In the community discussion around the future of the Capitol Hill Block Party in Pike/Pine, we’ve heard the nightlife crowd lay solid claim to any credit deserved for making the neighborhood the mix of hip, urban culture and growth that it is today. The March issue of Preservation Magazine gives voice to another camp that has helped make Pike/Pine — for lots of better and some worse — a national example of growth with a soul:
Capitol Hill has the most personality, the most grit and individuality of any neighborhood in Seattle. It’s partly due to the counter-culture residents who moved to the area decades ago, partly because of the district’s ties to Seattle’s industrial history. Lawrence Kreisman, program director for Historic Seattle, emphasizes that the district demonstrates the importance of protecting different types of structures. “Preserving those vestiges of early commercial economic life that built up the city reminds people it’s not just beautiful buildings that need protecting, but the commercial centers, as well.” The key to successful revitalization, he says, is occupancy: “If it’s still useful, use it.”
The magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation credits development that has stayed close to — and in some cases, celebrated — the area’s industrial auto row past. It also is enthusiastic about the preservation zoning that has been put into place in the neighborhood and continues to be shaped. While like any visit from outside, the piece makes a few leaps off unstable points — the empty lot at Belmont and Pine no longer makes as poetic an example of the evils of development as the project is now well underway and developer Mike Malone does live on the Hill but not in Pike/Pine — it’s a great read for the cavalcade of Pike/Pine development all-stars it brings to the page:
One of the pioneers of Pike/Pine is Seattle native Anne Michelson, who came to Capitol Hill in 1969 and now runs her own clothing business. “I was a hippie then,” she recalls with a laugh. “There were a few bars and one big REI outlet in the neighborhood, but no development—that’s only happened in the last few years.” She notes that it was an ideal time to purchase property: “I bought the Anderson Tool Supply building for a song.”
She restored that 1905 building and transformed it into Café Paradiso in 1990, brewing coffee beneath a lofty two-story wood ceiling and skylights—reminders of the period when Seattle’s electric supply was unreliable and natural light essential.
“I have to say, I’ve always been attracted to old, solid things,” says Michelson, “things with embellishments that you don’t get now … things with integrity.” Indeed, the fir floors at the shop seem to have absorbed decades of commerce and voices in their rich amber grain.
Dunn and Ted Schroth worked simultaneously to develop projects on 12th Avenue near East Pike. Schroth was transforming the Trace Building while Dunn was renovating the Pacific Supply Hardware Building and the Piston & Ring Building for new uses. Together, they got permission from the city to bury power lines and add sidewalk enhancements such as benches, lighting, and subtle overhangs outside retail and residential entrances to improve the pedestrian experience.
Now a resident of Pike/Pine, Dunn says, “This neighborhood is pretty successful, and most people agree it’s because of the old buildings. Each year of economic success strengthens that argument.”
Michael Malone, who lives in a 1901 National Register-listed house in the neighborhood, agrees. “Certain commercial groups and retail groups are attracted to the very natural quality and materials of early 1900s buildings. I’ve enjoyed that all my life—the emotion and romance of the old buildings—and now it’s catching on with the younger 30- and 40-somethings. We’re getting $25 to $28 per square foot from ad agencies and tech companies on these commercial buildings. That’s more than some of the shiny new towers downtown.”
Thanks to neighbor Todd for the tip!