More Capitol Hill mixed-use: 10th/Union warehouse making way for more apartments

A permit has been issued for the demolition of the old purple warehouse building at the corner of 10th and Union to make way for yet another Capitol Hill mixed-use apartment development. The building has recently been home to a collection of Hill businesses and a community organizations — each had a demolition clause in their lease and each, including the Cork House, received 90-day notices at the end of April to make plans to move out. According to a representative from Seawest Investment Associates, the developer that owns the building and will be leading the project, the plan is to start construction later this summer following the demolition.

“We have been developers on the Eastside for more than 20 years and we’re really looking forward to starting our new development in Capitol Hill,” the rep told us via email. The company also provided this latest rendering of the project that started its journey through the public Early Design Guidance process a whopping five and a half years ago. (By the way, for an interesting view of the recent past and a little insight into the blessings and the curses of the public design process, check out this report summarizing public comment on this project from 2005/2006 era Pike/Pine community members.

Plans call for a six-story building with 79 apartment units above 7,800 square feet of ground level retail. Parking for 75 vehicles will be provided below and at grade. Seawest tells us there aren’t any significant changes to the five+ year-old plan. “We don’t have any significant changes to speak of, other than that we will be keeping 20% of the residential units rent affordable, as part of a program that the city is offering to selected new multifamily projects,” the rep wrote. “We will have some green space on the rooftop as well.”


In the “damned if you do…” category, the Seattle Times recently reported on City of Seattle efforts to stem the tide of developers looking to cash in on affordable housing programs in “vogue” neighborhoods like Capitol Hill. Whatever changes come will likely be too late to impact the 10th and Union project.

Also too late to impact the project will be the possible formation of a “transfer of development potential” program for the Pike/Pine neighborhood — though most would argue that the 36,000 square-foot, 1904 warehouse isn’t worthy of preservation effort. While it isn’t your classic “character structure,” the warehouse does have its industrial charm. And its roster of recent tenants including Cork House, which opened last summer, the Museum of the Mysteries, which left last fall, Black Label Spirits, which sadly is gone from the space before it started, and the Capoeira and Brazilian dance infused Union Cultural Center (Facebook), was the kind of quirky milieu you can only find in Pike/Pine’s more dilapidated nooks and crannies. None of the entities — except for, perhaps, Cork House which has shifted its marketing to a “Cork for a Cause” online play — will likely to be able to pay the rent in the new development.

Seawest acquired the land in 2005 for $2.7 million, according to King County Records. DPD records indicate the planned construction is budgeted at nearly $12 million.

We received this rant/tip from neighbor g about the changes:

From what I heard (at last Sunday’s tasting at Cork House), the building they are in, as well as the dance place on the corner, and possible other tenants, is being torn down and condos are going in. What’s new right? Cork House says they have until the end of July to vacate.  Not sure where they are headed. However, the worst part is that yet another set of stupid condos are going in!  Just what Capitol Hill needs: more condos!  This neighborhood used to be really fucking cool.  Then this condo boom started to happen and for christsakes!  I’m pissed at all of it.  I know I can’t do shit.  But it’s like an ex-girlfriend that broke up with me.  I long for those days that made me happy.  Even though I knew it wouldn’t last, and even though looking back on it, I’m probably just thinking of the good times and not the bad, I still long for that distant memory that was Capitol Hill. You probably know all this, but for me it just makes me mad!  No more weird and hip places.  Soon it will be just like from 1st street, from Union to Pike!   Sign will read: “Available retail space below,” while condos look down above… Hope it doesn’t suck too much! best, g

Well, not condos, g but…

The start of activity at 10th and Union won’t just represent the awakening of yet another dormant Capitol Hill development project. Across the street and up the block, the demolition permit is also in motion for the 1111 E Union project that will fill the land currently home to the Undre Arms apartments, Cobra Lounge and Thai Curry Simple with retail and apartments. By the end of summer, you will find two big empty lots on E Union and, if the banks are still eager to get behind the Capitol Hill apartment market, 6-story buildings will rise a year or so later. Where the “weird and hip” will end up is, as usual, much more uncertain.

