About Bryan Cohen

Bryan Cohen is a CHS reporter. Reach him at chasecohen@gmail.com and @bchasesc

Will Capitol Hill’s new stock of luxury apartments one day become luxury condos?

On E Union, these will *not* be condos... yet (Image: Joe Wolf via Flickr)

On E Union, these will *not* be condos… yet (Image: Joe Wolf via Flickr)

“Condo Hill” is a term that seems to be popping up with increased regularity in reaction to the rapid construction of new, high-end buildings on Capitol Hill . It turns out, the nickname misses the mark by at least a decade as the vast majority of projects built on Capitol Hill today are for new apartments, not condos. Developers and building owners say, like anything in real estate, it comes down to what’s profitable.

That’s not to say Capitol Hill’s new apartments could never become luxury resident-owned units, but if recent trends are any indication, apartment-to-condo conversions aren’t coming to Capitol Hill soon, either.

In the past three years there has not been one single condo conversion on Capitol Hill, according to city data obtained by CHS. In that same time period, only seven apartment units were converted to condos city-wide. New condo construction has also slowed dramatically in recent years. Continue reading

Extended First Hill Streetcar, bikeway will (probably) terminate at Roy in 2017, funding still unresolved

(Image: SDOT)

(Image: SDOT)

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 4.18.38 PMFor years, maps of the First Hill Streetcar on Broadway have shown a dotted line extending north of E Denny Way to indicate the possible addition of two or three more stops to the route. The city is now ready to fill-in that line, and end it at Broadway and Roy.

Officials at the Seattle Department of Transportation say they have settled on a $25 million extension of the streetcar with a stop at Broadway and Harrison and a terminus at Broadway and Roy — two stops bewilderingly known as the Broadway Streetcar. The city had been considering an additional third stop at 10th and Prospect, but officials said the estimated $12 million price tag outweighed the benefits of extending the line near Volunteer Park.

“In some respects, the writing was on the wall. When we came back with the gross cost estimates, it was a lot,” said SDOT spokesperson Art Brochet.

The First Hill Street car is expected to open in November, running from Pioneer Square to a temporary Capitol Hill terminus at E Denny Way. When service begins, the First Hill Streetcar will have ten stations along a 2.5 mile route from S Jackson and Occidental to Broadway and Denny Way and will connect Pioneer Square, the ID, Little Saigon, First Hill and Capitol Hill.

Planning for the half-mile, two-stop extension is now 30% complete. Brochet said construction of the two stops could begin in 2016 with an opening in 2017. Continue reading

Judge: Microhousing bedrooms count as ‘dwelling units’ in Capitol Hill project, must go through design review

The proliferation of microhousing throughout Capitol Hill and Seattle may have hit its first major snag after a judge ruled that at least one of the dorm-style projects must go through a public design review before construction can begin.

On Wednesday a King County Superior Court judge reversed the city’s characterization of a proposed microhousing project on north Capitol Hill after a neighborhood group filed a complaint against the city, arguing the bedrooms should count as stand-alone dwelling units.

Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 10.11.11 AMThe proposed 49-bedroom building at 741 Harvard Ave E near Aloha had been characterized as having only eight “dwelling units” because the dorm-style bedrooms were clustered around eight shared kitchens and living spaces. Each bedroom will now count as a separate dwelling unit, meaning it passes the dwelling unit threshold for going through a public design and environmental review.

In her decision, Judge Laura Gene Middaugh wrote the Department of Planning and Development’s characterization of the microhousing project as having only eight dwelling units was “clearly erroneous.”

“The fact that the developer designed a communal area that allows, or even encourages, residents of an adjacent dwelling unit to interact, does not change the fact that the individual units were designed, and can function, as independent living units,” the judge wrote.  Continue reading

Blotter | Gunpoint robbery at 24th and Harrison’s Prentis Frazier Park

See something others should know about? Email CHS or call/txt (206) 399-5959. You can view recent CHS Crime coverage here.

