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City in ‘wait and see’ mode on Bauhaus development

The mayor didn’t linger near Bauhaus for long on Tuesday’s walking tour (Images: CHS)

The response from Seattle’s City Hall to the planned redevelopment of a block of E Pine’s oldest buildings is a resounding let’s wait and see.

“We’re still waiting to hear their plans,” Mayor Mike McGinn said at a town hall forum Tuesday night inside a packed Terra Plata restaurant.

The mayor, who also conducted a walking tour of lower Pike/Pine before the forum, isn’t alone in wait and see mode.

“We’re checking it out but we don’t know if the overlay is a failure yet,” City Council member Sally Clark told CHS about a sit-down held last week with several Pike/Pine community members to discuss what can be done to — quickly — shore up the Pike/Pine Conservation Overlay District in response to the emergence of two major projects that will radically reshape portions of the neighborhood and are likely to take advantage of preservation incentives available to developments in the area.

Clark, Tom Rasmussen, who helped drive the creation of the conservation district, and representatives from the Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council met to talk about the developments slated to demolish three of four old buildings at 10th and Union and the acquisition of a half-block of lower Pike/Pine with plans for a development encompassing 16,240 square-feet of retail and 98,794 square-feet of residential space.

In December, the third and final stage creating a preservation district in Pike/Pine was completed as the City Council approved the creation of a transfer of development rights program for the neighborhood. CHS’s coverage of the first phase of creating a Pike/Pine Conservation District is here. That legislation’s biggest advances were related to creating incentives for developers to include historical and character building components into their designs. We covered the Council’s update to the rule set in summer 2010 here.

Inside the Terra Plata town hall (Images: CHS)

Participants in the meeting with the Council members said there are no clear paths to better utilize the conservation measures other than what is happening now — the 10th and Union project is going through the city’s design review process and has been kicked back for another public meeting in coming months while the Melrose and Pine developer Madison Development Group is in reportedly meeting with other property owners, community members and developers in the area to try to shape a more palatable plan that, we’re told, would include preserving Bauhaus “as a building and a business.”

The developers declined to comment. Madison Development Group is still in the process of talking with members of the community, a representative told CHS.

In addition to PPUNC, another group that has kicked into action is Historic Seattle. Director Eugenia Woo said the organization is researching the landmark potential of the Melrose & Pine properties:

We, too, are concerned about the proposed project and plan to advocate for the preservation of the Melrose Building and the adjacent apartment building to the east. At this point, we are in the information gathering phase, doing some basic research on the significance of the historic resources involved and discussing the issue internally among staff and council. 

In dealing with preservation advocacy, we try to find win-win solutions that promote real preservation and allow for new development. We do this by working with community advocates and reaching out to the property owner/developer when appropriate. The Pike/Pine community has individuals, private companies and nonprofit organizations who all have experience making projects in older buildings work. There are plenty of examples of older buildings that have been seismically retrofitted and rehabilitated successfully. They are occupied with businesses that truly add to the eclectic neighborhood fabric. 

The character of Capitol Hill’s commercial districts is based on low-scale, commercial vernacular buildings and the mixed-use retail/residential apartments buildings from the early twentieth century. Both the Melrose Building and the apartment building to the east are excellent examples of these property types. They also maintain high physical integrity and help convey the significance of these types of buildings in the development of the neighborhood.

Not active on the subject — yet — is neighborhood activist Dennis Saxman who famously tangled with developer Murray Franklyn over the E Pine development that wiped away the Cha Cha, Manray and Kincora block. Saxman tells CHS his focus is currently on the sprawling Regulatory Reform package making its way through the City Council but that many of his criticisms of the “facadism” encouraged by the city’s conservation efforts have now come to bear.

A packed house (Images: CHS)

Saxman was on hand Tuesday night as many at the town hall asked for more to be done — soon. 

“[They’ve been] literally since I ‘ve been here — 5 years — literally tearing down Capitol Hill,” one community member — who CHS also saw offer public testimony at the Weatherford House landmark hearing —  told McGinn. “It’s the same problem the previous administration had and the blindness to it is ridiculous. Developers run this town the way they want to.”

Another speaker from a business located in the block slated to be redeveloped asked what is being done for small businesses. “I’m from Le Frock and our building is being torn down,” she said. “And we’re going to be forced into renting in a new building that is going to be about three times the rent. What are you going to do for small business that is in this situation? We may not survive it.”

“If we froze the number of housing in this city at the current levels the only people who would be left in this town would be the people with money who outbid everybody else for that housing,” the mayor said.

Another speaker said he lives in an apartment that will be demolished and asked for help finding a new place to live.

