Here’s the deal, Capitol Hill. You get the Comet Tavern back — but you’ll have to give a few things up.
The family of Danny Piecora has agreed to sell the E Madison property that has been home to Piecora’s for more than 30 years.
According to county records, the buyer in the $10.29 million deal is Equity Residential. The Puget Sound Business Journal calls the publicly traded company “the nation’s largest owners of apartments.” County records also show a terminated lease for the venerable pizza shop as part of the dealings though it currently remains open. The family paid $3,045,000 to purchase the property in 2002.
A person with knowledge of the changes said employees have been told the business will remain open into the summer. We have not heard back from Piecora’s about the deal.
In terms of dollars, it is one of the largest recent transactions in an increasingly coveted — and crowded — area for development.This nearby E Madison auto garage went for only $2.25 million last fall. Arizona-based developer Wolff Co. paid $6.7 million for the Sunset Electric property and permitted project at 11th and Pine in 2012. Previously, it paid $14.9 million for the property and project now known as Pike Motorworks. Meanwhile, the core of the block purchased for the Melrose and Pine project went for $9.2 million.
Only Tuesday, we reported on the multi-million dollar purchase of a former auto-row era building at Broadway and Union for a planned beer brewery at the site. Records show that sale weighing in at $6.15 million.
Like that Great Western Motors building purchase at Broadway and Union, the E Madison land sold by the Piecoras does not come complete with permitted development plans. What comes next for the property isn’t clear. We haven’t had a chance to ask representatives about their plans — we’d bet, like most of these situations, we won’t hear much until the press release is ready.
If this is the beginning of the end for Piecora’s, it marks yet another exit from the Hill of a business that caters to simpler, more middle class tastes. The pizza joint still draws little league and soccer teams and gaggles of apologizing parents behind them. It has also been known as a meeting hall — with some pretty interesting meetings — and a performance space. And, eventually, somebody would take your order and bring you decent enough, NY-style pizza. Eater Seattle recently ran an extended interview with longtime manager Tim DiJulio:
We’re right on the edge and we haven’t really changed. It’s been good because we kind of got a kick in the pants with all these restaurants, you know we used to be the only guy in town and now it’s like 15 restaurants within a three-block radius… I always joke that the line of hip moved three or four blocks but it’s like, “we’re still here!”
UPDATE: DiJulio announced Tuesday night that the last day of business at Piecora’s is April 15th:
Meanwhile, we also need to check in with two other businesses resident in the 1400 block of E Madison — Happy Endings vintage and mercantile and the transformed Dark Age Tattoo — about what comes next.
People close to the situation said they have been told the property is being planned for a development and that the project will include a hotel. If true, it would seem to be an unusual project for Equity — but would leverage an opportunity many developers in the region covet. Last year, CHS reported on the zoning challenges keeping hotel and office development out of Pike/Pine. Office projects including Liz Dunn’s Chophouse Row and a planned development of the property currently home to Value Village, The Rhino Room and The Stranger are now underway. But nobody, as of yet, has stepped forward with a plan for a new hotel in the neighborhood. Developers are also well aware that hotel opportunities play nicely with the integrated retail complexes that seem to be part of the latest wave of Capitol Hill development. Meanwhile, Capitol Hill’s streetcar extension should be operating by the end of this year a few blocks from the Piecora’s property. By 2016, it could deliver a guest at Capitol Hill Station for a ride to Sea-Tac on light rail.
The E Madison property’s recent past has included a few explorations of possible development that would have kept the existing building intact. One plan called for the creation of a six-story apartment building replacing the parking lot behind the pizza joint. Another called for an odd four-story addition above it. Neither came to pass.