Calling the project a new “center of community life” for Capitol Hill, Capitol Hill Housing CEO Chris Persons thanked the more than 200 capital donors who made the project possible and made way for a long roster of speakers there to introduce the project to the neighborhood. Rep. Frank Chopp got the audience on its feet to applaud “the Seattle spirit” and christened the largest of the two theater spaces in the facility with its first performance — his reading of the James Oppenheim poem Bread and Roses. The dignitaries even threw a few lines to the theater folk. Strawberry Workshop’s Greg Carter said he was ready to get to work in a building emblematic of Capitol Hill — a neighborhood with an environment open to creating “things that don’t make sense.”
Though Mayor Ed Murray was not able to attend, his husband Michael Shiosaki took the podium to represent the City of Seattle. “12th Ave Arts is the center of the new Capitol Hill Arts District that the mayor just announced last week,” Shiosaki said. The city’s first district will promote existing arts venues in the neighborhood and, eventually, could grow to include incentives to create new ones. While far from controversial, the statement clarifies some earlier messages from City Hall about a focus on Cal Anderson as the hub of the district. With its expensive and state of the art performance facilities, we don’t think many will quibble with Shiosaki’s announcement.
SPD also found itself in a momentary awkward spot during the opening ceremonies as CEO Persons introduced Deputy Chief Carmen Best and referred to 12th Ave Arts as “not a project of the department’s choosing,” a reference to the pushback from SPD that helped to stall the initiative for more than a decade.
With that, it was time to officially open the building. No ribbons here. Instead, dozens of bright bulbs burst on in the building’s foyer. A trio of dancers took their places. And the performances began.
Original post: A project more than a decade in the pushing will officially open Thursday night with a ceremony to light the marquee out front of 12th Ave Arts. We’ve included details on the ceremony and a history of the Capitol Hill Housing project through the prism of CHS news coverage, below. Stuck in the mire between community groups who wanted to get something done and reluctance in some key corners of City Hall and at East Precinct, the debut of 12th Ave Arts is a reminder that pushes from groups like the Capitol Hill Community Council and neighborhood business and organizations can still get something done. “These citizen volunteers went down there and said there’s a better use for this,” Capitol Hill Housing’s Michael Seiwerath told CHS earlier this year. Today, the old, barbed wire-ringed police parking lot is gone and the marquee lights are ready to go on.
12th Avenue Arts Grand Opening
WHAT: Capitol Hill Housing celebrates the grand opening of 12th Avenue Arts, with remarks by community leaders, performances by local artists, and food from neighborhood restaurants
WHEN: Thursday, November 20, 4:00 – 8:00pm
Marquee lighting: 5:00pm
WHERE: 12th Avenue Arts: 1620 12th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122
WHO: Christopher Persons – Capitol Hill Housing
Michael Shiosaki – City of Seattle, Rep. Frank Chopp – Speaker of the House, Brian Bonlender – Washington State Department of Commerce, Carmen Best – Seattle Deputy Chief of Police, Steve Walker – Seattle Office of Housing, Kevin Nowak – KeyBank, Michelle Morlan – National Development Council, Greg Carter, Darragh Kennan, Ali el-Gasseir – BlackBox Artistic Directors, Leah Pfenning – 12th Avenue Arts Resident, Michael Malone – Capital Campaign Co-Chair
HOW: Open to the public; members of the press invited to attend
NOTE: More than 400 RSVPs have been received, which is very close to the building’s capacity!
If you can’t make it Thursday night, stay tuned: Organizers say they’re planning another open house in December.
INSIDE 12TH AVE ARTS
Building: 29,000 square feet, six stories, designed by SMR Architects
Cost: $47 million including a mix of tax credits, levy dollars, state programs and commercial bank loans to complete the $38 million project and a $7.7 million loan from the city. City Hall also transferred the property to the nonprofit developer in an agreement pounded out in 2012.
Affordable housing: 88 units reserved for those with household earnings no greater than 60% of the area median income, putting max income eligibility around $37,000 for a single person and and $53,000 for a four person household.
