What’s next for Capitol Hill’s Harvard Exit: a new home for the Seattle Consulate of Mexico

What we found Monday inside the Harvard Exit: A crew hard at work building a new consulate

The People’s Republic of Capitol Hill will be host to a new headquarters for Mexico’s diplomats in Seattle. The Seattle Consulate of Mexico is slated to move into the overhauled, restored, and transformed Harvard Exit theater building on E Roy just off Broadway, CHS has learned.

The developer on the project declined to comment and a representative from the consulate said he could not provide additional information on the plans for the new facility at this time. UPDATE 2:30 PM: The consulate has confirmed the planned move but said it will announce more details including timing at a later date.

CHS has confirmed the construction underway in the old theater is part of continued work to strengthen the building’s security as a base for Mexico’s diplomatic efforts in the city.

The busy consulate handles passports and visa issues, registers births, and engages in various efforts to promote and protect the efforts of Mexico and its people in the Pacific Northwest:

El Consulado de México en Seattle es una Representación de México en el Exterior que da servicio a los estados de Washington, Alaska y siete condados de Idaho.

The Consulate of Mexico in Seattle is a Representation of Mexico Abroad that serves the states of Washington, Alaska and seven counties of Idaho.

Around 35 people work at the consulate, according to a representative.

Seattle is home to several consulates including the Canadian and Japanese offices downtown, the Republic of Korea and the British in Belltown, the Consulate of El Salvador in Pioneer Square, the Belgians and the French on the Waterfront, Cambodia on Lake Union, and even Luxembourg in Lower Queen Anne. You’ll find the Dutch on Mercer Island. Russia’s consular general’s residence, meanwhile, can be found in the historic Samuel Hyde House at 3726 E Madison in Madison Park. The country does its consular business out of an office in downtown’s One Union Square.

At a time when anti-immigration has become a defining element of the Trump administration, the consulate flying the Mexican flag from a new pole rising above Broadway and Roy will mark a major change for this area of Capitol Hill.

“The Consulate serves a population of more than 850,000 people of Mexican origin,” according to the consulate’s site, “mainly through its services of documentation, protection and assistance to communities abroad” and “carries out cultural, commercial and image promotion work for Mexico in this area of ​​the United States, seeking to deepen understanding among our communities and authorities, and encourage greater business and investment opportunities between Mexico and the states of Washington and Alaska.”

El Consulado de México en Seattle is currently located on 3rd Ave in Belltown. UPDATE 2/16/2018: The Puget Sound Business Journal’s Marc Stiles has followed up on our report and provided some details on the consulate’s long search for a new home. It’s behind a paywall but here’s a snippet:

In 2011, the then-consular said the office would double in size with a move to an undisclosed, 20,000-square-foot location. Yet the office has remained in the Belltown building where hallways were wide enough for only one person to pass and the copy “room” was a mere cubby. At the time, 22 people worked in the building, helping Mexican nationals from across Washington state with passports and legal issues.

CHS last reported on the project to overhaul the old Harvard Exit in September of 2016 as the theater building was being prepared as office and restaurant space and developer Scott Shapiro of Eagle Rock Ventures was beginning his search for tenants for the project. The plan had been for a restaurant to take over the building’s 1,500 square-foot lobby, while Shapiro envisioned a bar moving into the 2,200 square-foot basement. The rest of the building was set to become “creative offices,” including the two 5,000 square-foot theater spaces and two upper floors of existing offices. Shapiro acquired the property in 2014 for $2.35 million and closed the theater in 2015, eventually bringing an end to its 46-year run.

The decision by the Mexican consulate to come to Capitol Hill comes after efforts around Broadway and Pike/Pine on creating developments with increased “daytime” focus and activities as the neighborhood’s nightlife economy has boomed. CHS reported in 2014 on a shift to build more projects with office space. Meanwhile, proposed zoning changes from the Mandatory Housing Affordability will open up more blocks to “neighborhood commercial” zoning that will allow seven-story buildings with commercial use throughout.

One issue for the new facility may be transportation. While northern Broadway is served by a handful of Metro routes, local businesses have supported City Hall’s decision to ice a plan for extending the First Hill Streetcar and accompanying bikeway.

