A bookstore in U Village. A drive-up grocery store in Ballard. A checkout-less convenience store on 7th Ave in Amazon-ville. With Amazon’s voice control platform Alexa reportedly “stealing the show” at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the retailing giant has also been busy innovating and testing new concepts in its home city. But, so far, none of its “meatspace” experiments have made a home on Capitol Hill, the neighborhood where many of its employees live.
That might be about to change.
CHS has learned that an Amazon executive central to the rollout of the company’s retail projects including 7th Ave’s Amazon Go checkout-less concept is involved in the giant and highly secretive retail project slated to fill a 10,000 square-foot retail space in the Mercedes Benz dealership-turned AVA Capitol Hill development in the 600 block E Pike.
A development manager for Avalon Communities declined to comment telling CHS he was not allowed to discuss the tenant and Amazon has not replied to inquiries about the project.
The Amazon senior program manager included in City of Seattle filings on the project worked on the University Village Amazon bookstore and the launch team for Amazon Go, according to his Linked In profile.
In December, the company made a surprise announcement that it was opening its first Amazon Go concept store on 7th Ave where customers can check in with their mobile device, shop, and walk out without waiting in a checkout line. It reportedly has other grocery and retail concepts in the works including the drive-up stores that will launch with the ready-to-roll Ballard prototype.
Amazon or not, the E Pike retail project in the AVA Capitol Hill building has been in the works for years. In spring of 2015, CHS reported on the 10,437-square-foot space being lined up for a secret retailer in the Avalon-developed building. By summer of 2016, CHS learned that the project was a grocery store thanks to a complaint filed against the project’s scale, since resolved. One of the firms involved in the project’s design, Pepin Associates, has worked on groceries including Big Y and Price Chopper Supermarkets.
At just over 10,000 square feet, the store space stretches a full block along E Pike and is currently mostly hidden away behind cardboard-covered windows. Inside, no work has been completed in months with aluminum framing in place but not installed and very little other work yet done in the space despite approved permits that are set to expire this summer. The block’s long dormant period since construction was completed has other area property owners and people familiar with real estate in the area scratching their heads and looking forward to seeing more activity in the area. Those CHS spoke with to try to learn more about the project said they too had encountered a wall of secrecy from the developer.
Amazon has not been secret about its brick-and-mortar retail ambitions. According to the Wall Street Journal, an Amazon grocery store on Capitol Hill may soon be less than novel with more than 2,000 stores being planned:
Two of the other store formats Amazon is considering are bigger than the convenience-style Go store, according to people familiar with the matter. In November, Amazon’s technology team approved a proposal to open large, multifunction stores with curbside pickup capability, clearing the way to start hiring and planning, according to one of the people.
Whatever the concept, the new grocery would join a hotly contested battle for Capitol Hill grocery dollars with the existing nearby QFCs and Safeways, Central Co-op, Trader Joe’s, an incoming Whole Foods, and a new grocery store at the core of the Capitol Hill Station development.