Done with Broadway Alley, Villa Escondida — ‘the Mexican diner that Seattle’s been dreaming of’ — vows to reopen

(Image: Villa Escondida)

(Image: Villa Escondida)

(Image: Villa Escondida)

(Image: Villa Escondida)

Seattle Central College alum Jose Perez has shuttered his first restaurant venture as Villa Escondida is on a search for a new home — preferably on or near Capitol Hill, we’re told.

Word spread over the weekend of the affordable Mexican eatery’s preparations to shut down inside the Broadway Alley retail complex. A few fans had one last opportunity to eat at the restaurant Saturday night.

In a Facebook post, the restaurant’s management chalked the closure up to a “contract disagreement.” The restaurant had recently been unsuccessful in winning a beer and wine license for the location.

CHS covered Broadway Alley’s unusual mixed-use history here in 2012. It continues to house several Capitol Hill businesses including the much-loved and expanded Tacos Chukis.

CHS reported on Perez’s first restaurant venture last spring as Villa took over after Mexican sandwich shop Torteria Barriga Llena also pulled out of the Alley. The family connections to Capitol Hill’s Mexican food scene run deep:

“I always wanted to do it but never had the opportunity,” said Perez. His cousin,Misael Dominguez, has previous experience opening up businesses and is kicking in financial support. “He’s the one, I guess, that is teaching me all the stuff.” Dominguez, when we spoke with him last, was opening La Cocina Oaxaquena at Melrose and Pine last spring. Dominguez managed Ballard’s La Carta de Oaxaca back when the restaurant first grew into prominence. Roberto Dominguez, the managing partner of La Carta de Oaxaca and Mezcaleria Oaxaca on Queen Anne, just opened the beautiful the beautiful and mezcale-stuffed Mezcaleria Oaxaca Capitol Hill on E Pine.

The recipe of affordable Mexican food and breakfast options seemed to be catching on. Earlier this month, the Seattle Times named Villa Escondida to its roster of “best new cheap eats for 2015.” “This is the Mexican diner that Seattle’s been dreaming of,” the Times wrote in a sentence now likely filling you with deep levels of regret. Hopefully that regret won’t last long.

Keep an eye on the Villa Escondida Facebook page for updates about a new location.

Writer Dotty DeCoster remembered

Dotty and her family (Images courtesy David Collett)

A nearly 50-year resident of Capitol Hill and First Hill died last week — CHS was lucky to call her a friend. Dotty DeCoster, who spent her last six years on First Hill after four decades on Capitol Hill, was a writer, researcher, and historian who often worked for little more than her love for some of her favorite subjects — the people, places — and sometimes birds — of Capitol Hill, First Hill, and Central Seattle.

She was an activist:

A political radical, DeCoster was involved with “old guard” leftist groups like the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE), and experienced the sexism within them.  “It is almost impossible to imagine what it was like in the mid-to late 60s if you were a woman.  If you went to a radical meeting you weren’t allowed to talk.”   Like other women at the time, DeCoster began to see the need for a separate space for women to exchange ideas.  Through the Free University, DeCoster encountered discussion around “the woman question”, became part of the anarchist Women’s Majority Union, and worked on the feminist journal Lilith. Quickly, radical women’s groups surfaced which were addressing the problems that mattered to them, driving the changes which would grant women further autonomy.

DeCoster’s family tells CHS she died during the week of complications from colorectal cancer. She would have turned 71 on February 1st. She is survived by daughter Tara, son Tristan and granddaughter Esme.

Despite her move to a First Hill apartment on Spring, DeCoster still identified as “Capitol Hill” and her knowledge of our history stretched back over the decades.

“In the late ’60s, the housing here was in pretty bad shape even on Capitol Hill, not just in the Central Area,” DeCoster said in a 2000 interview. “After the Boeing Crash, housing prices were so cheap that a lot of young couples bought houses here, and still live here because they can’t afford to move, but there were a lot of children here in the ’60s and ’70s. That’s not true now. You see a lot of weekend children.”

Over the years, we were lucky to share some of DeCoster’s work. You learned where the steam at Pike and Harvard comes from. You learned about Broadway’s stairway to nowhere. You learned about the vanished nighthawks of First Hill:

They also have an odd habit while perching.  Rather than sitting on tree limbs or wires or rooftops facing you (with the perch on the horizontal) they sit sideways, aligned along the perch.  Called “goatsuckers” some places, they used to be a delightful addition to the August falling star show viewed from the Capitol Hill ridge crest.