As the discussions take place with the developer, the mayor said he has hope a solution can be worked out but that restrictions need to be balanced with incentives to keep the city building.

“We have a set of tools in place right now,” he said. “We can’t freeze this city in amber. It can’t be done.”

The question posed by a Bauhaus employee and applauded by the crowd remains, for now, unanswered. “Why is the Melrose building not a historical landmark,” she asked, “and what can we do to preserve the buildings and businesses that are thriving?”

CHS Melrose and Pine coverage

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34 thoughts on “City in ‘wait and see’ mode on Bauhaus development

  1. I find it odd how everyone who voted for the mayor, agrees with his plan for larger density near the light rail, they just dont want it in their own back yard.

    I for one will not miss one out of 30 coffee shops that litter the entire Capitol Hill area.

  2. Russ, seriously actually read the article from yesterday, or if you have the patient to read through a book, read this:


    Jane Jacobs was just another neighbor and she became an activist when the city of New York started planning to build a highway through part of her neighborhood. She spoke up. She wrote articles. She organized and stopped the highway. She became one of the most influential figures in neighborhood planning in the 20th century.

    You can get it at Elliott Bay. They always have a copy on the shelves in the Architecture/Urban Planning section. This really should be required reading for anyone living in a city.

  3. This argument is about the city demolishing a building that should be a historic landmark in Seattle. It’s about a neighborhood having it’s identity taken from it one piece at a time. The fact that it is a thriving business is just icing on the cake. It makes me sick to the stomach that everyone is so willing to just toss things aside that really make the hill unique. I for one have had about enough of the cookie cutter retail space on the bottom sixteen story apartment building that are springing up all over the place.

  4. A great many of us DID NOT vote for this mayor. To me he is an identical twin to Nichols. They look alike, talk alike and have the same attitude towards development of our city. I am not sure what sort of lawyer he was but he stinks as a mayor! I routinely vote out the city council too but they always seem to get back in!
    This whole Regulatory Reform thing is a really really bad idea for our neighborhood in every way. Relaxing SEPA in itself will make it much easier to bash down old buildings and replace them with bland and flavorless modern boxes. I am not surprised that McGinn played the earthquake card on this one going as far as saying it would fall down in the next quake (it has been thru many big quakes and still stands) didn’t he say he did not want the viaduct torn down? Now it WILL fall in the next quake! I would encourage everyone to write the mayor and council and urge them to reject the proposed reforms. I have. It is becoming increasingly clear to me that the Capitol Hill our mayor and his developer buddies envision does not include any of us that live here now. They will be CREATING a neighborhood FOR the wealthy (and will get rich in the process!)

  5. The saddest part is these new buildings are built fast, cheap, and have no value other than a (possible) quick return on the investment for the developer. Building something that will still be good in 20 years is not too much to ask.

  6. You know, if you do want to voice your opinions, it’s better to just call the Mayor’s office or seperate City Councilmembers, but please for the love of god, be polite. Those poor aides don’t need to be yelled at.

    Mayor’s Office:
    (206) 684-4000

    President Sally Clark:

    Sally Bagshaw:

    Tim Burgess:

    Richard Conlin:

    Jean Godden:

    Bruce Harrell:

    Nick Licata:

    Mike O’Brien

    Tim Burgess:

  7. I couldn’t agree more. Many of these developers are not from the neighborhood and will never live here so why should they care what they leave behind? Once they make their money they are out and on to the next one. I was excited about the Bullitt project until I saw those huge awnings projecting over the street. Pure ugliness but we had better get used to it because that is what will be everywhere in our neighborhood in the next decade or so.

  8. Ima Monster: “didn’t he say he did not want the viaduct torn down? Now it WILL fall in the next quake!”

    If I’m understanding your double negative correctly, you’re accusing the Mayor of wanting to leave the viaduct up? That’s pretty indicative that you haven’t been paying any attention at all. *No one* wanted the current viaduct left standing. Seattle Times headline from March 14 2011: “Citing quake, McGinn wants viaduct closed next year.”

  9. The City Council, The Mayor, The Review Board are all in bed with the developers. So sad, we think we are so progressive. We are not. All that matters to the people in charge are those with $$. “We can’t freeze this city in amber. It can’t be done.” – We are not asking you to, we are asking to perserve some of the character we have here. Instead we will soon have a city of nothing older than 1992.

    I am disappointed in our Mayor, he has not risen to the challenge. He is the same as the previous mayor, $$ hungry.

