Even the developers don’t know exactly what to call it.
“I don’t want to use the ‘M’ word,” said Wolff Co.’s Greg Van Patten as he described to CHS the massive retail component planned for the under-construction Pike Motorworks project.
“Basically, there is a passthrough/walkway straight up the middle. On the left side, some kind of eating and drinking establishment. On the right, a mix of other users. That’s kind of the goal for all retail. To have something that will generate that buzz and that activity,” the developer said.
It is not, at least in the late 20th Century traditional sense, a mall.
Like the plan at Pike Motorworks, this complex development goal is being played out across the Hill in a handful of significant projects where the interplay between retail tenants is tightly woven and planned as a cohesive identity.
“I think the appeal of grouping a bunch of smaller creative tenants under one roof is twofold,” Capitol Hill-based developer Liz Dunn says about the complex trend which is also playing out in her Chophouse Row project slated to be complete later this year on 11th Ave between Pike and Union. “It creates great synergies amongst the tenants — they can tune their offerings to complement each other. And it creates a very robust, diverse and complete experience for customers, which include in this case the office tenants in the building.”
“There seems to be a great ‘home away from home’ vibe that happens when there is a collection of tenants under one roof,” Dunn said.
She should know. Dunn is part of the team responsible for creating what many see as a major catalyst for this kind of retail development — Melrose Market. At the center of her new take on a Capitol Hill market at 11th Ave’s Chophouse Row will be a restaurant and juice bar from Ericka Burke of the Volunteer Park Cafe. But small complementary shops like this one planned by farm-to-table guru Kurt Timmermeister on the Row’s retail plaza and pedestrian alley — described as “an open market configuration along the street, alley and courtyard” – will be critical to the project’s success.
“For Chophouse Row, we are trying to create something that will serve as ‘kitchen and living room’ for our office workers throughout the day and into happy hour, and also offer everything they’d want to pick up on their way out for either an evening at home or a dinner party – food, gifts, homewares, supplies, flowers, a bottle of wine etc,” Dunn said.
The concept sounds likely to be killer. But, Dunn cautions, it is easier said than done.
“The hurdle frankly is just that it is a ton of work trying to orchestrate the right mix and get that many leases signed for what is essentially a pretty small boutique project,” she said. “We’ve had to turn away potential tenants that we would love to work with just because there was too much overlap with other concepts in the project or in our neighboring blocks.”
Central Agency Building
On the backside of Pike/Pine just a few blocks from Chophouse Row, another complex is coming together bridging the food and drink entertainment district toward Seattle University. We reported on the Central Agency Building project late last summer as longtime Capitol Hill entertainment entrepreneurs Jerry Everard and Alex Rosenast unveiled their plans for overhauling the 1917-built warehouse at 10th and Seneca into a new entertainment development.
The converted warehouse space is being divided into three retail units that will include a basement, main floor, and mezzanine level. Unlike Melrose, there were currently no plans for a shared common space inside the project. Filling a major component of the project will be a swarm of new ventures from the team behind 12th Ave’s Lark:
Chef John Sundstrom and his partners Kelly Ronan and JM Enos are ready to expand. We’ve secured a lease in the Central Agency Building (CAB), a top-to-bottom renovation and retrofit of a classic “auto row” building from 30’s. It is just through the Seattle University campus from Lark, at 1132 Broadway Court (the corner of 10th Avenue, visible from Madison St), and directly behind The Garage.
The space is over 5,000 sq. ft., the entire South side of CAB, and will include:
-Main floor fine dining area; seating 40 with a semi-private room seating up to 20, and 16 seat bar. Serving dinner 7 nights per week, lunch Monday thru Friday and Saturday and Sunday brunch.
-Lively mezzanine with seating for 50; with a casual, communal seating plan, a cocktail bar/raw bar combination serving oysters, chilled shellfish, sashimi dishes, charcuterie and Seattle’s best selection of Jamon and Prosciutto. Open nightly.
-Basement dining room for private events; sit down dinners for up to 60 and receptions up to 80. Flexible seating plans and audio-visual equipped.
-A sandwich shop just inside the building lobby, serving to-go customers with espresso, juices, breakfast and lunch sandwiches, slab pies and a selection of our favorite cheeses, salumi, beer and wine.
-Covered parking just across the street.
Wolff’s Pike Motorworks project is hoped to have an even more ambitious integration of retail tenants when it opens in around 18 months. The giant apartment building built above what used to be a BMW dealership will include hundreds of units. But even more amazing might be the scale of retail space the project’s marketing teams will be working to fill. The corridor running through the project is envisioned as indoor marketplace with around 20,000 square feet to fill. Wolff’s Van Patten says it is too early to talk about possible tenants but says his retail broker is “actively talking with a lot of users.”
The complex concept is also behind the still mostly secret plans for the Starbucks roastery, cafe and Tom Douglas restaurant planned around the corner from Melrose Market at E Pike. While the famed restaurateur hasn’t confirmed the project with CHS and Starbucks said it will release more details of what it is building soon, plans indicate that the coffee giant is designing an interconnected, 15,000 square-foot complex including two roasters, a cafe and a Douglas-helmed Serious Pie.
Yang and Chirchi
Another version of the complex is being put together up E Pike in the rehabilitated Greenus Building, formerly home to Brocklind’s. In Rachel Yang’s version, she and husband and collaborator Seif Chirchi are a two-person complex machine.
“There is enormous efficiency as well as the complexity in the project like ours,” Yang says of the new project underway to create a seeming one-of-a-kind, venture with “four unique integrated concepts” — 1) Korean BBQ with table-top grills, 2) noodles, 3) offerings of ice cream, frozen custards and parfaits and 4) a bar “featuring rare, new, and unusual beer.”
“All four concepts will be sharing things like restroom, walk-in, storage as well as some of the staffing,” Yang said.
“At the same time, we are able to give each space a distinct look and feel which makes it a lot of fun,” she said. “It is definitely very densely designed space which makes it some what complicated but again, that’s the fun of it.”
Jill Cronauer of Hunters Capital, the Capitol Hill-based developer that purchased and overhauled the Greenus building in 2013, says it’s not necessarily food and drink driving the complex trend.
“I think that restaurants and particularly retail stores are focusing on their environment as major part of their marketing,” she said. “With the internet, product consumers have far greater options, and often better prices shopping on line. No parking or lines… why would anyone want to walk into a brick and mortar store when they can find the same product, cheaper, in the size/color/style they are looking for from their home?”
“Places like Melrose Market and Elliott Bay Books are successful because they offer more than products, there is (most often) a positive experience,” Cronauer writes. “The spaces are interesting, the setting is relaxing, the experience is memorable and somehow feels personal.”
Cronauer said that there is also a strong emotional factor to consider.
“I also think that there is more meaning when people say they purchased a particular product from one of these stores,” she said. “It’s not because a book is any different or better if it was purchased at Elliott Bay, but anyone who has ever been in the store is familiar with the experience.”
“It’s more than buying a book, it’s almost similar to returning from a trip.”
And the same can go for eating.
“This same thought is easily applied to restaurants,” Cronauer said. “There are so many excellent options out there. How can you make the experience more meaningful and stand out from others?”