Thanks for your work and your sharing, Dotty. We learned a lot.

New at the Broadway Farmers Market: Central Seattle’s own Malus Ginger Beer

996496_596024903762173_281111596_nFour years ago, a ginger beer maker got her start on what has become a collection of Seattle food and drink venues with a table at the Broadway Farmers Market. Later this year, Rachel Marshall will open a Rachel’s Ginger Beer on Capitol Hill inside the 12th Ave Arts complex.

Sunday, a new creator of the spicy drink tells CHS he is making his debut at the market and joining Rachel’s which has continued to keep its place at the weekly event. Here’s John Struble on his Malus Ginger Beer:

Malus Fermented Ginger Beer debuts at the Broadway Farmer’s Market on January 25 and will return every other Sunday thereafter. Crafted with a strong regard for herbal history, Malus Ginger Beer is Seattle’s only fermented non-alcoholic ginger beer. Malus’s process of fermentation is what separates its ginger beer from our admired fellow producers, Timber City and RGB. The craft of fermentation, more closely related to the production of beer, wine, and kombucha, is the linchpin of Malus’s methodology. Malus uses organic ingredients, including Northwest wildflower honey.

ad-04The Central District resident touts his drink as the only non-alcoholic fermented ginger beer in Seattle. The beer lists only four simple ingredients: water, ginger, honey, and lemon. (UPDATE: Struble let us know he believes his is the only non-alcoholic fermented ginger beer being made in Seattle. We’ve clarified above.)

Struble says he plans to carry Malus beyond ginger. “Malus has unearthed a centuries old recipe that promises to taste unlike any other root beer,” he writes, “with healthful ingredients that epitomize Malus’s herbalist tradition and stout opposition to the heavily medicated culture created by the American Medical Association.”

In addition to the Sunday markets (11a to 3p at Seattle Central, Broadway at Pine), you can also find Malus at Bannister, Café Presse, Central Co-op, Chuck’s Hop Shop, E. Smith Mercantile, and Revolver Bar.

You can learn more at

Lifelong Thrift readies for Broadway with sale, moving campaign

(Image: Lifelong)

(Image: Lifelong)

With plans to open in February March on Broadway in the former home of Red Light Vintage, Capitol Hill’s Lifelong Thrift is clearing the shelves and preparing for the move with a big sale and a fundraising campaign to boost the nonprofit’s move from E Union.

Saturday is the last day of business for the shop at 1017 E Union — you can find some sweet deals on the final day:

As you all know, out last day of operation at 1017 E Union will be Saturday Jan. 24th. So we will be having a store wide 75 percent off sale, starting Friday Jan. 23rd. Items that are .50¢ will not be further discounted.

Lifelong is also holding an online giving campaign to help with additional unexpected costs from a one-month delay in the move:

The Lifelong Thrift is a Seattle thrift shop institution known for awesome one-of-a kind items. It has resided on Capitol Hill since the 1980s when, at the height of the AIDS epidemic, it was a place of togetherness…a place the symbolized hope in a time of heartache. Today, it is one of the few, if not the only, thrift stores in Seattle that offers a voucher program to HIV positive individuals in need of basic living essentials, like warm coats, dishes, or even an outfit to wear to a job interview. The Lifelong Thrift has given $500,000 in vouchers through the years!

The thrift store is bursting at the seams and can grow no more in its current building while the number of clients served by Lifelong continues to grow. The good news is, the thrift store announced in the Fall that it would be relocating to a new location on Broadway in Capitol Hill — a space that is three times the size of the current space. The new space will allow the thrift store to double the amount of contributions back to Lifelong’s programs delivering food, housing, and health services to people living with chronic illnesses including HIV/AIDS.

If you give $2,500, you’ll get a fitting room in the new Broadway location dedicated in your name.

Traffic alert: ‘Emergency’ pavement repair E Olive Way just below Broadway

"Signs of our time on Capitol Hill Seattle" (Image: Kate Clark via Flickr)

“Signs of our time on Capitol Hill Seattle” (Image: Kate Clark via Flickr)

Expect a traffic pinch starting Saturday as work crews begin an emergency repair project to repair pavement on E Olive Way just west of Broadway. The work is slated to continue “into the work week” which we assume means Monday even though, sigh, CHS also works on the weekends.

