The story of changes coming for E Pine between Melrose and Bellevue is just beginning. Our full report on the plans to develop a mixed-use building at the site is here. The post has been viewed some 25,000 times since we first broke the news Friday morning, has been shared more than 5,000 times on Facebook and generated more than 200 comments on CHS. It is a story with the potential to — once more — set the tone for Capitol Hill’s future. It is also a story about some people’s favorite coffee shop, record and book store, vintage and fashion shops, pet supply store and, for a few, their apartment homes. It’s about density and preservation. It’s about change. Below are the latest updates on the development plans, reports and commentary on the situation from other sites and more details of what comes next.
- Call us? CHS heard back from the prime movers in this deal — Madison Development Group partners Tom Lee and Jim Gallaugher. A spokesperson tells CHS that it is still early in the process for Hewitt Architects but the overall plan for the development is adaptive reuse and preservation of the two main buildings’ facades. She also emphasized that the purchase has not yet closed, a typical situation for large land and development deals with lengthy land use and design processes to work through.
The spokeperson tells CHS that developers face a difficult tenant mix and wanted to give existing business owners a lengthy opportunity to work out solutions and, for some, to make other plans before construction is slated to begin in summer 2013.
There appears to be little or no possibility of the developers retrofitting the property as the spokesperson said the buildings need significant investment. The spokesperson said the owners looked at the situation and were either going to make seismic upgrades or sell their holdings./p>
The MDG spokesperson said the final price for the six parcels between Bellevue and Melrose has not been finalized with the land’s long-time owners, the Lucurell family. Editor’s note: We’ve updated the information in this section per a request from the spokesperson to clarify information provided “on the record” to CHS.
We also asked about the possibility of a community meeting to discuss the project. The spokesperson said it’s on the list of possibilities as MDG swings its community outreach effort into action. She also invited questions from CHS. For now, those will need to come through us. Let us know in comments what else we should be asking.
- ‘Adaptive reuse plus density’: The Daily Journal of Commerce also spoke with the MDG rep who told the paper “This is an adaptive reuse plus density, not a tear down.” She also said more details would be available in May “when MDG plans a formal announcement.” DJC says the developers also recently acquired a large property in foreclosure in West Seattle.
- Plus parking: It is, however, adaptive reuse with big plans for a seven-story building and underground parking. From the DPD project filing:
Construct new 7-story mixed use building apartment and commercial with 2 floors of underground parking in conjunction with identified character structures in the Pike/Pine Overlay District.
“One big question is WHY PARKING at all?” a representative from a neighborhood community group asked in an email to CHS. “The developers probably feel they can’t make it work without parking. Underground parking necessitates tearing down the buildings. What if there were no parking, and the project was a mix of rehab and new construction?”
The MDG spokesperson said she would ask Lee and Gallaugher about the parking and get back to us.
By the way — you’ll note a few unnamed sources in this report update. When we can, we prefer to have sources on the record but this situation is so early and still at a sensitive enough stage that we’re open to getting more information in the report without (hopefully) burning bridges between the developer and the community groups looking to work with them.
- Zero room: The Seattle Land Use Code blog took CHS to task for leaving “absolutely zero room to consider the possibility that the acquisition might lead to some good.” —
In talking with the baristas (who know me and what I drink without me asking) I found out they have known this was coming. The buildings need to be retrofit to make them safer for, you guessed it, people. In our chat at the register we agreed the point is to make whatever happens good, better than other things we don’t like. But the buildings are going away.
While we disagree with the “zero room” part, a retrofit may well, indeed, be in order for the buildings being acquired. That’s something we plan to ask the Madison Development Group about. In our first report, CHS talked with a person with direct knowledge of MDG’s plans who said early discussions were not about retrofits or preservation:
A person with knowledge of the deal said the developer acquired the parcels at Pine and Melrose with an eye toward leveling all of the buildings and starting fresh but has had second thoughts after witnessing the backlash against the lack of preservation in this development at 10th and Union.
- A retrofit neighborhood: CHS wrote about the architecture of retrofit Pike/Pine buildings here last September. It’s a fantastic essay by John Feit highlighting how many of the buildings you walk by and hang out in every day have been overhauled to stand up to big quakes.
Many of Capitol Hill’s buildings were built prior to the time when seismic bracing was required by code. Such buildings, if they have neither gone under a significant renovation nor a change in use (from, say, an automotive showroom to a restaurant, common here on the Hill), have not been required to incorporate bracing. As seismic bracing is an expensive proposition, building bracing without a mandate is uncommon which is why many of our older buildings simply do without.