  10. I don’t believe we can blame the design review board. The guidelines that they have to go by are set by somebody else. If you go to any of the design review meetings, you will invariably get people commenting that the project is too tall/bulky, etc. The review board is pretty quick to shoot down the anti density comments if the project is designed for allowed zoning. The bulky arguments are frequently addressed in these meetings with setbacks, massing, etc.

    What the design board doesn’t have is teeth to mandate good design. They can’t dictate brick over corrugated metal or concrete panel construction. I wish they could, but the council hasn’t given them that kind of power.

    My preference for this project would a thorough rehab of these two structures, and an allowance of a new 10 story structure to make of for the lost economic potential of the rehabbed units. I’d also mandate that the materials used had to be complimentary to existing structures. But, once again, what I’d be recommending would be extra height WITH preservation. We need incentives for developers as well, as much as many on here don’t want to acknowledge. Our region has invested billions of dollars in a new transit system that runs right through our neighborhood. This is going to drive development for a long time, and this discussion will keep happening unlesscwe choose to make changes. Unless there are legal changes, I feel that there will be a lot of angst and lawsuits without much positive outcome.

  11. Exactly, Michael! I’m the guy quoted in the article who took our soft-spoken, often-ineffectual Mayor to task, saying: “It’s the same problem the previous administration had and the blindness to it is ridiculous. Developers run this town the way they want to.”

    To the commenter who cited Jane Jacobs, you are so spot on.

    Now, and in Jane Jacob’s spirit, I’ll start using this comment board and others to rally the troops to what is the next step: a major rally with a big showing (by us, our bodies, signs and voices) right at a City Council meeting. If we have to “hijack” our own elected officials’ work sessions that are supposed to be done on OUR behalf just to get their attention, so be it.

    The gloves have to come off. I’m far, far from being a career protester-type but I’ve had it with the United Statesian way of trickle up economics and the ‘go-screw yourself if you don’t have power and money’ attititude of our politicians. Enough. Seattle deserves better. It appears we have to force it though. I can’t believe we’re still fighting for this really basic shit (fundamental fairness and a chance at equity for all).

    I’m not talking huge time commitments here, either. Work smarter, not harder ;-) Who’s in?

  12. Anyone else find it galling that our intellectually-challenged Mayor and council continue to cite laws and codes that prohibit them from doing anything, e.g. saving landmark/historic buildings, controlling construction quality, keeping rents from skyrocketing, etc, etc.

    Who the hell makes the laws?!!!!!!! Arrrrrgh.!!!!!!

    YOU are the lawmakers, McGinn. We are NOT getting paid to do this, Mr. Mayor! YOU are City Council.

    ASIDE: As for Joshua’s comment, “evvvveryone is gay”, nice Nirvana quote but how sad that you’d waste your time trolling with drivel. Get a life ;-) We’re trying to do something here :-)

  13. The Design Review Board is irrelevant unless a developer is seeking some sort of exemption.

    Bulking can still fit within guidelines so they can’t really do anything about that either.

  14. X.G., I’m in! I just finished writing a strongly worded email to the city council. I’m ready to do something to get the control out of the developers hands. PS I was at the town hall last night and thought you spoke really well.

  15. If you’ve seen any of the Madison Development Group’s previous projects, like this one:
    it’s obvious that there’s a lot to fear from them getting their mitts on this block. This is NOT an architecturally or historically sensitive developer. I don’t think *every* old structure in Capitol Hill needs to be preserved, but if this turns into some godawful thing with a corner turret entrance wearing a hat (like all their other projects), we’re really in trouble.

  16. Hey, X.G. I am glad to see your enthusiasm, but the city council makes the laws. The Mayor just accepts or vetoes them.

    It is a good idea to sit in on City Council Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee meetings, if you can. They take place in council chambers on the second floor of City Hall. The next is 5/9 at 9:30 AM. Every meeting allows public comment (Again, politeness is the best way to address the committee. They’ll be more willing to listen to coherent folks than those yelling at them). If you’re like me, and cannot get away from work, you can call Richard Conlin (the committee chair) at 206-684-8805 and let him know that you want this to be reviewed. Last but not least, you can send an email to Richard Conlin at richard.conlin@seattle.gov.

  17. The Melrose Building should be a historical landmark and preserved.
    Do we really need more development in that area.
    Many of the shops are doing fairly well, how can you justify displacing them.
    Capital Hill has lost much of it’s character already, it would be a travesty to lose it all.

  18. Really the big issue here is that everything is being done in a way that will eradicate this section of the city and its history, and not that it is being developed. If there was a responsible developer who would come in, replace the area with a better-built duplicate, throw the new stuff on TOP of that duplicate, and ensure that the businesses being displaced were kept functional during construction (as with the Starbucks nearby) so they could come back, and apartment renters were given a place until their new-and-improved rooms were built, this wouldn’t be that big a deal, but that’s going to cut into profits severely.

