Starbucks needs neighborhood’s air quality sign-off for Capitol Hill roaster

Workers were inspecting the Pike and Melrose building on Friday (Photo: CHS)

Workers were inspecting the Pike and Melrose building on Friday (Photo: CHS)

The aroma of a Starbucks coffee roaster may one day waft over Capitol Hill, but the global coffee giant will first have to ensure a new operation won’t sour the air. With Starbucks moving forward with its plans for a giant speciality roasting facility at Pike and Melrose, the Seattle-based company has applied for an air quality permit for the operation, up for public discussion Thursday.

Joanne Todd, a spokesperson for the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, told CHS that all coffee roasting facilities in the region must obtain an air quality permit from the agency.

“Coffee roasting emits a range of chemicals and odor into the surrounding atmosphere. We’re interested in regulating many kinds of pollutants, and those from coffee roasting fall into that group,” Todd said in an email. “We’ve permitted many of them throughout our jurisdiction.”

According to the permit application (PDF), Starbucks is exploring installing two gas-fired roasters inside the auto row building at 1124 Pike — the longtime home of the Bob Byers Volvo dealership and Utrecht Art Supplies — that neighbors the bustling Melrose Market complex.

DSCN1297In case you missed the small sign posted across the street from the building, the PSCAA will host the informational meeting Thursday at First Hill’s Seattle First Baptist Church, 1111 Harvard Ave, from 7-9 PM. The meeting will be an opportunity for neighbors to hear about the permit application and voice their concerns — or caffeinated support for the project. A Starbucks spokesperson told CHS that the PSCAA actually requested Starbucks not attend the meeting, so don’t expect any new details on project to emerge.

Art-splashed fences went up around the site last week as Starbucks takes stock of the space and the building’s structural integrity, a company representative said. The rep said it’s the first step to determine how Starbucks could use the space. She said the company wants to keep the character of the building intact. On the air permit, a city official noted that Starbucks had indicated they wanted to save the building:

If the structure were to be removed, this might be seen as a potentially significant environmental impact. However, it is our understanding that the proponents are working with our Landmarks experts in the Department of Neighborhoods in order to take appropriate steps to preserve the building. This is sufficient to address our concerns in this area.

The 15,000-square-foot building is not a designated landmark but it may be eligible given it was built in 1909. The upcoming Capitol Hill roaster could be a new direction for Starbucks. The company representative said Starbucks typically creates its beans at gigantic roasting facilities and has no roasters squeezed into a neighborhood as they are planning on Capitol Hill.

CHS previously reported on the global coffee giant’s plans for a cafe and speciality roasting operation at Pike and Melrose. “The project is still in its early stages, but our vision is a mixed-use manufacturing and retail site that will include a specialty coffee roasting operation,” a Starbucks rep said in a statement sent to CHS about the company’s lease and building plans at the time. For the coffee giant, the Pike roaster would be the first neighborhood facility of its kind. Currently, Starbucks roasts its beans at a few, large facilities across the country — the closest one to Seattle is in Kent. Starbucks now intends to join nearby Victrola as well as Vita and Stumptown 12th Ave in utilizing the neighborhood’s light manufacturing zoning to operate coffee bean roasting facilities.


The PSCAA has always accepted comments for air quality permit applications, but the agency does not usually hold public meetings. Todd said the meeting is part of a new effort by the agency to increase awareness of the public input component of air quality permits. She told CHS that the Starbucks permit was essentially chosen at random.

Shannon M. via Flickr

Starbucks has kept its newly install fences decorative (Image: Shannon M. via Flickr)

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13 thoughts on “Starbucks needs neighborhood’s air quality sign-off for Capitol Hill roaster

  1. Fine. There are worse things. Like World of Beer.

    Personally, I think it may be hard for them to compete in the area. But good for them for trying new things. And using the zoning for actual light manufacturing. And preserving the building.

  2. can’t tolerate the taste of their espresso but I like the idea of them making a special roast for the hill or maybe just for Seattle. That way when all the tourists line up at what they think is the first Starbucks they can at least get something special that they can’t get in the strip mall in their hometown*.

    *I realize this may be the case as I’ve never set foot inside said Starbucks.

    I do worry about what this will do for nearby Victrola, by being the first coffee shop one encounters walking up Pike from the convention center area.

    • I don’t think this will kill off Victrola. People who like Victrola prefer the taste of their coffee, and still will. And a new roasting facility won’t convert Victrola fans to Starbucks fans. It actually might bring Victrola business– it’s barely a block away. The Starbucks could easily be busy enough that people will ditch the crowd for a different environment a few steps up the block.

    • Pike Place Reserve is only available at the “original” location in the market. Maybe they will make a Cap Hill Reserve, too…

  3. Rooftop deck, anyone? I hope Starbucks will take the time to make something iconic of this location. I tend to only drink Starbucks when traveling (I know where to find better coffee here in town, but when on the road, it’s reliable, like fast food), but I have been in some really beautiful locations around the world and hope the company will utilize this opportunity to create something special. I have seen stores that make great use of their history (Amsterdam, in an old bank vault), or that create a truly beautiful location (Bodrum, Turkey in the marina), and this building holds great potential. If they really did roast something unique to Capitol Hill or Seattle, they could also spur more tourists to cross I-5, and that is a good thing for everyone. Whether you like Starbucks or not, at least they are investing in our neighborhood. Now let’s just hope they do something special with it.

  4. I don’t mind Starbucks, even if don’t remember the last time I had it.

    That said, SBUX’s (market cap. $56B) attempts to disguise itself as a small local coffee shop (“Roy Street Coffee and Tea?” Really?) creep me out.

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