Seattle First Covenant Church seeks input for old University Honda space

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.

16 thoughts on “Seattle First Covenant Church seeks input for old University Honda space

  1. The shelter house if perfect – and central and pleasant… for the CHCC.

    The should lease the space for commercial purposes and deliver charity cash back to the community … food banks …. shelter space … homeless youth … more drug treatment access … very under funded needs.

    CASH, real $$$$, is VERY flexible.

  2. I’m happy to hear that Seattle First Covenant Church is doing this the neighborhood friendly way. As for uses for the space…finally having a bakery on this side of the Hill would be nice. As for tool rentals, we already have Metrix: Create Space at Broadway and Roy – electric drills, laser cutter, room to work, etc.

    While we do have a few places for community groups to meet, we don’t have enough. Parks has only opened up free/inexpensive use of the Cal Anderson Shelterhouse to a few groups (this needs to change!)and the library is only open til 8pm which precludes the all important fter-dinner/evening meeting. And coffee shops don’t cut it if you want to meet with a group larger than four or five. I think a community center/meeting space here would be great, but I feel like the open floorplan would need to be cut up so that there would be multiple spaces for multiple uses, and that would take a lot of money.

  3. I surveyed neighbors last year to see what people wanted in the proposed developments at 22nd & Madison (the old Twilight Exit and Deano’s sites). Got a lot of the usual suggestions, and a very strong demand for a hardware store. This site is closer to the Lake Union Hardware store, so maybe not such a need. Here are the numbers (categories were chosen in a preliminary survey)

  4. I miss Uncle Rocky’s. You can’t have too many rock and roll clubs on the hill. Call it Uncle Rocky’s 2.0.

  5. I’d like to see the building be leased to a company or government agency for office space. People who make more than minimum wage who will have disposable income to spend for lunches and after work outings and shopping.

  6. I’d love to see an indoor market in the neighbourhood. Simple retail stalls, without the high rents. Most European cities have something like that (not tourist traps but serving the neighbourhood) and I really miss them.

  7. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if this could be the new home for the Lusty Lady?

    A garden center/nursery would be awesome, especially if they could make use of the rooftop lot for display space.

    A basic department store with functional rather than decorative home furnishings would be nice. Something like a mini-Fred Meyer or Target.

    A Guitar Center would probably be suitable.

    It would be awesome divided up into 10 or 20 affordable art studios and a big display space, like 619 Western, so there could be a real Capitol Hill Art Walk.

  8. Pacific Supply, next to the Ferrari place on 12th, is pretty close too. Over the last couple years they’ve shifted from commercial supply to more of a consumer hardware store.

  9. I think a Dollar General would work great at that location. It is a good place to get household items at a good price. I had one down the street from me in Philadelphia and I really miss it.

  10. I think he means a more expanded tool library than what Metrix offers. For example, table saw, circular saw, plain ol’ saw. And Metrix doesn’t allow you to check out their tools for home use. Not very practical for a house project if you can’t use the tool at your house.

  11. I applaud Metrix for their creative idea, but they aren’t a tool library. More of a hobby craft space; and more electronics oriented, less everything else.