About Bryan Cohen

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

Lark nestles into its ‘grown-up’ Central Agency home


Lark’s new roost in the old and overhauled Central Agency Building (Images: CHS)

Lark's ownership trio -- Sundstrom, J.M. Enos, and Kelly Ronan

Lark’s ownership trio — Sundstrom, J.M. Enos, and Kelly Ronan

In August 2013, when layers of metal sheeting were first getting peeled off the old File Box warehouse, CHS predicted that the area around 10th and Seneca would be completely transformed in 20 years. You can probably shave a few years off of that prediction.

After more than a year of preservation work on the 1917-built Central Agency Building, the cavernous food and drink complex is buzzing with activity. Central Agency’s anchor tenant, Lark, opened the doors to its new home December 4th after closing up shop at 12th and E Spring earlier this year. So far, chef/owner John Sundstrom said the reaction from his 12th Ave regulars has been overwhelmingly positive.IMG_3411

“We love the space,” he said. “It’s a little bit more of a grown-up experience.” Continue reading

Goodbye First Hill McDonald’s, hello 17-story mixed-use building  

(Images: CHS)

(Images: CHS)

The First Hill McDonald’s franchise is an intriguing community hub. The Madison and Minor location seems to accomplish what an urban McDonald’s can be at its best: a place for surgeons, construction workers, homeless people and everyone in between to gather together for a cheap, gigantic cup of coffee and a bite to eat. Other times, it’s just weird.

Documents recently filed with the city show the First Hill McDonald’s is now a goner and slated to be torn down. Developer Holland Partners has filed permits to demolish the McDonald’s building and erect a 240,000 square foot, 17-story mixed-use development.

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 2.47.11 PMDetails on the new project are sparse, but early plans call for 200 apartment units and 151 parking spaces. The Vancouver, WA based developer was also behind the similarly sized Coppins Well project next door. At the time, developers touted the Coppins Well project as the first high-rise apartment building to break ground on First Hill in 35 years.

Just a few blocks away, Whole Foods will be part of a 16-story mixed-use apartment building planned at Madison and Broadway slated to open in 2018.

CHS couldn’t reach anyone at Holland for comment about the McDonald’s project.

A representative for franchisees in the region said the Madison McDonalds has been open for about at least 17 years (see comments for memories of this location going back to the 1970s). Earlier this year, CHS reported on McDonald’s employees urging their coworkers to walk off the job for higher wages. We don’t know yet if the franchise will relocate in the neighborhood or nearby, but the possibility may get the Capitol Hill rumor mill churning again.

#blacklivesmatter: A look at the covenants on Capitol Hill


“The Communist Party Newspaper, New World, published articles attacking racial restrictive covenants in 1948″ — Racial Restrictive Covenants: Enforcing Neighborhood Segregation in Seattle

In 1927, a small group of white homeowners on Capitol Hill had a problem: How to keep the Central District’s black population corralled to the “ghetto” south of Madison.

Gone were the days when whites could simply pass a law prohibiting blacks from moving into their neighborhoods. The Supreme Court had ruled such restrictive ordinances unconstitutional 10 years earlier.

So some of Capitol Hill’s forefathers (and foremothers) discovered a work-around: They went door to door getting their white neighbors to sign a covenant promising not to sell or rent their houses to people of “negro Blood” for at least 21 years. The effort appears to have been lead by a group called the Capitol Hill Community Club. In 1947, the covenants covered 183 blocks around the neighborhood. Continue reading

Future of a 6-story, mixed-use development at 23rd/Union rests in City Council decision

Architect Brian Runberg's speculative  layout plan for a new development at MidTown Center (Photo: CHS)

For the sake of community discussion, architect Brian Runberg speculated how a new development at MidTown Center might look. (Photo: CHS)

With one major development underway and signs that Uncle Ike’s Pot Shop is here to stay, the area around 23rd Ave and E Union is poised for big changes in 2015. But the future of the intersection’s largest property remains somewhat uncertain.

Since the 1940s, Tom Bangasser’s family has owned the sprawling MidTown Center property, which includes a downsized Post Office and a handful of small businesses at 23rd and Union. In order to get the most out of selling the massive 106,000 square-foot property, Bangasser asked the City Council in 2013 to allow a future developer to build up to six stories on the site. The property is currently zoned for four stories.

On Tuesday the Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee will discuss Bangasser’s proposal to up-zone his MidTown property. The committee is not expected to vote on the issue Tuesday. The current deadline for a vote is in January.

Council member Mike O’Brien has allowed Bangasser to push back the meeting for months to “allow a reasonable period of additional time to engage in continued dialogue regarding the MidTown property.”

A group of Central District residents, which had opposed the up-zone, is asking the council to tie a set of community priorities to the site not unlike the agreement forged by the Capitol Hill Champion for the the Capitol Hill light rail station site. Continue reading

Harvard Exit’s future is preservation-minded restaurant and office development

"machine of light and dream, harvard exit theater" (Image: davamoore via Flickr)

“machine of light and dream, harvard exit theater” (Image: davamoore via Flickr)

“Woman’s Century Club, Seattle, ca. 1925″ (Image:  MOHAI)

“Woman’s Century Club, Seattle, ca. 1925″ (Image: MOHAI)

The historic Harvard Exit building is here to stay, but its 46-year run as a movie theater will come to an end this January. The building’s new owner, developer Scott Shapiro, tells CHS he is planning a year-long overhaul to transform the twin-cinema’s interior into offices, a restaurant, and possibly a bar.

The Harvard Exit is a marquee property in the Harvard-Belmont Historic District, and the preservation-minded Shapiro said the 1925-built masonry exterior will remain completely intact.

