For many on Capitol Hill, the mitigating factor that has kept B&O Espresso’s neighborhood exit from being pure tragedy is the glimmer of a future return for the cafe when the six-story apartment building being built at E Olive Way and Belmont is completed in two years.
You may now go ahead and openly weep. Let it out. B&O is not coming back.
“Well, I wouldn’t say never. You never know where the road is going to take you,” Jane Lukatah said as she and husband Majed are working on the purchase of the space where B&O has made its new home in Ballard.
“We’re doing great in Ballard and parking is not a problem,” she said.
“It was just going to be too expensive,” Lukatah told CHS about a Capitol Hill return. She had also told a neighborhood media outlet in Ballard that she wasn’t looking forward to the work involved in yet another move.
News of the planned Ballard investment in the retail suite beneath the North Seattle condo development B&O now calls home will strike a tone of finality in the public conversation on the cafe’s fate. In addition to solidifying their place in Ballard’s food and drink mix, the major investment means the Lukatahs will not be working on a deal to return to the corner where the B&O was born in 1976.
The on again, off again relationship between the B&O ownership and developer John Stoner has apparently ended with the cafe once again not part of the development despite efforts at working out a deal and the reemergence of a future Capitol Hill B&O in the project’s plans. Architects went so far as to include the cafe’s iconic train logo in renderings of the six-story building’s design used in public meetings. B&O’s web site still offers this bittersweet promise: “Upon completion of a new building at our present site, B&O Espresso plans to reopen again at our original location in 2014.”
Stoner purchased the property for $2.3 million in 2008 and began the process to create a six-story, 78-unit building with 3,600 square feet of retail plus underground parking for 52 vehicles. Initial community reaction was not supportive and the design by architects Nicholson Kovalchick was widely panned even as the project moved through review and was ultimately approved. An effort to landmark the building was rejected. An appeal against the development’s land use approval was tossed out.
Through it all, B&O’s owners said many things — including announcing a premature closure in 2011. But by late 2012, the plan appeared to be an end of the year closure on E Olive Way then a sabbatical in Ballard, followed by a triumphant return to the Hill. We reported on that and a similar plan for Pine at Melrose’s Bauhaus in December: B&O, Bauhaus share journey to Ballard and, maybe, both to rise again on Capitol Hill
Bauhaus remains open through at least this summer in its Capitol Hill home. Here’s hoping that CHS headline won’t be completely wrong by the time 2014 or 2015 rolls around.
Meanwhile, B&O is plenty pleased with its new surroundings. For Lukatah, it’s like she never left and NW Leary Way — condos and all — is the Capitol Hill she knew and loved.
“I’m amazed how many live in Ballard,” she said. “So many of our longtime customers have moved here.”