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42 thoughts on “More Capitol Hill mixed-use: 10th/Union warehouse making way for more apartments

  1. Eastside developers’ first foray into development in Seattle? Awesome! Judging by the fine body of work on their website – http://www.seawest.us/ – this’ll be a new Capitol Hill architectural treasure. I understand that there’s demand for a denser Capitol Hill, but why is this piece of crap being subsidized by tax payers?
    Call me a hypocrite for living in a condo a block away, but at least my building is not a Bellevue-style 79 unit eyesore.

  2. Sigh. Why do almost all our new buildings have to look as if they belonged on Microsoft campus or in downtown Redmond? Who makes the rules that enforce this bland sameness, until the next bland trend comes along? Where’s the creativity and imagination?

  3. Also, a DPD board has gone up at the site of the former biohazard house at Belmont Ave. E. and E. Republican. It involves tearing down the 2 houses to the north. 6story, 69 units, 39 parking spots.

  4. When will developers realize that touting 20 years of Eastside development is not a good thing? Keep it on that side of the lake. Sacrificing neighborhood character and/or good design for density just isn’t worth it.

  5. I guess from reading the comments on ANY new development that I would expect there to be a lot of community activity to change our design guidelines, density guidelines, and zoning. Instead, whenever there is any new development, people comment that htey don’t like it, they want something different, but the design commission doesn’t have the teeth to make any substantive changes. If there is change in future projects that residents want, it is encumbent on said residents to changes the policies and proceedures. We all acknowledge that Seattle loves its process, so then why not get community involvement to change said process?

    Commenting on this blog may make you feel like you’ve done something constructive, but in the end, nothing has changed.

  6. I remember in about 1996 or so when the (206) area code split, I read articles in the Seattle Weekly wherein deluded Eastsiders opined that a (425) telephone number would be a “status symbol” as compared to a (206) one. Uh, ok, yeah…sure. (NOT).

  7. Do people actually design buildings anymore or just photocopy the same old same old “ooh it’s so cosmopolitan, it’s mixed-use” (which is code for half vacant storefronts/half Subway franchises) design plan? Disappointing, if utterly predictable.

  8. This looks like a dozen other projects built in downtown/around Seattle. And it’s horrible. They age horribly. They look cheap. It’s just horrible. I looked at this and though, wow, I need to move off of the hill if this is what’s it’s going to come to. Because this is not an improvement over what’s there.

  9. Anything will be an improvement over the brick box that’s on the site now, it’s nothing but a canvass for taggers

  10. Oh Joy, something is being done with that corner. Wait a minute! Another FUGLY Box from Space that looks like every other suburban Box from Space dropped into a vibrant urban environment. I hope this goes through design review and they get ripped to shreds.

  11. Just think, all of the buildings that we “love” were once considered FUGLY for their era.

    At one point all of these old brick building looked the same from block to block. And now, they look unique…

  12. is it just me, or do they just keep using the same artist’s rendering for every new building coming to the hill lately? I know they’re different, but it just seems like DPD releases the same water color sketch of the same building every time something new comes up. It’s bad enough they destroyed the Cascade neighborhood with them, do we have to lose the Pike/Pine corridor to them too?

  13. That’s not necessarily true. I cannot believe that all of the beautiful heritage building ever built were considered “fugly”

  14. You really don’t think row after row after row of brick buildings didn’t make people way back get their panties in a bunch like it does now with these new designs that all look the same.

  15. Sad the architecture sketch looks exactly like every other 6-story, apartments with ground-level retail building that has been built or proposed on capitol hill for the last 5 years. Where is the creativity? I’d much rather have an unused warehouse on the hill than another cookie-cutter apartment block.

  16. This is at least the second foray of Eastside developers into Pike/Pine. The Pine & Belmont Project (home to ChaCha, Manray, etc, and up till recently a gravel lot) was also be an Eastside development company (Murray Franklyn).

  17. > Just think, all of the buildings that we “love” were once considered FUGLY for their era.

    No, actually, they were certainly not considered fugly when they were built. (This is in contrast to brutalist concrete buildings which were very divisive in their day and perhaps only gained broader appreciation in later years.)

    The key thing about the different buildings is that they all had differences; differences in window size placement, differences in brickwork, differences in massing: it never was the case that they “looked the same from block to block”. Many of the buildings were built as auto showrooms and were very elegant indeed (all the better to show off the autos on display within). But even some of the lesser buildings (such as the auto repair shop now home to Cha Cha) still have elegant brickwork.