  • Gunpoint robbery: A woman said she was robbed at gunpoint Wednesday night while sitting on a bench at 24th and Harrison’s Prentis Frazier Park, according to Seattle police. Police are searching for two male suspects. The victim told police that around 10:20 PM two men approached her as one pointed a silver revolver at her face and said “give me your stuff.” When she screamed the man threatened to shoot her, at which point the woman handed over her back pack and phone. According to SPD, the victim described the suspects as “two black males in their 30s. One man was about 5-foot-9, the other suspect was approximately 6-feet tall.” Officers searched the area around the park but made no arrests.
  • E Pike phone robbery: A Capitol Hill man said a group of men robbed him of his iPhone early Thursday morning outside the QFC entrance at Broadway and E Pike, according to police reports. The victim told police 5-6 men approached him near the Cha Cha Lounge on E Pike. The victim said the men chased him as he ran towards the QFC, where he tripped and fell. The suspects then took his phone. Police made no arrests.

Von Trapp’s becomes Rhein Haus following name dispute

Rhein Haus signs went up Thursday afternoon (Photo: Bryan Cohen)

Rhein Haus signs went up Thursday afternoon after the name change announcement (Photo: Bryan Cohen)

Capitol Hill’s German beer hall+bocce bar announced on Thursday it was changing its name from Von Trapp’s to Rhein Haus, effective immediately. In a press release sent out Thursday morning, the owners said the name change comes amid complaints by one member of the Trapp family, which owns the Trapp Family Lodge in Vermont. Owners of the 12th Ave bar said aside from the name change and a new website, everything else will stay the same.

“Though the owners vetted the original name and got the federal trademark before opening in early 2013, over the past few months concern has arisen with one member of the Trapp family about confusion between the Seattle Von Trapp’s and the Trapp Family Lodge in Vermont,” said the bar owners in a statement.

“We all feel that in order to differentiate ourselves from the Trapp family, a name change is best for everyone involved,” said owner James Weimann.

The Stowe, VT lodge was founded by the family of Maria von Trapp, whose Trapp Family Singers inspired the 1959 musical and subsequent film The Sound of Music. Rhein Haus owners said they picked the new name to pay “homage to the longest river running through Bavaria.”

Von Trapp’s opened on Capitol Hill in February 2013. Earlier this summer the cavernous beer hall installed a massive patio with additional bocce courts and big screen TVs. The name change comes just a few weeks ahead of what will probably be some rowdy Oktoberfest celebrations.

First Hill initiative seeks to re-imagine ‘parks’ in dense neighborhoods

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 11.13.00 AMFirst Hill community representatives say the neighborhood is in desperate need of more public park space and for ten years Seattle Parks and Recreation has been trying to acquire land to build it. In 2000 and 2008 voters approved levies to fund land acquisitions for new parks on First Hill, but affordable properties are almost non-existant in one of the densest neighborhoods in the state.

Last year Parks reached out to the First Hill Improvement Association and the neighborhood’s burgeoning cadre of civically active residents to talk about alternatives. What the city came up with was the First Hill Public Realm Action Plan.

The plan gathers representatives from the city’s Department of Transportation, Department of Planning and Development, and Parks to explore using parks levy funds to carve out public space from the city’s existing assets — primarily streets, sidewalks, and parking. Continue reading

Blindfold Gallery plans December exit from E Olive Way

A Blindfold show in 2012 (Photo: Tero Patana with permission to CHS)

A Blindfold show in 2012 (Photo: Tero Patana with permission to CHS)

After two-and-a-half years of co-running Capitol Hill’s Blindfold Gallery, Laura Hamje says she’s ready to end her experiment in the business of art curation. Last month, Hamje told CHS her Boylston and E Olive Way gallery will close at the end of 2014.

Despite growing momentum at the gallery, Hamje said she wanted to devote more time to her first love of painting.

“Sales got better each year, I think if we kept going, we could’ve broke even — a few shows, we did break even,” she said. “I’m not sure we were the right type of people to sell to high end collectors, and we didn’t want to, but it seems like that’s how you sustain, to reach people with deep pockets.”

When CHS wrote about the gallery’s opening in 2012, Hamje said wanted to foster an artistic community around the 2-story gallery, while sustaining a studio space for her and painting partner Sara Long. Along with fellow Capitol Hill artist Scott Burk, the trio managed to fulfill that dream and Hamje said she’s proud of what they were able to create with little resources.

Blindfold is one of only a handful of galleries still operating on Capitol Hill – most of the remaining have found ways to diversify their offerings beyond paintings and sculpture. It’s closure will join a long list of Capitol Hill art spaces that have been shuttered — most eventually were repurposed. As the city continues to ponder a possible Capitol Hill arts district, it might be time to shift focus beyond visual arts. Galleries don’t seem to be the preferred option for deploying square footage in the increasingly coveted commercial real estate of Capitol Hill.