That being said, the observant Hill resident will notice many older buildings do indeed have bracing, a signifier of a change in a building’s original use, its expansion, or significant renovation. While the types of forces to be resisted are the same, the magnitude and resolution varies from building to building. This is largely due to the space available for bracing and the size and configuration of the building, leading to a variety of bracing solutions, many of which are visible on Capitol Hill. As each new earthquake provides a test of the current seismic designs, engineers continually refine their approaches, adding yet another layer of variety and richness to this seemingly utilitarian but lifesaving task.
- URM: CHS reported on the prevalence of Pike/Pine unreinforced masonry in 2011 and included an ‘URM’ map of the neighborhood complete with FEMA risk scores (low is bad!) to mark the tenth anniversary of the massive Nisqually quake. Bauhaus’s Melrose Building wasn’t included in the survey data collected by the City of Seattle but Mud Bay’s 1535 Bellevue Ave was — it rates a “0,” by the way, placing it well above some of the riskiest old buildings in the area including the Volunteer Park Water Tower’s freaky -1.5.
- The next Bauhaus? By the way, if you want to start thinking about the next building to “save,” one interesting exercise is to sort the neighborhood properties included in past surveys by FEMA score. You’ll find that many if not most of the highest risk buildings have already been demolished or overhauled over the years since the datasets were collected. One building that has a relatively high risk score but does not appear to have been retrofitted since the study that could be the next development target? 1319 E Madison’s Callahan Auto building.
- Getting involved: One of those groups is PPUNC — Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council. They popped up in comments on the original CHS post with information on joining their effort to shape the Melrose & Pine project. You can learn more about the group here.
A (slightly xenophobic) Maintain Capitol Hill group has also emerged on Facebook to rally around the issue. “Eastsiders should be barred from attempting to re-develop our neighborhood! We didn’t ask for this. Stop the relocation and cementing over of our community,” the group’s description reads.
We’ve also heard from a few other groups planning protests or actions. Babylonia Aivaz, the woman who “gay married” the got-demolished-anyway warehouse at 10th and Union, tells CHS she’s planning a letter writing party at Bauhaus later this week.
- What can be done? Community group representatives and an activist we contacted say there is some potential in pursuing landmark status for the buildings involved in the project. As we’ve reported in the past, the Seattle landmark process is used by developers to further their control of old buildings as frequently as it is used to “save” the city’s historical architecture. You can review the roster for existing Capitol Hill and First Hill/Central District landmarks to get an idea of the types of buildings where the designation has been successful in our area. Note you won’t find too many unreinforced masonry structures on the list. We’re also trying to learn more about why this effort to designate downtown buildings didn’t extend up the Hill. Meanwhile, the restrictions on landmarked buildings are documented here. Take a note that demolition of a landmarked building can still be approved by the board. In the meantime, no word on any legal activity like the situation that came up on E Pine in 2008 that — along with the downturn in the global economy, of course — lead to the People’s Parking Lot.
The representative for the developers did not know if MDG was planning to apply for landmark status for any of the buildings it is acquiring but would get back to us with more information shortly.
- Two points: In talking with people from community groups the business community in the neighborhood. Issues around the development plans at Melrose and Pine seem to boil down to two bullet points:
1) These buildings — FEMA not withstanding — are functional and lively. Why not come up with a plan that preserves them intact?
2) Why haven’t the developers done more to consult with more organizations and groups in the neighborhood? This could be a matter of logistics but we know that there were consultations with some other property owners in the area including Hunters Capital who just announced its purchase of the Stanley Automotive Building at E Pine and Bellevue.
- The Mayor comes to the neighborhood He might be, you know, interested:
Pike & Boren neighborhood town hall with Mayor McGinn
Tuesday, 4/24, 5 – 6pm
Location: Terra Plata restaurant, 1501 Melrose Ave, Seattle, WA 98122
- B&O was not a landmark: The Bauhaus situation has some mirroring in the development process that will eventually displace B&O from East Olive Way. You might recall that an effort to declare the property a landmark failed in January 2010 (an attempt to block the project because of its damage to views from the Hill also failed, by the way). The process to apply for the landmark status is lengthy and requires a significant amount of research so it’s most typically undertaken by groups and organizations. Shall we end on an optimistic note? Here’s a CHS report about how a community group organized the nomination to designate the Volunteer Park Conservatory a landmark — and won.