In 20 years, Capitol Hill residents will stand at the corner of 10th and Seneca and wonder at how much has changed. Just two blocks from the bustle of E Pike, the smattering of buildings around Capitol Hill’s small portion of Seneca is something of a blind spot in the booming entertainment district’s collective consciousness. Capitol Hill preservation-minded developers Jerry Everard and Alex Rosenast are embarking on a project that will bring plenty of vision to an area others have missed.
The project is being dubbed the Central Agency Building, a name that comes from one of the early tenants of the 1917-built warehouse that most recently housed the former File Box business. Everard said he has no idea what Central Agency did. Adding to the mystery of the building, Everard confirmed rumors that the building once stored secret files for the FBI.
Everard and Rosenast are a power developer duo when it comes to entertainment projects on the Hill. Rosenast is the founder and owner of The Garage, which shares a wide alley with Central Agency — one that could be ripe for more creative changes. Everard is a partner at Capitol Hill’s Groff Murphy law firm, and developed the 6 Arms building, and is part of the ownership at Neumos.
CHS got a first peek inside Central Agency and the beginning of what could become a cornerstone of activity in the now mostly overlooked blocks between Pike/Pine and E Madison. Workers recently completed the official unwrapping of the building by tearing down its forgettable — and perhaps strategic — layer of sheet metal.
While the possibilities are wide open, Everard said initial chatter that the project will be akin to Melrose Market missed the mark.
“A Melrose Market project was never the intention,” he said. “It’s an open space, that got construed into a Melrose business model.”
The converted warehouse space will be divided into three retail units that will include a basement, main floor, and mezzanine level — think of a space similar to Quinn’s. Current plans are to open up the second floor to allow large skylights to shine through and keep the aged wood rafters exposed. Unlike Melrose, there are currently no plans for a shared common space inside the project.
The Central Agency Building will join a southward push of investment from the E Pike core into the blocks around E Union. Two major apartment projects are moving into their final phases in the area — this mixed-use project at 10th and Union and another mixed-use project above the former home of the old Undre Arms apartments — while a third is finally breaking round in between: 10th/Union building going down, then back up, brick by brick.
Currently there are no confirmed tenants for the Central Agency Building. Everard said he and his partnership — including File Box’s longtime owner Cliff Moon – only recently started shopping the spaces around to a select group of local retailers and restaurant owners. The plan is to have three to four tenants signed up by fall and ready to open by summer 2014. Everard said he hopes the space will have a mix of restaurant, bar and retail. Despite being successful restaurant and bar owners in their own right, both Everard and Rosenast say they are sticking to landlord roles in the new project.