    Perhaps the one era where the brick articles were considered FUGLY was in the 60’s; a few of the old buildings had rather unfortunate makeovers, such as having terracotta ornamentation removed or having dropped ceilings added.

  18. i just finished reading ‘seeking spatial justice’ by the UCLA geographer/urban planner ed soja and then saw this thread. first, i’m with everyone that thinks this style of building which is colonizing the neighborhood is repetitive, boring, and eyesore, etc. and though i admittedly, and embarrassingly, have never taken part in any of the dpd reviews, i have been curious about ways to resist this sort redevelopment.

    anyhow, soja describes a community benefits agreements as ‘a legally binding document negotiated by a defined labor-community coalition and developer’ and explains how they can be used to require a developer to provide such things as affordable housing, child care facilities, space for local businesses, etc. in the case of this building, the way a cba might have worked would be that the community coalition would have ultimately approved the building and allowed it pass quickly through the review process, but only in exchange for, say, 25% affordable housing and 50% of the ground level retail dedicated to small and local business (or whatever, i’m making this up).

    when i started my people’s parking lot blog two years back, i had a similar idea, but had no idea such organizations actually existed (in los angeles, for example). it looks like it’s too late in some cases, but i can’t help but think that creating such a group might be the first step to exercising some sort of influence over development in the neighborhood. considering the strong reactions to these projects, this seems like something we could get started.

  19. Why is it so hard for developers to create something new? This looks like the same crap that’s been taking over the hill these last few years. This neighborhood is going to lose all it’s charm before we know it. New development can be unique and build a greater since of neighborhood but this is not it. We live in Capitol Hill for a reason, because it’s not the Eastside. Save the Hill!

  20. No, actually, all of these new buildings are doing the exact same thing you describe (without brick). The designs have differences. They don’t all look the same.

    I’m sure the buildings being built today will gain broader appreciation in later years, actually.

  21. keith this is a great idea. i have never seen something like this work on this scale of development in seattle (not sure if there is precedent for it). i think that this is in part due to our design review process. it is run by DPD through a volunteer board – all projects like this (multi-fam of a certain size) need to go through it – and it basically “advises” the developer on aspects of how to interpret design per the code we have for development. legally, i am not sure how any neighborhood could *make* a developer change their project to serve a specific use. not that this isn’t a good idea in concept, but just that legally it may be considered a “taking” in terms of WA state law, and thus something that would not hold up in court (or get much traction to begin with).

    in my opinion, the reason we get so many crappy looking buildings like these are twofold: 1) our building code virtually defines this from the get-go (i.e. in certain zones you have to build commercial therefore you have the design separation of the first floor from the rest) and 2)construction cost: because it is still so costly to do infill development in seattle and land costs are so high, you often see developers making choices on finishes, etc. that cheapen how these buildings look. (not that this is the only driving factor for cheap materials) and when it comes down to it, most private developer represent investors that need a certain return on investment and this means that unfortunate design decisions get made to ensure this.

    i am not making excuses here, just adding some context from my experience as a developer.

  22. Oh no new things! Oh no Eastside developers! Oh no it doesn’t fit my aesthetic sensibilities! It’s funny how Capitol Hill is so progressive on many issues and so conservative on others.

    The project went through Design Review. You had your chance to make a difference.

  23. It does NOT fit the neighborhood…that’s not an Urban building. I agree with the comment that it looks like it should be on the Microsoft campus.

    Apparently, there is NO limit what a developer can do in Seattle. Want to put up an ugly, inappropriate building and you have a shit ton of money? Move to Seattle, where anything goes and anything gets approved by the city.

    Meanwhile, Portland continues to kick our ass when it comes to urban planning.

  24. Some of the newer buildings on the MSFT campus are quite a bit better than this. (That’s not to say they’d necessarily be a better fit for the hill than this…)

  25. It got approved through Design Review. It’s a public process with public notice, public comment. There is a limit to what developers can do in the city, it is negotiated through Design Review, public comment etc. But that doesn’t bother people. Just complain later; I didn’t bother to say anything at the time, so now I can complain…

    And no specifics, how exactly is it inappropriate? Let be serious, If you didn’t complain at the time, but you are going to later, at least be somewhat articulate as to how it is inappropriate to the neighborhood.