    Development isn’t innately bad, but this is more like sterilization.

  19. Nicely said. I like your phasing of “…this is more like sterilization.”

    I just emailed the city council about this issue. I’d suggest you all do the same. The more we voice our fury about this issue, the more likely restrictions may be implimented on developers someday. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, but maybe this is the catalyst we need to take some action.

    Email addresses here:

  20. J- PLEASE don’t forget another key issue regarding development (which theoretically doesn’t have to be bad, it just usually winds up being). AFFORDABILITY.


    McGinn mentioned all sorts of facts, variables and goals last night (in increbily mercurial ways) but NEVER said AFFORDABLE. I don’t want to live in a snooty community of affluence. Capitol Hill was/is about a mix of ALL incomes and creative, artistic, talent levels and background.

    So, J, the shop worker earning $10/hour can’t afford to wait for their new apartment -whatever the waiting looks like- because they can’t afford the rent hike on their new place. instead, they move to Renton and bus it or add to traffic and smog by driving. H

    I’ll be emailing all on Council and will repeat what others are saying. Call. Write. Better yet, go to Council meetings and enter a PUBLIC COMMENT that the media can pick up and repeat a gazillion times. We have to pressure these ineffectual politicos.

  21. They didn’t come all the way from Bellevue and spend all that money buying the building and rebuilding it NOT to make an obscene amount of money, The people who live there and the businesses will never be able to afford the new rents. But thanks to Mayor McGinn, he will defend their right to pitch a tent in a church parking lot! Well, he says he won’t kick them out but as they are already being kicked out of affordable housing, I wouldn’t trust him!

  22. “Are you deliberately being a troll, or do you somehow truly not understand why this is upsetting people?”

    No I just dont understand why its such a big deal. 40 years ago, people were saying the same thing about how their neighborhood was changing and they didnt like it, so they moved out. Change happens, you cant fight it, especially when you elect a mayor that wants tons of it anywhere near the light rail line.

  23. Prices of both commercial and residential space in these new buildings is going to be very expensive. Perhaps that is why the mayor and City Council are trying to allow commercial business everywhere within a half mile of light rail. Small business won’t be able to afford the new spaces and your sleep will suffer trust me. Richard Conlin himself said the other night(on the Seattle Channel 21) the the city needs to get out of the zoning business altogether so Houston here we come! Just hand it over to the developers. okay?

  24. X.G. If you are planning to keep active and rally the community, do you have an twitter, facebook or email you could share for people interested in staying involved? Thanks!

  25. I concur. By all means, increase Capitol Hill’s density. But do it smartly, realizing that density isn’t just tear-it-all-down-for-more-condos, and do it with a conscious realization that buildings shouldn’t need replacing every decade.

  26. Hi all;

    I’m on Twitter @Xtiangunther or feel free to contact me at Xtiangunther@yahoo.com. From there, if you’re not crazy or harassing -heehee- I can give you my phone number so we can begin our own little Jane Jacobs style pushback.

    We can beat these jerky bureaucrats and moneygrabbers.

    I’m totally open to creating a speciall twitter and facebook, too. I know how to network us together (w/your help!) and how to move the media to cover us (unlike, apparently, Mr. McGinn and his lackluster admin).

    Not talking tons of time investment, so don’t let the fear of that scare you off. I like to work smart, not long and hard. :-)

  27. Yeah, those fucking developers have just DESTROYED the neighborhood around 14th and Union. They’ve turned it into a complete shithole with places like Marjorie, Skillet, Zoe, Oola, Lucky 8, Deisel, etc. This must be stopped!! Time to write more strongly worded letters!

  28. I didn’t vote for McGinn in the primary, or in the general, and I don’t support him now. He is a terrible mayor and I am really hoping he is defeated next time. But I disagree about Greg Nickels….in my opinion, he was an excellent mayor and accomplished alot. Yes, he was pro-business, but what mayor is not? I’d like to think he would have a much different approach to this current controversial development, and would not necessarily support it or to be passive about opposing it.

  29. X.G. – Count me in! I think we need to do something to make our voices heard in Seattle and on Cap Hill before its too late.

    Its time to get some movement forward and see what we can do from a grassroots level! my contact info: michael_seattle@me.com or on twitter as @michaelrecruits!

    Thank you, oiseau for posting the contact info! Very helpful.

  30. Who cares about some dumb buildings? I’d like to meet up with the Mayor at The Eagle or (better yet) Steamworks. It’s nice to finally have a hot daddy bear as Mayor!