Perhaps the Bauhaus news could not have come at a better time for Peter Wolff, his brothers and his father, Arizona-based real estate investors who just plunked down $14.9 million for some 65,000 square-feet of Pike/Pine.
“We kind of expected a lot of resistance,” Wolff tells CHS about his family investment firm’s purchase of the old BMW showroom, lots and garages running along Harvard between Pike and Pine. “There was a huge process in Boulder that was very vocal that we just got finished with. The input the neighbors gave improved the project.”
Fresh from an experience with that long drawn out process of public feedback, push-back and, ultimately, approval for a mixed-use project in Boulder, Wolff says the Colorado situation has informed his latest big spend.
“It’s so early that we’re still grappling with [the overall concept],” he said trying to annunciate the 714 E Pike mixed-use project’s goals. “An authentic building — this will not look like a developer came to town and it will fit in. We will not be seen as a foreign object.”
CHS reported on the status of the previous development project planned for the BMW property in January when a foreclosure process on developer Pryde Johnson began. BMW left Pike/Pine in 2009 to move to a larger facility in SoDo but the building has stayed relatively active thanks to soccer-focused energy drink maker Golazo moving its headquarters into the old showroom in 2010.
Earlier this month, CHS broke the news of a development being planned to replace a handful of old — but active — buildings on E Pine at Melrose. We’ve followed up on some of the efforts underway to try to shape that development and preserve the neighborhood’s character. The Stranger took a stab at answering some of the big questions around the development in its latest issue — How did that happen? What can be done? The Stranger piece includes the BMW project in its rundown of the wave of development potentially washing away the remaining character structures of Pike/Pine. It also includes some incorrect information about the project that we clear up below. Meanwhile, if you are bummed about Bauhaus, apparently CHS is responsible.
With all of this as backdrop, the Wolff team has been meeting with community representatives and Capitol Hill power brokers like developer Liz Dunn to soak up as much Capitol Hill intelligence as possible — as quickly as possible — to help ensure that the new investment pays off.
“We knew we have to be sensitive. We knew we had to do something sympathetic with the neighborhood,” Wolff said. “After talking to her, we’re going to supercharge the ground floor.”
The purchase puts two structures, two parking lots and part of a third into play for an area that was at one time planned to be home to a 300-unit apartment building. It will not, as the Stranger worried, swallow up the former HG Lodge or Bill’s off Broadway. The Pho Le’s structure will also be left as-is making it all the more likely that the former Maharaja home and headquarters for many a Hill shenanigan will someday be a national historic landmark.
Wolff representatives said the new plans being drawn up by architects Weber Thompson will discard anything being planned by former developer and property owner Pryde Johnson. What is known at this point is that the project is planned to take advantage of the suddenly even more-maligned Pike/Pine Conservation district’s generous allowance for extra height in exchange for preservation of character structures. Wolff reps said they’re planning on a seven-story structure at the site in exchange for preserving the former showroom’s southern brick facade. The peculiar, curved entryway presents a unique design challenge.
“I love this site because it’s a little bit difficult because of the geometry,” Peter Wolff said. “Between that and the surrounding character facades we have a good chance to blend in.”
There will be no design challenge, however, from the northern garage wall along E Pine. It’s a goner. A representative for Wolff said the garage structure isn’t worth preserving though a 15,000 square-foot portion of the building could be used in the meantime to further “activate” the space with possible markets or pop-up type events.
The pure bulk of a building large enough to fill the acquired parcels will also require a mid-block passage to break things up. “We’re aware of Linda’s deck,” said another Wolff rep about designing the project to fit into existing activities in the area and make sure the apartment dwellers of Pike/Pine future aren’t pissed off to live above one of the Hill’s classic watering holes.
There will also definitely be parking — typically a burning issue for Capitol Hill development and one of the worries at the heart of the situation around the Melrose & Pine development. Wolff reps said the unit to stall ratio won’t be 1:1 but they maintain the market demands the facilities.
“If you don’t provide parking, it’s like saying you can’t have pets,” Peter Wolff said. “It’s a market condition.”
Beyond that, the project’s specifics are up in the air. Representatives are reportedly continuing their tour of Capitol Hill stakeholders and community groups. They’re also inviting feedback. A web site is planned (see UPDATE below) but, for now, you can email questions, concerns and suggestions to
email@example.com here’s an updated address: info@714EPike.com. In a few weeks, the paperwork process with the Department of Planning and Development will ramp up and put the project on track for a possible summer design review process. Construction? Probably not for at least a year after that. But it’s coming.
From feedback thus far — and especially testimony provided by developer Dunn — creating an active connection with Pike/Pine’s street-life has emerged as one key to the heart and soul of how the neighborhood works. The rest, Wolff said, is still being shaped.
“We’ve asked the architects to be less slick,” Wolff said. “We’ve seen how the neighborhood has matured a little bit over the years. We like the indigenous flavor to it.”