Paving crews from the Seattle Department of Transportation will close a lane on Olive Way just west of Broadway for an emergency repair to the pavement beginning Saturday, Jan. 24 at 8 a.m. During the weekend the street will be restricted to one lane shared by both directions of traffic 24 hours a day. Police officers and traffic flaggers will assist drivers through the area.

SDOT crews will continue to work at this location into the work week, leaving one lane open in each direction, as they excavate and replace 12 concrete panels in the roadway.

SDOT responds to CHS First Hill Streetcar delay report — UPDATE

The tracks are in... now we just need the streetcars (Image: Stacy Witbeck)

The tracks are in… now we just need the streetcars (Image: Stacy Witbeck)

Here is an official statement from the Seattle Department of Transportation about CHS’s report that a SDOT official has told Capitol Hill Block Party organizers the 2.5 mile First Hill Streetcar line connecting Pioneer Square to Capitol Hill will not be ready for service in time for the annual July event.

This is the response sent to CHS about the status of the line. We’ll let you parse the statement:

As previously announced, the manufacturer of streetcars for the First Hill Line has failed to meet the delivery milestones for the six-vehicle fleet, which has delayed both testing and the start of passenger service. SDOT is assessing liquidated damages against the contract price and tracking the manufacturing progress on a daily basis. SDOT cannot establish an opening date until we are satisfied that the manufacturer can meet commitments to a revised schedule for all six vehicles.

A spokesperson for SDOT also referred us to for more info and “ship tracking for the very first streetcar coming from the Czech Republic.”

The Sound Transit-financed, SDOT-built $132 million First Hill Streetcar project includes the tracks running through streets up Jackson from Pioneer Square to Broadway across First Hill and Capitol Hill as well as a separated bikeway designed to improve the area for bikers and steer them clear of the dangerous streetcar trackbed. Continue reading

More delay for First Hill Streetcar puts open date after July Block Party

(Image: Gordon Werner via Flickr with permission to CHS)

(Image: Gordon Werner via Flickr with permission to CHS)

It may be time to add the First Hill Streetcar to the list of Seattle transit projects facing serious setbacks. After the Seattle Department of Transportation pushed back the launch date from fall 2014 to “early” 2015, CHS has learned that the SDOT now expects the Capitol Hill-to-Pioneer Square streetcar won’t be in service until at least August.

An SDOT official, speaking at last week’s meeting of the Seattle Special Events Committee, said the streetcar would not be operational for this year’s Capitol Hill Block Party, which runs from July 24th-26th. SDOT media personnel did not respond to requests for comment on this story. The SDOT official who spoke at the meeting pointed us to this December update (PDF), but the document says nothing about when the streetcar would come online. Meanwhile, City Council transportation chair Tom Rasmussen also did not respond to our repeated requests for comment on the delay. Continue reading

Blotter | E Pike club stabbing, Broadway phone grab and beating, car prowl data

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

  • E Pike stabbing: A male victim suffered a three to four-inch knife wound in a fight outside a Pike/Pine club last Saturday around 1:00 AM. Staff at a First Hill medical facility reported the incident to police after the victim arrived for treatment. Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 11.01.39 AMThe report notes the victim was reluctant to report the incident and declined to provide specifics of the assault. Police say they responded that night to a fight disturbance at a club in the 900 block of E Pike. The case is currently not being investigated.
  • Man beaten in Broadway phone grab: A man suffered beating after reportedly being attacked for his phone at E Pine and Broadway early Saturday around 3 AM.
    Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 10.58.07 AM Continue reading

CHS Pics | The Harvard Exits

(Images: CHS)

(Images: CHS)

IMG_7231While it was firmly in line with the venue’s more than 40 years of LGBTQ-friendly film, Friday night’s final screening at the Harvard Exit probably stirred up a ghost or two. Haunting is what you get when you mark the death of cinema with an event celebrating the premier of the third season of a successful HBO series. The stars and creatives behind HBO’s Looking drew a selfie-centered crowd to E Roy for one final night at the old art house destined to be redeveloped into a preservation-friendly office and restaurant complex.

An effort to “save” the Exit continues.