Performance spaces: Two totaling nearly 6,000 square feet: one with room for 149 seats, the other Studio Stage with an 80-person audience capacity. Strawberry Theatre Workshop, Washington Ensemble Theatre and New Century Theater Company have teamed up to be part of Black Box Productions, a company formed to manage 12th Ave Arts facilities.
Food and drink: Rachel’s Ginger Beer Capitol Hill, U:Don Noodle Station and Pelmeni Dumpling Tzar will be open by spring 2015.
Office space: Capitol Hill Housing, Three Dollar Bill Cinema, Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences class and rehearsal space, and the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce will keep the lower floors of the building bustling by day.
SPD parking: East Precinct personnel’s vehicles will call the super-reinforced parking structure below the building home.
12th Ave Arts CHS Coverage Timeline
- October 2008: The future of 12th Ave is in his hands — Currently, the lot across the street from the old CHAC and a liquor store is used for parking and vehicle maintenance by the SPD’s East Precinct.
- February 2009: Making a better police parking lot on 12th Ave — Capitol Hill Housing is pushing forward a plan to convert the East Precinct’s parking lot on 12th near Pine into a mixed-use, low-income housing development with retail components that emphasize the arts, culture and community.
- April 2009: Notes from the future of 12th Ave — The East Precinct parking lot development that Capitol Hill Housing is pushing forward sounds like it will hinge on the cost of building parking spaces.
- May 2009: Parking squabble stalls East Precinct lot development at 12th and Pine — The $2 million difference is enough to knock the project off balance and make it impossible to build, Seiwerath and Capitol Hill Housing contend.
- January 2011: 12th Ave Arts would transform East Precinct lot into housing, biz & community space + SPD parking — Representatives from nonprofit developer Capitol Hill Housing and the City of Seattle are meeting this Friday for the first work session to analyze what is needed — and how much it will cost — to transform the East Precinct’s parking lot at 12th Ave and Pine into a mixed-use redevelopment providing housing, affordable retail and arts space, a public meeting space appropriate for community meetings and, yes, adequate infrastructure for the 150-odd parking spaces SPD says it will need.
- June 2011: Capitol Hill police department parking lot to become 80-unit mixed-use development — More details on the project will be announced at a Wednesday afternoon press conference scheduled to take place at the East Precinct parking lot at 1:30 PM. The goal had been to achieve the development without City funds. Mayor Mike McGinn — who reportedly first agreed to meet on the project during a Capitol Hill walking tour last year — will speak as will Capitol Hill Housing head Chris Persons.
- June 2011: CHS Pics: Dignitaries gather for $38 million 12th Ave Arts announcement — McGinn called past barriers to the plan over the past 10 years a “log jam” that the City had now overcome due to a better financial opportunity to create the SPD parking facility and a “spirit of collaboration” exhibited by the various departments involved in the deal with CHH.
- August 2011: Celebrate 35 years with Capitol Hill Housing picnic at site where it all began
- September 2011: Capitol Hill business leaders (and the rest of us) meet on 12th Ave Arts development — Two Capitol Hill business leaders are sponsoring an event Tuesday afternoon to introduce the 12th Ave Arts development project to the community. The Stranger publisher Tim Keck and Jerry Everard of Neumos and Groff Murphy will host the session at Everard’s Sole Repair to talk about the opportunities related to Capitol Hill Housing’s mixed-use project.
- September 2011: Capitol Hill housing+theater project design process slated to begin — And, they’re hiring — First, the 6-story mixed-use retail, housing and theater project’s design review kick-off is slated for October 19th.
- October 2011: 12th Ave Arts, 6-story 14th Ave apartments developments come before Capitol Hill Design Board — The architect on the project is SMR Architects, creator of the plans for CHH’s Pantages Apartments on E Denny Way.
- November 2011: 12th Ave Arts gets millions from city to build low-income housing in development — A big chunk of some $27 million in funding for seven new low-income and senior housing apartment projects across Seattle will go to the 12th Ave Arts project destined to replace the SPD parking lot near 12th and Pine.
