Capitol Hill continues to be a laboratory for a corporation’s global ambitions. Seattle-based coffee giant Starbucks has filed for a construction permit to radically remake their Olive Way location into a new concept “coffee theater.” The description of the $552,000 project in the June 7 permit application filed with the City of Seattle for the overhaul of the store known for its all-day and late night mix of students and locals is understated: Construct additions and alterations to existing commercial building, per plan.
The permit has not yet been approved.
In a media release dated June 25 (from the future! or the East Coast), Starbucks describes the overhaul as a green, locally inspired project:
Olive Way RenovationStarbucks Store Design Journey Continues with Locally Inspired Olive Way Renovation
Starbucks is renovating our location at 1600 East Olive Way in Seattle, a high-profile store in the vibrant Capitol Hill neighborhood. When the store re-opens later this fall, customers will experience a stunning new exterior and interior LEED®-registered to help reduce the stores environmental impact. We will also source reclaimed and local materials as well as work from local artists. The enhanced interior will focus on the customer coffee experience by bringing them closer to the art of Starbucks handcrafted beverages. As part of this enhanced coffee experience, we will also offer new premium foods as well as wine and beer.
We’re always working to enhance the Starbucks Experience, and innovation — from our beverages and food to the atmosphere and design of our stores and our interaction with customers — is a way of life for us. We have successfully tested new store designs as well as an enhanced menu in some of our stores within the last year. We are now applying what we’ve learned to create a new way for customers to experience their neighborhood Starbucks where it makes sense while offering a late afternoon and evening destination.
With muted, earthy colors, an indoor-outdoor fireplace, cushy chairs, and a menu with wine from the Pacific Northwest’s vineyards and beer from local craft brewers, this 2,500-square-foot shop in the Capital [motherfucking sic] Hill neighborhood will reopen in the fall with espresso machines in the middle.
“It’s going to feel very different,” said Kris Engskov, Starbucks’ regional vice president.
The machines at Olive Way will be part of what executives call a coffee theater. Counters will be narrower – a slim as a foot in some places – to bring customers closer to baristas; the machines will brew one cup at a time to extract deeper flavor from beans.
The store will be the chain’s only location that sells beer and wine in the U.S., though another Seattle test cafe that doesn’t carry the Starbucks brand began selling alcohol last year. The menu at Olive Way will be bigger, full of savory foods that pair with coffee, wine and beer. And customers will be able to customize the offerings, some of which will be freshly made.
Beyond the point that the AP reporter Starbucks picked to spill the beans to is so in the know on our local business happenings that she can’t spell Capitol Hill, it sounds like Olive Way is the next in the series of Capitol Hill Fauxbucks — brilliantly designed, extremely comfortable, serving delicious coffee and leaving many customers with the uneasy feeling that they’ve just done something extremely wrong.
The $552 grand overhaul of the Olive Way location will be significant. The permit lists local architecture firm Graham Baba as a contact. The firm was not listed in permits for construction on the 15th Ave Starbucks concept overhaul or the work done at Roy Street Coffee and Tea. Those projects were listed at just over $100,000 and $300,000 construction jobs, respectively, according to city permit records.
The Olive Way store was thought by some coffee and retail experts to be a likely candidate for a redesign when word of the Starbucks Street Level Coffee projects first started percolating. It’s perhaps the most vibrant Starbucks outlet you’ll find and is one of the rare stores open late. Starbucks opened the location back around the turn of the century (yes, that one, 10 years ago) in what had formerly been a Boston Market chain restaurant.
CHS had heard rumors that lot was being sized up for yet another mixed-use development but this move, if there was anything to the buzz, likely puts off any chance of that happening. Meanwhile, across John street, Seattle Parks work crews are constructing a new green space and p-patch slated to be open in the fall. The park will also have some tables and, for you skaters, a skateboard feature known as a skate dot. A community group has been working with the city to develop a plan to “pedestrianize” John Street and create some sort of plaza between the Olive Way Starbucks and the new park.
The park, by the way, still doesn’t have an official name after the Perugia backlash. Now that the coffee giant is increasing its investment in the area, maybe they’d like to pony up some cash for the pedestrian project and welcome everybody to Starbucks Park.
UPDATE: Seattle Times’ Friday morning update paints the move as the beginning of the transformation of Starbucks shops to incorporate the lessons learned by the company at their 15th Ave and Roy Street locations:
Starbucks is removing the stealth factor from an innovative store program it launched last year with two cafes on Capitol Hill that do not carry its name.
The chain has learned a lot from 15th Avenue Coffee & Tea and Roy Street Coffee & Tea, which will keep their current names, said Starbucks spokeswoman Stacey Krum.
But the next store that opens with a unique design and occasional live entertainment will be called Starbucks. It also will be the first Starbucks-branded store to offer beer and wine.
More interesting, the Times reports on some of the logistical details of the overhaul.
The Starbucks store at 1600 E. Olive Way on Capitol Hill is expected to close in July for a two-month remodel that includes new deck seating, an indoor-outdoor fireplace and a 360-degree coffee and wine bar with narrow countertops to let baristas interact more closely with customers.
Starbucks will continue serving coffee from a van on the property during the remodel.
Update x2: We have confirmed the dollar values listed in this article as the base estimates provided by Starbucks to the City of Seattle. We’re told by DPD that the values include estimates of significant work and materials but not finishings like cabinets or equipment so the total cost of the overhauls is higher.
Update x3: About three hours ago, we received an e-mail reply from Starbucks corporate PR inviting us to send over a few questions. We asked about the timing of this announcement in relation to Pride and about the corporation’s plans related to the Summit and John park. So far, no response.
Thanks to tipster Robin for the note.