Help design a lid over I-5 connecting Capitol Hill to downtown

One plan from Patano Associates would be 40 acres larger than Freeway Park

One plan from Patano Associates would be 40 acres larger than Freeway Park

Imagine a big, blank lid extending over I-5, connecting Capitol Hill to downtown. How would you fill it in? Trees and green space? Affordable housing? More streets with busses connecting the neighborhoods? A public meeting on Saturday to gather ideas could produce the design groundwork for the real thing.

Over the past several months, members of the Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council have been working to convince policy makers and the public that now is the time to plan for such a project. The reason is that developers for the Washington State Convention Center Addition, planned for the base of Capitol Hill, could kickstart a nearby lid project as part of a required community benefits process. Whether or not that happens may depend on how much the public wants it.

“We’re almost guaranteed to have lids over I-5 given the past precedents,” said PPUNC chair John Feit. “This isn’t just some academic exercise.”

The Lid I-5 campaign’s design charrette will take place at 12th Ave Arts this Saturday, May 7th, from 8 AM to 1 PM (coffee and High 5 Pie provided). Attendees will be armed with markers and tracing paper over a blown up image of the I-5 corridor to draw up their best ideas for a lid. Organizers have also complied packets of materials reviewing existing lids in Seattle and around the U.S., and will have nifty Lid I-5 buttons for anyone who attends.

Pine Street Group developers will next go before the Seattle Design Commission on June 7th, where public benefits for the WSCC addition will be discussed. Commissioners are not expected to take any action. However, the commission will consider materials submitted by the community ahead of the meeting, creating an ideal opportunity to present the results of Saturday’s charrette.

“We have a chance to influence their decision and say the community is organized and here are some ideas on what we think,” Feit said. Continue reading

23rd and Union’s Liberty Bank Building faces first design review

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 4.40.20 PM

No it won't be blue and yellow -- but this is the general shape of things to come

No it won’t be blue and yellow — but this is the general shape of things to come

City Hall is looking to the Capitol Hill Housing project to develop a mixed-use affordable building at 23rd and Union as a model for the development Seattle needs as it builds its way out of its affordability crisis while attempting to be sensitive to issues of history, gentrification, and equity. The money to power the nonprofit developer’s project is moving into place. The desire to honor the legacy of the region’s first Black-owned bank that stood on the site is there.

Wednesday night, Central District residents will have their first say about the early design concept for the Liberty Bank Building, a planned 6-story development with 116 affordable apartment units above 3,300 square feet of street-level retail space and parking for 18 vehicles.

The design from the architects at Mithun seeks to “support Capitol Hill Housing’s mission to provide safe and affordable housing to low- and moderate-income individuals and families” while honoring Liberty Bank’s history and achieving “a strong activated urban street experience.” Apartments are planned as a mix of two-bedroom, one-bedroom, and studio units and the project will be built to meet the Evergreen Sustainable Development Standard.

A process to upzone areas around 23rd Ave is already underway

A process to upzone areas around 23rd Ave is already underway

To achieve these goals, Capitol Hill Housing is seeking a contract rezone in a separate process:

A legislative rezoning that includes the project site is currently being considered based on the recommendation of the 23rd Avenue Action Plan Urban Design Framework (23rd Avenue UDF). Due to the timeline of the legislative process, the proposed project is seeking a Contract Rezone that is consistent with the recommendation of the 23rd Avenue UDF. The project site is proposed to be rezoned from its current NC2P-40 & NC2-40 zoning to NC2P-65 zoning

Several design elements are being planned to recognize the legacy of Liberty Bank:

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Meanwhile, the Office of Economic Development has also been involved to find ways to ensure that commercial space is targeted towards local business, with a focus on black owners. OED brought together a group of Central District organizations with the goal of creating a pipeline of area small business owners that can move into the space when the project is complete, a City Hall rep told CHS earlier this year. Centerstone, Africatown, and the Black Community Impact Alliance are also discussing how arts can fit into the equation as part of the Central Area Arts District.

In late 2014, Capitol Hill Housing opened the 12th Ave Arts mixed-use office space + performance space + commercial space + affordable housing development.

Meanwhile, the area around 23rd and Union is busy with development. One six-story building is now complete on the southwest corner and another just wrapping up design review on the northwest corner. Both are projects from private developer Lake Union Partners and both are being put together as market-rate developments — though a quest to upzone the northwest project could help the community have a little more influence. Meanwhile, a deal for the block of MidTown Center has been tied up in a legal battle.