But Hamje said she’s already begun talking to artists interested in keeping an art space going at the location, something she said the building’s owners also support. As for advice to new curators?

“You need to have a business plan and have a budget, maybe a PR person to get the name out there and consistently,” she said.

Hamje said the closure of the Online Cafe next door and the stalled opening of Good Citizen to replace it didn’t make things easier for the gallery. CHS will update what’s happening with the space as soon as we hear back from owner Andrew Friedman.

In the meantime, Blindfold will continue to inspire Capitol Hill with a full slate of shows lined up through the end of the year.

Cable competitor bringing gigabit Internet to Central District homes, expansion to Capitol Hill under evaluation

It’s been years in the making, but super-speed Internet is finally making serious inroads into Seattle neighborhoods. Last week CenturyLink announced it would immediately start building out 1,000 megabit per second service — about 100 times faster than average U.S. residential Internet speeds — to homes in the Central District, Beacon Hill, Ballard, and West Seattle.

Unfortunately, Capitol Hill will have to wait, but Central District residents should start having services available by 2015.

A CenturyLink spokesperson said there was nothing inherently preventing neighborhoods like Capitol Hill from getting gigabit hookups, and CenturyLink was evaluating where to expand the service in Seattle. “We worked with closely with the city’s Race and Social Justice Initiative to make sure we were serving under served areas,” she said. Continue reading

Memorial walk to honor woman struck and killed by truck on First Hill

10590411_664654093617853_3286561185982884768_nOn July 21st a Cleanscapes truck driver struck and killed Rebecca Scollard,42, in broad daylight as she crossed 8th and James — an intersection known to be among the most dangerous pedestrian crossings in the city.

A memorial walk on Wednesday morning will honor the life of the Capitol Hill resident and seek to bring awareness to pedestrian safety issues. The walk is sponsored by Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, which has committed to organizing memorials whenever a person is killed walking or biking in the city. Following the walk, city representatives will hold a meeting to discuss how to make streets safer for pedestrians.

Witnesses at the scene of the collision told police that a large commercial truck struck Scollard and did not stop. Police later identified the driver.

Details from the event’s Facebook page:

The Memorial Walk for Rebecca Scollard will begin at 9:30 am on Wednesday, August 13 with a gathering in front of St. James Cathedral on 9th Avenue. We will carry signs and walk quietly to the site of Rebecca’s death at 9th and James, where we will hear a few words from people who knew and cared for Rebecca. Singer/songwriter Jim Page will offer a song or two, friends of Rebecca and City representatives will be asked to say few words.

After the Memorial Walk, we will move to Ozanam House at 801 9th Ave. to debrief and discuss ways that safety for people who walk, bike and use transit can be improved along James Street. We want to focus on the needs of the vulnerable people who live and obtain services in this neighborhood – older adults; homeless people; people with chronic mental illness and/or substance abuse; people recovering from traumatic injuries or living with chronic disease. Ozanam House is a residence for chronically homeless men, where Rebecca was known as a valued friend.

We have planned this event in coordination with Seattle Women in Black, who hold a midday vigil in recognition of homeless people who die in Seattle. Their vigil will be held from noon to 1 in front of the Seattle Justice Center at 5th and Cherry.

Thank you very much for your dedication to a City where all can live and travel safely.


Developers vying to build Capitol Hill Station housing+retail say properties are overvalued

Screen-Shot-2014-04-16-at-9.31.23-PMSiteMapv4-W-Map-1024x807-600x472-1Shortlisted firms vying to buy and develop four parcels of land above the future Capitol Hill light rail station are raising concerns that Sound Transit’s asking price for the properties is far too high, possibly even double what it’s worth. Sound Transit officials say it’s fair market value for some of the most prized property in the city.

The parcel most in question is the Broadway-facing Site A, where a large portion of the site must be reserved for a semi-public plaza to accommodate events like the Broadway Farmers Market, as stipulated in the project’s community forged Development Agreement.

At a Monday meeting with Sound Transit officials inside King Street Station, several developers said a potential $18.7 million price tag for Site A should be cut in half since only half of the parcel can be developed for residential and retail uses. Continue reading