When it comes to the history of Capitol Hill, we know more about the James Moore, Roy Olmstead and Bertha Landes periods than what happened in the 1990s. Fortunately, we have the CHS comments to give us a picture of the recent past every now and then. With Seattle street food provider Marination Mobile selecting the Harvard Market for its new brick-and-mortar home, there’s been some discussion on the site on just how such a peculiar parking-lot focused structure ever came to be. Here’s one person’s account of how the development of the strange but (mostly) busting commercial center that is the Harvard Market came together. Take it away Motab:
I lived next door in the Firestation Apartments when the whole Harvard Market was planned. The original design was for only a few parking spots on the top level for the condos above Bartell’s (with the vehicle entrance through the “alley”). The rest was a roofgarden-like space with outdoor restaurant seating, food carts, play area for children, fountains, etc. The developers insisted that only high-end retailers would come into the development (Larry’s Market, Pasta & Co., La Spiga).
Soon that all changed. They scrapped the upper plaza design for a parking lot and added the second entrance on Harvard. In a move to keep Larry’s off the Hill, QFC offered them more $$ to go into the space, promising that it would be a new type of QFC–”just like Larry’s Market.” Pasta & Co. eventually pulled out as the developers failed to bring in similar tenants to draw the customer base they had been promised (it was replaced with a Subway sandwich shop).
The whole upper lever is poorly designed. If you look up from Pike Street, you see a whole row of windows. Instead of opening that space up to seating with active street views, they placed the rear service hallway there. All the businesses are oriented to a parking lot. If they had stuck with the original plan, that would have been fine. They could open up outdoor seating in a pleasant plaza setting. But as it is, it might as well be a strip mall on Aurora. In fact, one of the spaces (perhaps the one Marination is going into?) has NEVER been rented.
Hopefully Marination can make a go of it on the upper level. I certainly will give them a… read more y. Good luck!
Granted, Motab’s recollection of “the way things were” may not be the entire story. We’ll dig in a little deeper to see what else we can learn. But we’re betting there may be a few more of you with memory of its development or with knowledge to share in the meantime.
The lot pictured above has room for 77 cars while the parking garage below holds another 215.
According to this 1994 Seattle Times article about the Broadway Market being put up for sale, the Harvard Market was developed by a company called Milliken Development Corp.:
The announcement comes a few months after the news that Milliken Development Corp. of Vancouver, B.C., plans to develop a 91,000-square-foot retail project several blocks south at Broadway and Pike. The development, called Harvard Market, will be anchored by a QFC supermarket and is scheduled to open in December 1995.
According to this 2004 Daily Journal of Commerce article, the developer was also responsible for the Marketplace at Queen Anne development. The article describes the residential aspect of the plans for the Harvard Market that Motab described — but it seems to make the case that parking was always an important part of the plan:
On the drawing board at the same time as the Marketplace was the award-winning Harvard Market, located in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Serving a densely populated area, this urban concept is a mixed-use of retail and residential, with a 46,000-square-foot QFC supermarket, a 15,000-square-foot Bartell Drugs store and an additional 25 shops. Again, the parking dilemma was solved by constructing ample underground and surface spaces.
These two projects were zoned for residential and Milliken was approached by several local developers to build housing on top of the retail clusters. “It wasn’t my original intention,” he said, “but we did incorporate condos in the Harvard Market and the concept has evolved and led us to developing more true mixed-use projects.”
Milliken has since helped Vulcan bring Whole Foods to Westlake, among other massive projects.
One interesting aspect at Harvard Market is that some of the businesses own their portion of the structure in a condominium set-up along with two residential units. Here’s the breakdown according to King County:
You’ll note some names from Seattle’s business world on the roster with David Jassny of Service Linen Supply and art gallery proprietor Greg Kucera on the door buzzer list.
It appears from county records the joint venture formed to develop the property sold off portions of the development for around $23.5 million over two years beginning in 1997.
That same year, the City of Seattle allowed the opening of a Burger King on the upper level of the development despite opposition from the community. 19 letters were sent into city planners about a change of use application required to allow the fast food restaurant — all of them in opposition to approval based on concerns around traffic, litter and smell. The city approved the change with conditions and Burger King moved in.
Fast forward more than 13 years to a new step in the lifecycle. We’re assuming there will be no letters of opposition to Marination Mobile.