Wednesday night’s session will be about the building’s bulk and massing and discussion of proposed departures from Seattle building standards envisioned in the project like the street-level courtyard that could eventually run along 24th Ave.

2320 E Union St

Design Review Early Design Guidance application proposing a 6-story structure containing 116 residential units above 3,300 sq. ft. of ground-level retail space. Parking for 18 vehicles will be located within the structure. This project requires a contract rezone from NC2P-40 and NC2-40 to NC2P-65.

View Design Proposal  (53 MB)    

Review Meeting
May 4, 2016 6:30pm

Seattle University

824 12th Ave
Admissions & Alumni Community Building
Review Phase
EDG–Early Design Guidance
Project Number

Tami Garrett


Summit/Howell SWAT response was for report of suicidal man

Thanks to all who sent information and pictures from the scene

Thanks to all who sent information and pictures from the scene

Seattle Police and SWAT units cordoned off an area around an apartment building at Summit and Howell Monday evening after a report of a possibly armed male inside who had threatened to commit suicide.

With the area secure, police made entry and discovered the man dead inside the first floor apartment around 7 PM. The King County Medical Examiner was on scene to investigate the death.

The situation began in the late afternoon, according to police radio dispatches. An SPD spokesperson said the nature of the person’s threats required an “abundance of caution.” SWAT units including a large Bearcat vehicle were positioned around the area as apartments near the unit were cleared and the streets were blocked off. CHS provided updates on the incident via Twitter during the police response.

The victim in the suicide was not identified but his family was in contact with police.

For resources and help to prevent suicide, please call the national suicide-prevention hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE or the local crisis clinic: (206) 461-3222.

Bar Vacilando wanders onto Capitol Hill

We can't show you much of Bar Vacilando but we can show you this

We can’t show you much of Bar Vacilando but we can show you this

The versatile bar, good for an after-work cocktail with a shared plate of food or a dinner date, enjoys quite a bit of popularity on Capitol Hill. After refining one version of the concept with Black Bottle in Belltown and Bellevue, a trio of owners are nearly ready to open another take on the “gastrotavern” with a venture on Capitol Hill.

Chris Linker said his intention for Bar Vacilando at 15th and Harrison is not to open a fancy restaurant, but a bar with really nice food.

“We want people to feel like they can disarm … let time slow down a little bit,” Linker said of restaurant slated to open in mid-May. “It’s more of an analog restaurant than a hyper-digital restaurant.”

The Bar Vacilando owners are not quite ready to reveal how they have changed the former 22 Doors space, but CHS was able to take a peek inside. While no major transformations have taken place, the space has been peeled back to a more raw form. The dropped ceilings are gone, revealing the old building’s original wood slatted ceilings. The bar top has been replaced, but Door 22’s impressive wooden back bar remains. The 2,374-square-foot space is also known for having one of the best patios on the Hill, and Bar Vacilando will continue to put the intimate outdoor space to good use with some small upgrades.

Bar Vacilando’s name is also rooted in the analog. In his 1962 book Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck wrote, “If one is vacilando, he is going somewhere but doesn’t greatly care whether or not he gets there, although he has direction.”

The patio in 22 Doors days

The patio in 22 Doors days

That sense of world travel inspired co-owner Judy Boardman chef Brian Durbin when developing a menu for the new restaurant. Bar Vacilando will offer a mix of the light and indulgent, including slow cooked pork cheek and Tokyo turnip, salt cod croquettes, and king trumpet mushroom salad with watercress and spinach. Most plates will be made to share.

A medium-sized wine list, handcrafted cocktails, and a several local beers on tap will round out the drink offerings.

Linker said he and the other owners were drawn to 15th Ave E because of its neighborhood within a neighborhood quality. “There’s such a strong sense of community and cooperation and familiarity on 15th Ave.”

Opened in 2005, 22 Doors shuttered on New Year’s Eve 2013 after apparently dealing with financial troubles for years. Sandwiched next to Rione XIII and The Wandering Goose and the old-timer Tim’s Barbershop, the space remained vacant for two years. CHS first wrote about the Black Bottle crew coming to the block in November.

Earlier this year, Linker and Black Bottle caused a stir when they joined Seattle restaurant heavyweight Tom Douglas in adding a 2% surcharge to offset the city’s new minimum wage law. Both restaurant groups eventually backed off the plans after backlash. Douglas has since begun the process of eliminating tipping and raising wages at his fleet of restaurants.

