‘That neighborhood feel’ — Capitol Hill developer adds to 15th Ave E holdings with Hilltop Service Station deal

Jim’s Hilltop Service Station should have a few more years along 15th Ave E (Image: CHS)

A multimillion, just before Christmas real estate deal will put the 15th Ave E land home to Hilltop Service Station in the hands of a Capitol Hill developer.

Hunters Capital, the real estate development and management company known for preservation friendly investments in commercial, retail, and housing developments across the neighborhood, is purchasing the property with long-term plans for development.

“We’re big fans of 15th,” Hunters Capital’s Mike Oaksmith tells CHS about the deal. “We love that neighborhood feel.”


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The Broadway-headquartered development and real estate firm had better — it now owns a big chunk of 15th Ave E’s future.

In spring of 2017, CHS reported on Hunters Capital’s $11.25 million acquisition of the block of 15th Ave E retail including the neighborhood’s QFC and large parking lot. “While redevelopment of this building is possible, current leases in place make it unlikely to happen in the near future. However, we do hope to create a more engaging street front for our tenants and neighbors,” a company representative said at the time.

Oaksmith said Hunters Capital also plans a methodical approach to its new acquisition of the service station property at the corner of 15th and E Mercer — but for a different reason. The property’s many years as a service station will likely mean a long process of testing and decontamination, a common element on Capitol Hill given the neighborhood’s auto row past.

Records show gasoline reservoirs below Hilltop are capable of holding between 4,000 to 5,000 gallons of gasoline each, pumping fuel through lines to the station pumps since 1966 when they were first installed. The Washington Department of Ecology determined that leaks in one or more of the underground reservoirs and the fuel pumps caused a contamination release into the soil below. While contamination did not affect groundwater, and reports consider seepage is as relatively shallow, the state mandated the site to appear on the Confirmed and Suspected Contaminated Sites list until the ground soil is fully decontaminated, a standard practice during development of a property like Hilltop. You can see drill wells capped in the pavement around the station used for testing and monitoring the soil. Meanwhile, the station stopped pumping gas last year.

Hilltop Service Station remains open, however. You can call it Jim’s Hilltop now. CHS reported on mechanical technician Jim Peters who stepped up to take over the service station last year after longtime owner Mike Burke decided to step aside. Oaksmith said Hunters is happy to have Hilltop continue to stay in business at the location and is working on a plan to keep the mechanics operating at the site for another year or two.

The opportunity for Hunters Capital to own another stretch of 15th comes after the owner of the site since 1960 passed away in 2016 and his heirs placed the property with a trust while starting a search for a buyer. A deal with Colorado-based real estate and development firm Cadence Capital for the property fell through and Hunters Capital was able to make the numbers work for an as of yet undisclosed price.

Oaksmith said with the property’s long path to development and the current not far from peak prices on the Hill, Hunters Capital isn’t getting a bargain.

“It’s not the best time to buy, but things along 15th just don’t come along very often,” Oaksmith said.

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18 thoughts on “‘That neighborhood feel’ — Capitol Hill developer adds to 15th Ave E holdings with Hilltop Service Station deal

    • Hunters Capital is probably the best possible option to not get giant metal sided boxes. I’m glad they bought it (it was already for sale). Imagine if some east-coast development company bought it – they would just throw up an ugly, cheap building.

      • Um, no idea about Hunters Capital, but I’m suspect when someone is saying they love the feel of the street in its present state, when it’s already got crap like this ugly building. Besides they don’t care about the feel, just the money, as they’re developers: map

      • @Max:

        That building is far from ugly. It may not be your taste, but it is actually a well done contemporary modern design and the massing is in keeping with the neighborhood.

    • @PD Did I say ugly? I meant ugly and overpriced. And if it is in keeping with the neighborhood, then that proves that 15th is dead. A neighborhood has tangibles and intangibles. The feel of 15th is dead and these overpriced tacky boxes (this one with a chain store at the bottom) are proof. So you all can take it. Enjoy whatever it is now, just another emblem to the haves vs. the have nots. Meanwhile, Broadway development is all in keeping with Broadway development, which is a strip mall.