According to permits filed for the new consulate, the diplomatic facility will take up two stories plus the theater’s mezzanine and basement, will include “open work spaces,” a “lounge area” reconfigured as a “work area,” areas with “glass partitions,” and a conference room, and will create a new main entryway and new internal stairway for the structure. The project also includes a new “flag pole and signage” — something that will need special approval in the neighborhood’s Harvard-Belmont Historic District which also requires that the 1925-built masonry exterior remains intact.

The architect on the project is Capitol Hill-based S+H Works.


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21 thoughts on “What’s next for Capitol Hill’s Harvard Exit: a new home for the Seattle Consulate of Mexico

  1. Welcome to new neighbors! I think this makes sense as we already have a lot of restaurants and bars (not that I’m complaining) and this daytime use should fit in well and add much needed diversity. See you at Joe Bar.

    • Me too. The Consulate needs to go somewhere, but I think this is an unfortunate use of this beautiful old building. A combined restaurant and office use would be a much better fit for the neighborhood.

  2. I think all of us were sad to see the Harvard Exit go, but at least there’s something dignified happening to the beautiful old building. I’d much rather see this than some mixed-use condos for rich kids. The building will serve a noble purpose.

    • There was never any plan or suggestion to turn the building into condos. The plan was office space and ground floor restaurant/bar with maybe some event rental space.

  3. Perhaps they can embrace the community around them – a little tequila night now and again. If it’s anything like the austere and creepy Russian place down toward Madison park then it’s not a win

  4. I live two blocks from here and cannot say that this excites me at all. While having day time use is great, and having people working in the hood that can support our many businesses is fantastic, turning this one-time theater into a consulate makes no sense. There is not a single parking space on site, nor any reasonable amount of parking in the neighborhood for people who might be coming from all over the region to take care of consular business. Where will the consular employees park if they choose to drive?

    Would have been nice if we could have had some mixed use of offices and events/retail/restaurants, some way that the public could enjoy the building.

    Perhaps it will just take a really long time to morn the loss of the Harvard Exit.

    • Actually, that’s not really true. In the neighborhood, yes, there’s no glut of parking. But this bldg is 1 block off Broadway. During the day, there’s usually *plenty* of metered spaces on Bway, because let’s face it– nobody who lives around Capitol Hill or frequents CH wants to pay meters. They usually know where they can find a 2hr space in the daytime without paying. Some neighborhood spaces free up while people are at work. Bway does have metered parking for people visiting on business. If you work in that bldg– yeah, it sucks for them. Expensive monthly space in an apt bldg, or light rail/bus would be the only way to go.

    • Hundreds of people within a few blocks of this site drive to work every day, leaving plenty of street parking available in front of their houses. Consulate employees and visitors could park in front of residents’ houses. There is nothing wrong with this.

    • @ Jason: There will be no street parking for the 35 employees of the consulate, because almost all of it in that area is RPZ restricted.

    • Yes, RPZ permits are primarily for those who actually live on that block, to give them a better shot at parking somewhere near their home/apartment. They are not intended for people who drive into an area for work.

  5. RE: parking – there’s a couple garages fairly close. I’m guessing visitors will park wherever decades of movie-goers did.

    I don’t get the notion that this area is underserved by public transportation. There are frequent buses and the light rail is a few minutes walk away.

    They are moving from Belltown and as far as I can see did not host events there – hopefully that changes with the new location?

  6. This building was originally built for the Woman’s Century Club in around 1926. It was sold in 1966 and became the Harvard Exit Theatre. The WCC used the lobby as their meeting space until the building was again sold in 2015. I’m concerned about the “new entryway”. Not sure how they accommodate that while keeping the historic exterior intact. The exterior had been nicely restored already. For more history see http://www.womanscenturyclub.org

  7. Would be curious to know if this a change of plans for the building, or if it just means the consulate is leasing the office portion of the building that was originally planned — Will there still be restaurant space?

    • Definitely a change of plans — the only thing I don’t know for sure is if any smaller portion might still be used for another commercial space. But at least one of the “restaurant” portions of the redevelopment is being turned into office space according to permits.

  8. I am pleased to see the Mexican Consulate moving to such a lovely and graceful space – the Belltown location is in such a dodgy, generic space. The new location will be much closer to light rail. I can’t believe some people are saying CH needs more restaurants, and that this is a missed opportunity for a restaurant location. Gimme a break. CH needs diversity of people and diversity of building occupants.

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