Bar Vacilando will be a tipped-based restaurant, at least for now. Linker said he still has concerns about how his company will sustain the increasing minimum wage, though it clearly has not stopped them from expanding. “I think the restaurant model will continue to evolve and what that looks like precisely, I don’t know,” he said.

Bar Vacilando plans to open in May at 405 15th Ave E .

City Council Notes | Housing levy vote in August, NBA arena setback, Swedish Cherry Hill plan

Here are the latest happenings and issues from the Seattle City Council chambers:

  • Housing levy vote slated for August: The City Council approved Monday an August vote for Seattle’s next housing levy. CHS reported here on the new proposal that would double the size of the levy to $290 million over seven years.
  • Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 9.35.05 AMNBA setback: A 5-4 vote Monday afternoon against selling off a one-block stretch of Occidental Ave south of Safeco Field has critically damaged investor Chris Hansen’s plans to build a new sports arena hoped to be a home for a new Seattle NBA franchise. District 3’s Kshama Sawant joined the vote against the street vacation.
  • Swedish plan: The “quasi-judicial” process for the Council to approve a final Major Institution Master Plan to guide development of the Swedish Cherry Hill campus continues Tuesday morning in front of the planning committee. CHS reported here on the expansion plan and the neighborhood opposition to some of its elements. UPDATE: The Swedish legislation has passed out of committee and will be presented to the full Council on May 9th.

As Capitol Hill Housing turns 40, ‘the need has never been greater’

Capitol Hill’s largest affordable housing organization is turning 40 this year and, for better or worse, the organization has never been more relevant.

Launched in 1976, Capitol Hill Housing began by acquiring old buildings to turn them into income restricted housing. As the organization grew, it moved into rehabilitating midsize buildings. When the housing pressures around central Seattle mounted, it lead CHH to embark on ambitious new construction projects under the mission of creating “vibrant and engaged” communities.

“The work has never been more important than it is now,” said Michael Seiwerath, CHH’s director of community programs. CHH now supplies affordable housing for more than 2,000 residents in 48 properties it owns and manages around Seattle, primarily on Capitol Hill.

To help CHH celebrate its impressive milestone, Windermere Real Estate has pledged to match donations during CHH’s annual fundraising drive powered by the Seattle Foundation’s GiveBig campaign. Every $40 gift made to CHH on May 3rd through Seattle Foundation will be matched 4 to 1 (up to $5,000) by Windermere. You can donate here to support CHH in its efforts to:

  • Help people find affordable homes close to work and school
  • Connect residents to job coaching and health care services
  • Keep neighborhoods economically and culturally diverse

More about GiveBIG and other worthy Capitol Hill recipients can be found at

If the current chapter of CHH is about building its own housing, Seiwerath said the next chapter will be all about partnerships and expanding beyond Capitol Hill while staying rooted in the neighborhood. “As the land costs go up, and urban space is limited, one of the solutions is more partnerships,” Seiwerath said. Continue reading

CHS Pics | May Day labor and immigration march takes new route on Capitol Hill

May Day El Comite - 7 of 24

May Day El Comite - 13 of 24

Images by Alex Garland for CHS

It has become a familiar refrain for Seattle’s mainstream media to hold up the city’s annual May Day labor and immigration rights march as a peaceful counterpoint to the violence and mayhem that accompanies the May Day night protests. We cover the 2016 edition of the annual contest pitting Seattle Police and its crowd management tactics vs. agitated protesters here.

The annual march organized by immigrant labor rights organization El Comité shouldn’t be reduced to a convenient editorial prop. The march’s organizers set out to make their voices heard and the groups involved choose their own path through the city. That’s why in 2016 we got more Marcha Y Manifestacion Anual del 1o de Mayo on Capitol Hill than ever.

Continue reading

Racist assault reported inside Broadway/Pike Starbucks

Seattle Police are investigating an ugly assault at the Broadway/Pike Starbucks Friday morning as a hate crime.

According to police reports, a man spat on a black man and woman and used racial epithets during an assault inside the coffee shop Friday morning just before 11 AM. The suspect was gone by the time police arrived.

