CHS has been reporting on the large, 10,000-square-foot retail space since 2015 when we first dug up permits indicating a large retail project was afoot much to the chagrin of local development watchers and neighborhood property owners who had hoped developer Avalon Communities would stick to its commitment to break the space up across multiple retailers.
The rekindled work after months of inactivity indicates Amazon might be ready to quickly add to its grocery efforts around Capitol Hill with a new E Pike store joining the quieter, less busy than you might have expected, and possibly underperforming new Whole Foods that opened at Broadway and Madison in October.
In 2017, property owners along E Pike who talked with people working on the plans but who did not want to go on the record about the store told CHS that Amazon held a longterm lease for the space and that only the retail giant could afford to work on a timeline that left such a massive and expensive commercial space empty for years.
Another indication is the Amazon-level subterfuge with permit records have been mostly scoured of evidence of who is behind the large grocery store project. Though some clues have leaked through — 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 — most but not all ownership details have been obscured by contracting companies or are in the name of the building developer.
Seattle-based tech site Geekwire also has noted the uptick in activity and dug up a few more essential clues:
The plans show an “optical speed lane” entry system from Orion Entrance Control, configured for customers to swipe in to enter but exit freely, without going through a manual checkout process. The dedicated entrance and exit turnstyles depicted in the plans look similar to those use in Amazon Go stores for the same purpose.
Geekwire notes that the project is referred to as “AGO” in one permit filing.
At more than 10,000 square feet, the Amazon store would be much larger than any of its existing automated Amazon Go cashless convenience store outlets. Permits indicate the space will also host a commercial grade kitchen for food preparation. Amazon is reportedly cooking up lots of new things in the grocery space. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that the retail giant has plans for a wave of new grocery stores across the country including new Amazon Gos and a new grocery brand that would be separate from Whole Foods.
For what it’s worth, the parking closure on the block for the current bout of construction is slated to last through… April 1st.
The new grocery project’s opening in the the Mercedes Benz dealership-turned AVA Capitol Hill development in the 600 block of E Pike will kick a key area back into motion after years as a dead zone of retail activity and cardboard covered windows. It will be joined with openings this year of a major new bar project at Pike and Harvard where KEXP DJ John Richards and friends are opening Life on Mars, a Bowie-inspired vinyl bar. Across the street, meanwhile, longtime Capitol Hill retailer Doghouse Leathers will move into its new leather and kink retail complex after a loving, preservation-friendly overhaul of the 1911-built building.
New stores in the city come at an interesting time for Amazon in its Seattle home. Earlier this year, Amazon pulled out of its plans for a new headquarters in New York, a move that followed a very public selection process that felt a little like the tech giant was cheating on its first love. Last summer, Amazon threw its weight around helping to repeal the city’s head tax.
In the years since we began reporting on the project, meanwhile, Amazon’s brick and mortar retail efforts have only grown. It currently operates nine Amazon Go cashless convenience stores including three in Seattle. Amazon has not responded to requests for more information about the new E Pike project.
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