      • Change is hard, and ….inevitable. Putting our heads in the sand, complaining or giving up all seem less than constructive to me. I think the question has to be “What kind of change do we think will best suit the needs of the next decades and generations?” Otherwise, I fear we just become cogs in the wheel, adding expense and time without much, if any, positive outcome.

  1. We are so fortunate that an experienced local Capitol Hill area developer, Hunters Capital, has acquired these two critical sites on 15th. I don’t think there’s anyone who would do a better, more careful, and more neighborhood sensitive development on these sites than Hunters Capital. Hooray!

    • I hope they do a decent job!

      The QFC is so ugly, and the surface parking lot (!!!!) has no place in a dense section of the hill, in Seattle, in the middle of a housing crisis.

      And the station? What a relic sitting on contaminated soil to boot. It can’t go fast enough.

    • Thank you, Dana….I agree completely. It’s always good news when Hunter’s Capital is involved, because they are one of the few ethical developers around, and they actually care about the appearance of our neighborhood.

      @PD: The (small and well-used) QFC parking lot is critical to their business. If it goes away, then the QFC goes away.

      • You have to wonder what these people who rail against all parking see as the end game? The elimination of all parking? And then what happens? Is everyone supposed to walk or take the bus to buy groceries? Then what happens to all those apartment buildings that are walkable to grocery stores and other businesses? News flash: the rents go up. To more than YOU can afford. Trust and believe, there will be *plenty* of people in this town with more money than you have, and they’ll take over even more of CH. And then you’ll be pushed out to housing that requires a car or a long walk to services. Well THAT sorta defeats the purposes, don’t it? Isn’t walkable, *affordable* housing for more people the end game? *derp*

      • People in cities all over the world manage to get groceries home without a car. Parking is not essential for almost any businesses in the city.

      • I’m afraid you are wrong, Nick. What you assert might be true in cities with extensive subway systems, which we do not have.

        Do you really think the QFC on 15th will stay in business if their (small) parking lot was eliminated?

      • Who says parking should be eliminated? The only talk was that the surface parking lot should be eliminated. Build a new building with underground parking for QFC included.

        Surface parking lots have no business in a city.

      • Right, Chris. And every time a new building is announced with underground parking, the usual suspects complain, “why do we need all that parking?”

      • But no one was saying that in this case?

        The amount of parking is a legitimate debate to have, but it should be extremely uncontroversial to say that we shouldn’t have surface parking lot in Capitol Hill in 2018.

      • OK, fair enough.
        I agree. You would think it *would* be uncontroversial. Read the comments on various posts here long enough and you’ll see a lot of people who question parking whenever it’s included.

  2. Michael Oaksmith is a UW frat boy idi@t who married into Hunter Capital, that’s why you’re hearing all this fake “feels of the neighborhood 15th” awkwardness, because he hasn’t got a clue. I’m surprised Hunters let him talk to the press. As far as Hunters itself goes, in my opinion, they’re not the worst of the worst but Hunter’s has torn down many historic buildings, including the Church on Broadway across from Central to put up ugly and poorly designed behemoths like the Broadway Crossing, that get horrible residential reviews for their property management. Hunters is basically highly overrated albeit in an low threshold field and they don’t deserve the cheerleading hoorays from the money choir we’re seeing here. Also, never live in a building built on a toxic waste dump such as a gas station, even if the experts say it’s okay. It’s probably not.

  3. Cool, I would strongly welcome well designed mixed use buildings on both these lots that respect the active street frontage and small scale historic nature of the street. 19th & Mercer mixed use infill projects and Liz Dunn’s block focused around Chophouse Row are great precedents. I would love to see continuous retail frontage repairing these gaps in the urban fabric, a better designed QFC and in general more retail businesses occupying the ground floor of these buildings. Nevermind the hundreds of sorely needed residential units these redeveloped parcels would provide.

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