“You’ll drive by and you wouldn’t notice any thing has changed,” Shapiro said, adding that he would uncover one row of currently boarded-up south-facing windows. “I love historic buildings, and if there’s a way to keep them and find a new use for them, that’s what I’m for.”

Shapiro tells CHS a restaurant or cafe will likely take over the building’s 1,500 square-foot lobby, while he envisioned a bar moving into the 2,200 square-foot basement. The rest of the building will become “creative offices,” including the two 5,000 square-foot theater spaces and two upper floors of existing offices. Continue reading

Capitol Hill food+drink | Chavez will bring Durango-style tacos and Mexican small plates to 12th Ave

Chef Chavez (Image: Cantinetta)

Chef Chavez (Image: Cantinetta)

Simple, focused, shareable small plates and tacos from Mexico’s northern city of Durango. That’s the concept for Chavez, the latest Capitol Hill restaurant slated for a soft opening — this time, just after Christmas amid a flurry of food and drink news on 12th Ave.

Chavez is a culinary coming home for Duranguense head chef Gabriel Chavez. After five years in the kitchen at Cantinetta, Trevor Greenwood’s Wallingford Italian restaurant, Chavez is taking charge with his hometown favorites in Greenwood’s latest venture.

In addition to a rotating menu of tacos and anojitos (Mexican appetizers), Chavez will also feature one main seafood dish a night and a tasteful-but-not-overblown selection of tequila and mezcal. Continue reading

Bowman found guilty in murder of Yancy Noll


Bowman was taken away immediately after a King County jury convicted him of first degree murder (Photo: Bryan Cohen, CHS)

A King County jury has found Thomasdinh Bowman guilty of first degree murder in the 2012 shooting death of Capitol Hill QFC wine steward Yancy Noll.

After one day of deliberation, the jury upheld the prosecutor’s claims that Bowman’s actions were premeditated, not stemming from road rage or self-defense, as Bowman had claimed.

Bowman, 32, showed little emotion as the verdict was read on Thursday. He remained emotionless through much of the three week trial, where prosecutors finished their closing remarks on Tuesday. Prior to reading the verdict, Judge Bruce Heller commended the jury for their work.

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 12.09.58 PM

Bowman, who pleaded not guilty to the murder in 2012, faces a 20 to 30 year prison sentence, plus an additional five years for using a firearm. The judge did not set a date for sentencing.

After the verdict was read, defense attorney John Henry Browne told reporters he was not surprised by the decision and vowed to appeal the conviction. Under the law, Bowman could have asked the judge to have the jury consider a second degree murder charge. Instead, Browne said Bowman wanted to challenge the first degree charge head-on.

Continue reading

City Hall quiet as plans for Capitol Hill pot shop tōk move forward

A sign of pot's maturing presence around central Seattle, Uncle Ike's gets an upgrade (Photo: CHS)

A sign of retail pot’s maturing presence around central Seattle, Uncle Ike’s gets a signage upgrade (Photo: Uncle Ike’s)

Sometimes, no news is good news. Samuel Burke tells CHS he never heard any objections from Mayor Ed Murray’s office by the December 4th deadline to reply to his application for a retail marijuana shop at 15th Ave E and E Republican. That should mean Burke’s proposed location is officially a go.

A 1,000 ft. buffer around the future home of tōk.

A 1,000 ft. buffer around the future home of tōk.

According to state law, a retail marijuana shop must keep a 1,000-foot buffer from schools, parks, or community centers. Initially, city and state officials thought the 15th Ave  location was too close to the Parkside School daycare. But with the city’s tacit approval of the location, Burke can now forge ahead with his application at the Liquor Control Board

If all goes according to plan, Burke told CHS he would be opening Capitol Hill’s first retail marijuana shop in early 2015 inside the space currently occupied by the Capitol Hill Animal Clinic.

Burke has also settled on a name for his new venture: tōk. “It has some elegance,” he said. Continue reading

Seattle City Council to discuss opening a city-run bank

publicbankingexplainedDespite their up-in-the-clouds website imagery, members of the Seattle Public Bank Coalition are quite grounded in their ideas for Seattle to become the first major city to operate its own bank. According to the group, a city bank would generate funds for community investment and could lower the cost of capital for the city by 30-40%.

The group has even found an ally on the Seattle City Council. On Wednesday, council member Nick Licata will hold a briefing on the issue during the Finance and Culture Committee’s 2 PM meeting. Licata will then head over to the U-District to participate in an evening public forum on creating a city bank. The Washington state constitution may present a serious hurdle to public banking, but Licata says it’s not an insurmountable barrier.

Here’s how the City Council breaks down public banking:

A public bank is a state-licensed banking institution established to provide depository services to local governments, and to make loans to promote policy objectives such as affordable housing preservation and development, infrastructure investment and fostering local economic development.

The Possibilities for a Public Bank in Seattle Public Forum will take place Wednesday, December 10th, 7-9 PM, at the University of Methodist Church, 1415 NE 43rd St.

Two Capitol Hill anti-gay hate crime cases heading towards trial

In a year marked by tragic LGBT hate crimes on Capitol Hill, Seattle Police said the department would “err on the side of caution” when pursuing suspected cases. The King County Prosecutor’s office appears to be following suit. Prosecutors are moving forward with two malicious harassment cases stemming from Capitol Hill incidents this year.

Ibrahim Koroma was arrested in October for allegedly shouting anti-lesbian slurs at an female bouncer sitting outside of R Place. The bouncer told police Koroma called her a “dyke bitch” and said “in my country, we murder you, we murder you.” The victim told police it seemed Koroma was harrassing a gay couple on the street prior to the incident. Continue reading