- March 2012: What 12th Ave Arts project replacing SPD parking lot will look like (+ how you can help) — Capitol Hill Housing has said it will use a mix of tax credits, levy dollars, state programs and commercial bank loans to complete the $38 million project as well as the $3 million raised in the capital campaign process. Don’t scoff at that 8% of the budget raised the hard way — for every dollar drummed up via events and donations, that’s another dollar that doesn’t have to come from a commercial loan.
- April 2012: Capitol Hill theater groups announced as 12th Ave Arts resident companies — WET currently performs in the charming but cramped Little Theater space on 19th Ave E, while Strawberry Theatre Works currently calls the Erickson Theatre home. The New Century Theatre Company’s just wrapped up a show presented at Cornish’s Raisbeck Performance Hall.
- April 2012: Oddfellows, Molly Moon employees hitting the runway for 12th Ave Arts fashion fundraiser — This week, your favorite employees from the corner of Pine and 10th ave will be walking the runway for a good cause as NuBe Green and friends host a night of fashion in the Odd Fellows building.
- May 2012: The Capitol Hill development lovefest that is 12th Ave Arts takes last design review step — There are no character buildings at stake and no related development incentives for preservation to wrestle with. Instead, the project is planned to replace East Precinct’s 12th Ave parking lot with a hard-not-to-love list of vitals for a new 6-story structure near 12th and Pine.
- July 2012: Support 12th Ave Arts with this Capitol Hill-branded
- August 2012: 12th Ave Arts milestone means progress, precinct logistics and new Cap Hill Housing home — Mayor Mike McGinn announced last week that the legislation required to authorize construction of a new police parking facility as part of the project and transfer the property to Capitol Hill Housing has begun its movement through City Hall.
- November 2012: 12th Ave Arts gets final design tweaks before planned December start of construction — The siding recommendations — “solid cohesive color” or “subtle bands” etc — and a few other elements fit and finish will be part of the discussion along with presentation on tweaks to the retail design, improvements in pedestrian safety and open space and signage.
- January 2013: You can pitch in to help 12th Ave Arts project — groundbreaking 2/21
- February 2013: Capitol Hill celebrates theater space + affordable housing at 12th Ave Arts groundbreaking — “Most of the businesses that were opening in the early to mid 90’s were started by folks who were attracted by low rent and the convenient location between Broadway and downtown,” said Derschang in her brief speech before the groundbreaking.
- August 2013: Crane accident won’t slow 12th Ave Arts — Nobody was injured in an accident Wednesday morning at the 12th Ave Arts building construction site and the incident won’t set the project’s timeline back, officials tell CHS.
- October 2013: Three Dollar Bill Cinema will join 12th Ave Arts building — The nonprofit will be part of the under-construction 12th Ave Arts building. Capitol Hill Housing will share a floor with its new tenant.
- June 2014: What happens when 88 affordable apartments join thousands more less affordable apartments coming to Capitol Hill? — The first come, first served apartment units are reserved for those with household earnings no greater than 60% of the area median income, putting max income eligibility in the ballpark of $37,000 for a single person and and $53,000 for a four person household. Full-time students are excluded.
- September 2014: Capitol Hill theater company stages one final performance before move to 12th Ave Arts — In a most unusual twist on the typical “mixed-use” development around the Hill, 12th Ave Arts will also have two fully tricked out, state of the art performance spaces totaling nearly 6,000 square feet: one with room for 149 seats, the other Studio Stage with an 80-person capacity. Hardcore theater geeks will nerd out at the catwalks above and sound suppression enveloping both venues.
- September 2014: Capitol Hill theater group crowdfunding special effects for first production at 12th Ave Arts
- November 2014: Rachel’s Ginger Beer comes home to 12th Ave Arts — With Rachel’s Ginger Beer holding down the main southern section of the ground-floor commercial space in the building, two more food and drink ventures will join 12th Ave Arts in its more casual take on theater dining. U:Don Fresh Noodle Station with its “hand-made, fresh Sanuki-style udon noodle bowls” is also set to be resident in the project while Pel Meni Seattle Dumpling Tzar will also give theatergoers affordable option.