Meanwhile, 12th Ave’s Northwest Film Forum is more concerned about the living:

The Harvard Exits
Jan 18
Free event!
Screening at 4:45pm
Discussion at 6pm
Fond farewells at 7pm
Sunday, Jan 18 at 04:45PM

“Which Seattle theater will close next?” the Seattle Met wondered last month, observing (and warning) that, “We have a trend, people.” Continue reading

Wave of support helps community group add new dinner night for Capitol Hill homeless, hungry

(Image: Community Lunch on Capitol Hill)

(Image: Community Lunch on Capitol Hill)

With social services outside Seattle continuing to dwindle and sometimes unexplainable opposition to providing help, here is a little bit of good news for homeless and hungry people in the city. Despite concerns from some neighbors in the area, a Capitol Hill nonprofit is able to move forward with its plan to add another day of hot meal service to its offerings.

Community Lunch on Capitol Hill tells CHS that it can move forward with its plan to add another night of dinner after a Wednesday meeting with neighbors near All Pilgrims where the meals will be hosted.

Community Lunch has been providing hot meals and a social structure — sometimes 200 to 300 diners at a time — in the neighborhood for nearly 30 years. The schedule these days has been Tuesday and Friday lunches at Central Lutheran and a Thursday night dinner at Broadway’s All Pilgrims.

Beginning next week, the organization will now add a Wednesday night dinner at All Pilgrims.

Executive director Don Jensen said the neighborhood discussion gave a few people living near the church an opportunity to air concerns and ask the group to work to address worries about increased numbers of homeless people coming to the area for the dinners.

He also said he was very happy with the tide of support that followed a social media post showing a note distributed in the area about the new night of service. Jensen said that people looking to support Community Lunch can check out the group’s website for ways to give and, especially, volunteer. He said the new Wednesday dinner service is still in need of help.

Save the Harvard Exit? Fan wants to work with developer to keep theater in redevelopment plans

969231_707229022640095_343339471_nAn effort to “save” the Harvard Exit as a theater space has started as most grassroots advocacy does these days — with a Facebook page. Save the Exit has been created by a fan of the movie house to help rally an effort to sway the developer acquiring the historic property to preserve the lower theater portion of the building’s interior.

“Let’s not rule out hope,” one of the initial postings to the page reads, “perhaps the one thing fans and lovers of The Exit can do is an to appeal to save the lower theater as some form of venue for not only cinema, but also for concerts, performance art, lectures, readings etc. A restaurant and bar would dovetail with such a venue quite nicely and the surrounding businesses and neighborhood would benefit as well.”

The Landmark Theatres movie chain that has operated the venue since 1979 will close things out with one final day of screenings on January 8th  11th.

CHS broke the news just before Christmas that developer Scott Shapiro was acquiring the nearly 90-year-old building home to the Harvard Exit with plans to preserve the exterior but transform the venue into a restaurant and office development.

The Save the Exit page is encouraging people to contact Shapiro with ideas for including the building’s history as a theater in his plans. “Please be civil and constructive in your remarks and let’s work with him, not against him to make the redevelopment of The Exit a win-win for everyone,” one page update encourages.

In addition to the letter campaign, the page is also pointing Exit fans to a petition with a 10,000-signature goal asking that the “theatre space be preserved in some format reflective of the history of the Harvard Exit and its role in Seattle and Capitol Hill arts and culture.” So far, it has 13 sign-ups.

Shapiro says the goal is to reopen the Harvard Exit with new tenants by early 2016.

Blotter | $10,000 in cash reported lost in worst Broadway car prowl… ever

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

Don’t worry — it’s not a crime explosion on Capitol Hill. It’s been a long holiday so we’re emptying out the blotter box!

  • Worst Broadway car prowl ever: In late 2014, CHS noted the upswell in car prowls and auto theft around Capitol Hill and SPD has identified the neighborhood hot spots to watch out for. But the information won’t help one extremely unlucky victim who says she lost $10,000 in cash in a December 23rd car prowl in the parking lot at Broadway’s Dick’s Drive-In. According to the SPD report on the incident, the victim is a US ex-pat who was preparing to return to Europe with $10,000 in cash she had withdrawn from her bank. Police were told the 38-year-old victim and her friend parked their SUV at Dick’s around 2:30 PM on the Tuesday before Christmas so they could run into the nearby post office. By the time they got back to the vehicle 17 minutes later, a bag containing the cash and $4,000 in Apple products was gone. Police were unable to find surveillance video of the incident.
  • New Year’s Day hold-ups: The victims in an armed robbery just hours into 2015 told police they were held up by a group of three males, one armed with a handgun in a 2:49 AM incident near 20th and Alder. There were no injuries in the incident. A K9 unit was searching for the group of three including the armed robber reported as a black male, approximately 25, slender, and wearing a dark sweatshirt with large white lettering. There were no arrests. Meanwhile, police were called to a assault and reported robbery of a cab driver at 18th and Prospect New Year’s Day around 3:20 AM. According to reports, the driver said his rider attacked him without paying and may have cut him with an unknown weapon in the altercation. The suspect described as a white male in his 20s, around 5’5″ and with a dark scarf, and dark coat, was not found by police after a search of the area. Continue reading