  26. A few years ago a coalition of community members and organization representatives in the Little Saigon and International District area tried implementing a community benefits agreement related to the Goodwill redevelopment (that never happened). It was a rocky road and many came and went, but the effort was made.

    Keith, if you’re interested you might want to contact some of the individuals involved in the coalition. You can google “community benefits agreement goodwill” and read more.

  27. Good will did indeed have a community process with an agreement. Something really different about that project compared to this is that the developer there was asking for significant changes to what was “allowed” there by code. So therefore the comm benefit agreement became a tool to get the neighbors to accept the bulk and scale departures they were seeking.

    When a project is essentially proposed within the current building code I believe the only leverage community has is design review and this is a cursory design advice process. Uses cannot be dictated. And this is why in part there are so many ugly five over one buildings in seattle.

  28. Apparently there is also no limit to the amount of whining by people who didn’t care to be involved in the process.

    It is a building in an urban environment which makes it an urban building.

  29. You’re right about the current building there, but unfortunately taggers don’t respect ANY building, so the new one will be hit also.

  30. I’m not a fan of some of the newer buildings (it all started with that ugly thing at the SW corner of Broadway and John), but it’s a generalization to say that all the new development is crap. I think the Brix building is quite beautiful and also has successful, local retail….and Joule is not half-bad, either.

    I’m hopeful that the “230 Broadway” building will have a classy look, and also that the structures on top of the light rail station will be well-designed….at least the latter will have ALOT of community input…actually, it already does.

  31. thanks to both of you for your insights. i need to go back and read about how and if it worked/works in los angeles and i’ll definitely check in to the little saigon deal. i actually know quang nguyen and remember him telling me about this, but didn’t know there was a technical term for this approach (full disclosure, at the time i was working for the structural engineering firm who was designing the project and sat across the aisle from the project manager).

    i have heard the issues with the design code and the review process before but only have a superficial understanding. a friend that’s an architect and community organizer type commented on this post when i re-posted on my blog, so i’ll see what she knows about these processes. kdglg, is there any way i could get in touch with you to talk about this more? you can email me a peoplesparkinglot (at) gmail (it forwards to my real email address).

    thanks again to both of you.

  32. This building is extremely ugly and criminally bland. I cannot believe that our awesome neighborhood is being erased by super-boring, corporate-anywhere-U-S-A buildings. Ugh.

    Bad civic planning to strip the character of a city.

  33. Anything is better than what is there now. The building is dirty, frequently used as a toilet and as a place for illegal drug use. It is not maintained. The Seawest Corp being a disinterested, absentee landlord.

    Honestly, I would take anything there. Just tear that thing down. Please. Now.

  34. Thank you! I completely agree. The public need to become involved instead of just bitching when it’s too late. We should be happy that our community is still developing in a huge economic downturn.

  35. OK OK OK…. Thank you SimonSS for bringing a level mind to the table. Our city’s process may be flawed but unless you participate you cannot discriminate. I just wish people would be happy for new development and progress in a time when our city, let alone country, is in pretty poor shape and a crappy economy. I appreciate progress with historical preservation but if anyone says that the crappy building that is on an under-utilized plot of land is better than adding a functional mixed-use project that could breathe new life into that area is absurd. This small area of the hill definitely needs some new life. It’s full of run down businesses and storefronts while Pike/Pine flourishes a block away.

    Secondly, as an urban resident, you can’t be stuck in a paralyzed state of our neighborhood. Yes this building could be designed better, but it is designed around what the market demands. I would hardly call it offensive or ugly, rather somewhat generic. Nothing to hate, nothing to love. It comes down to money… would you rather have a new vibrant project that can add to the neighborhood that may not be 100% ideal aesthetically (in your opinion, everyone has one) or a underutilized stagnant corner that could stand undeveloped for years because of our strung out public process. You cannot complain about all of the new developments while praising all of the new life that is coming to Capitol Hill. The only reason all of these great new businesses/bars/restaurants exist is because of density and the additional residents these projects are bringing to our neighborhood.

    I moved here right when the hill was starting redevelopment back 6 yrs ago and understand both sides, but I suggest to either get involved, or stop picking and choosing what you like and what you bitch about. You have a voice use it when it’s relevant, not after the fact.