CHS learned about the attack from a blog post by one of its victimsDr. Bob Hughes, an associate dean at Seattle University:

My awareness of the incident, as I later explained it to the officer who took my statement, started with me realizing that my right hand was wet. We were in a Starbucks and there was lots of liquid around. My cortical brain told me that most likely someone spilled something. But then, I heard someone behind me say something that sounded like, “fucking nigger bitch.” My brain needed a new explanation. I turned and realized that a young White man in his early 20s behind me, neatly dressed with short-cropped hair with a dark-colored backpack, was directing this statement to my colleague. As I turned further to face him, he said, “That’s right fucking nigger bitch” again. He walked to the door and walked out. The incident didn’t really register with me, even as he walked out. What had happened? I turned to my colleague and asked if she knew the young man. She had never seen him. He went outside and stood at the window yelling more comments that we could not hear and finally walked away down the street. It was as he stood at the window that my brain started to make sense of things, as I realized that the liquid I initially felt on my hand was his spit. He had spit at my colleague, as it turned out, twice. This young man looked like a thousand other young college students I’ve seen over the years. Clean cut, well dressed. He was also visibly angry. He did not present as mentally disturbed or under the influence of any substances. He directed his anger at my colleague, having never met either of us. He saw two African Americans sitting in a Starbucks and decided that it was okay to assault us.

Dr. Hughes tells CHS that the incident was likely captured on video and that police were provided with access to the surveillance.

But Dr. Hughes confronts a larger issue in his post:

While the society has created hate crime laws and has professed an expectation that this kind of behavior shouldn’t be tolerated, clearly for this young man those weren’t enough discouragements to overcome whatever misogynistic and racial hatred and ignorance fuel him. And, on reflection a few hours after the incident, more than that young man’s actions were disturbing to me.  This was a very public act in a very small space.  Everyone at that café heard the incident and many saw it.  However, only one patron came up after the incident.  That woman apologized to us, saying that this should never happen to anyone, and she offered to be a witness.  Also, the manager came to assist us to clean ourselves and to help file the police report.  Everyone else at the café sat silently or went on with their business.  In a truly post-racial world, that would not be how things work.  In a post-racial world, that kind of violation would mobilize every person in that space to actively resist an assault on two people – an assault that only happened because of our race, and because of the gender of my colleague.

“My guess is that the next time, this young man will be more violent and his next incident will be more brash,” Hughes writes. “Unstopped, antisocial behavior like this escalates. And he lives in a world right now where he felt safe taking these actions. But when incidents like this stop, or people who witness these incidents involve themselves as actors against such acts, then maybe we’ll be moving toward a post-racial world.”

The case remains an open investigation according to SPD.

Capitol Hill’s Cairo art, retail, and music space to close

Cairo way back in 2009 (Image: CHS)

Cairo way back in 2009 (Image: CHS)

A small space on Mercer at Summit that made a big impression on Capitol Hill culture will be closing, its backers announced Monday.

When Cairo was founded 8 years ago, it was with a vision to create a platform for underground art by emerging artists, musicians, and curators. We wanted to provide a supportive place for individuals to hone and elevate their craft while cultivating a sense of community and warmth in a city that isn’t always known for its open arms. The goal was never to have a “successful” retail store, rather a store that could support the artists and curators utilizing the rest of the space. Retail-wise, it’s always been a struggle. Cairo is tucked away, with minimal foot traffic, and making ends meet financially over the years has been a profoundly difficult challenge.

The Appendixes play Cairo's Vibrations 2015 in Volunteer Park (Image: CHS)

The Appendixes play Cairo’s Vibrations 2015 in Volunteer Park (Image: CHS)

The message from Cairo owners Aimee Butterworth and Joel Leshefka said they’re still working out logistics of when the storefront will be shuttered.

Born as an art gallery and transitioned to a vintage fashion shop and performance venue, Cairo has been held up as an example of the Seattle nexus of art and commerce. Now, Butterworth and Leshefka say they’ll focus their retail efforts on the Prism shop in Ballard. We’ll have to check in with them about what’s next for Cairo’s annual Vibrations music festival in Volunteer Park. UPDATE: Want to help keep Vibrations happening?

Right now we need to find a non-profit to take over some logistics of vibrations (mainly the insurance policy the park requires).  This is all super fresh for us, and we don’t really have a solid answer.  The park is reserved, but we could use help finding a new partner to work with our dedicated booking and event planning crew!

The funky E Mercer space has a long history of creative uses — some of them were compiled here by CHS readers in 2008. Around the corner, Indian Summer still does the vintage thing on Summit while, across the street, at Bellevue and Mercer, the old Harry’s Fine Foods in the midst of a massive transformation.