Grocery-focused real estate investment company pays $43 million for ‘an Entire City Block’ of Capitol Hill

(Image: Broadway Market)

(Image: Broadway Market)

A Jackonsville, Florida company that has grown into a $6 billion corporation by acquiring and operating grocery store-focused shopping centers now owns “an Entire City Block of Mixed-Use Property” on Capitol Hill.

Regency Centers Corporation announced last week it has purchased the Broadway Market shopping center home to business centered around one of two QFC grocery stores on Capitol Hill’s stretch of Broadway. The publicly traded real estate investment company paid $43 million for the 110,000 square-foot shopping center, property records indicate. Continue reading

January 8th, 2015: Harvard Exit’s last day as a cinema

(Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)

UPDATE: Change in plans. A sign posted at the theater now says the Exit’s last screenings will be on Thursday night, January 8th.

You have just a little more than a week to say goodbye to the Harvard Exit with a movie inside the historic Capitol Hill art house set to be radically overhauled as part of a new food, drink, and office project.

The Exit’s 46-year run as a movie theater ends with a final day of screenings on Sunday, January 11th, according to an announcement for one event marking the end of the 1925-built building as a cinema. There has been no announcement from the Landmark Theatres chain that operates the Harvard Exit about plans for any special showings on the final weekend. A party to preview a new season of one of HBO’s shows is slated for Harvard Exit’s final Friday. The theater is currently showing the Stephen Hawking biopic, The Theory of Everything. Showtimes are 1:30, 4:15, 7:05, and 9:30 PM.

Earlier this month, CHS broke the news that real estate investor Scott Shapiro was purchasing the old masonry building and making plans to overhaul the structure’s interior. Shapiro told 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. Erected in 1925 as a clubhouse for the Woman’s Century Club, the Harvard Exit falls within the Harvard-Belmont Historic District’s protections on changes to the building’s exterior. Shapiro expects new tenants to begin moving into the project by spring of 2016.

The closure of the last of the old-school commercial “art house” film venues on Capitol Hill leaves a handful of new-era film destinations continuing to operate in the area. In October, SIFF reopened the Egyptian Theatre for a new, 10-year run under the non-profit’s wings. Meanwhile, 12th Ave and 23rd and Union continue to produce new and innovative and fun film experiences at Northwest Film Forum and Central Cinema. Continue reading

2014 Capitol Hill milestones: The broken escalator is gone, the Harvard Market stairs are open

(Image: Gordon Warner via Twitter)

(Image: Gordon Warner via Twitter)

We began this holiday week with the first in our 2014 in review series — CHS Year in Review 2014 | More than supply and demand — the year in development on Capitol Hill.

It turns out, one of the most ambitious construction projects of 2014 wrapped up just as we completed the post.

Harvard Market shopping center developer Morris Groberman suggested we wait for the ribbon-cutting ceremony when the railings and the lighting are in place but we couldn’t resist. The epic project to convert the perpetually broken Harvard Market escalator into stairs is ready for its soft opening.

Happy New Year!

Here’s what we wrote about the long-due project earlier this year:

Built as an old-school, parking lot-focused shopping center in the mid-90s, the project continues to be home to a mix of national and regional chains and local independents above a giant grocery store. And, for much of that time, the Harvard Market escalator has been unable to perform its duties of delivering shoppers up and down from the corner of Broadway and Pike.

This time, the fix will be permanent. Harvard Market will spend $160,000 changing the escalator to a staircase, according to a permit filed with the city. Groberman said yet another costly repair — $20,000 — and immediate return to broken status for the troubled escalator was the last straw.

“Truly sad, but economically we could not keep it in operation; every time we fixed it, it was destroyed / vandalized,” Groberman told CHS this spring.

Even Groberman, an experience real estate developer used to contractor delays and construction challenges, couldn’t have predicted how long the construction the new stairs would have dragged on. Yes, it would have provided Mitch Hedberg with an alternative punchline for his escalator bit.

But as 2014 winds down, CHS is happy to report that the stairs are open. We’ll be there in 2015 for the big grand opening ceremony.