our street facades. But that is
exactly similar to what Seattle First Covenant Church is proposing for their block-long vacancy on E. Pike between Crawford and Summit. Through a church-wide vote the First Covenant congregation decided that, rather than lease the space to the highest bidder, they would ensure that the space is filled with church usage and is compatible with the needs of the community.
First Covenant is one of Capitol Hill’s oldest religious congregations. Founded in 1889 by a small group of Swedes (take that Ballard!), their current building was finished in the early 1900′s. In the middle of the century, like many congregations, they struggled with their urban location as their members increasingly moved to the suburbs. But in 1968 they officially made the decision to stay in their historic home,
building acquiring a large parking garage just east of the sanctuary.
The vacant space in question is the single
retail commercial space in the parking garage. Early in 2009 the 12,000 sq ft. space was vacated after long-time tenant University Honda/Yamaha decided to call it quits. With a few minor changes to their budget, First Covenant realized that they didn’t necessarily need the rent income from the space, so instead they proposed trying to figure out what would be most valuable for the community. According to Associate Pastor Carolyn Poterek, “everything is on the table” at this point, for-profit businesses and nonprofit services alike. Their first step is to conduct a neighborhood asset mapping study which they hope to complete by this summer. They are also looking for community input and hope to host a number of community discussions and open houses for people to explore the space. Ultimately the church congregation will have to vote on the use so there may be some limitations. Poterek notes that “a bar is probably not an option” but then again, I think we can all agree that Capitol Hill is sufficiently bar-ed.
So what would you like to see in that space? To get your imagination running here are a couple of my own ideas:
- A Bakery. I know we have North Hill by we really need a good bread bakery, a place you can get a warm baguette for dinner or a batard for a Volunteer Park picnic. Something like the very wonderful Columbia City Bakery in the Rainier Valley.
- A Tool Library. For many of us urban residents maintaining a collection of tools just isn’t practical. Yet, every once in a while you really need a band saw or an electric drill. The space already had a significant workshop so perhaps we could just keep that as it is.
- Queer Youth Space. It has been in demand for quite sometime now. With a number of major bus routes just a block away, this is an incredibly accessible space for people too young to drive (or without a car).
- General Purpose Community Space. For anyone who’s been to one of the packed Capitol Hill Community Council meetings knows, we could use a bigger meeting location for community groups.
Post your own thoughts here or, send your ideas to Associate Pastor Carolyn Poterek.