Capitol Hill’s Hugo House makes mixed-use plans to stay on 11th Ave

(Image: Hugo House)

(Image: Hugo House)

Cramped in its longtime residence inside a 1903-built former mortuary, literary-focused Capitol Hill nonprofit Hugo House announced Monday that it has begun work on a plan to build a new center as part of a mixed-use development at the site of its 11th Ave home.

“What’s great about this new project is that Hugo House can operate as usual during the design phase and we will still be able to stay where we are after construction is completed —but in a new, more functional, efficient and community-friendly space,” Hugo House executive director Tree Swenson said in a statement.

The new development will include 10,000 to 15,000 square feet of ground-level commercial/retail space, as well as up to five stories of multi-family housing right across the street from Cal Anderson Park. Zoning in the area would allow the building to reach 65 feet — good enough for six stories (or more if you’re good with words.) Its location in the Pike/Pine Conservation Overlay District could open the project up to additional height if portions of the original structure were to be preserved. A 2013 hearing determined the former Manning’s Funeral Parlor should not be protected as an official city landmark.

UPDATE: We asked Swenson about her thoughts on being part of the Hill’s continuing wave of mixed-use development and Hugo House’s part in planning what comes next for the parcel. She was unassuming about any hopes of influencing the project beyond the future center’s home. The big decisions, she said, belong to the developers and the landowner.

“It’s only through their good graces that we’ll be lucky enough to stay here,” she said.

“I’m just grateful that we can stay.”

In the announcement, Hugo House and the longtime property owners of the more than 100-year-old building said they are now working with a developer to determine “the exact mix of uses as part of the design and permitting process.” Continue reading

Seattle rents rising faster than in any other major U.S. city — even faster on Capitol Hill


Numbers from the Census Bureau are about as official as it gets for calculating nationwide trends. So call it official: Seattle’s rent is the 10th highest in the U.S. and its rising faster than any other major city.

According to data released by the Census Bureau this month, median rents in Seattle reached $1,172 in 2013 — an 11% increase from 2010. Seattle surpassed Long Beach, CA and Oakland, CA in its rise to the top 10.

The Seattle Times wrote about it here, but buried one important stat: the renter population actually outpaced the rent increases as the city added 13% more renters in the same time period. In 2013 some 307,000 people were renting in Seattle.

On Capitol Hill rents are rising faster.

Continue reading

CHS Community Post | Capitol Hill business owners to Sound Transit site developers: Make it unique

Panel Members Left to Right: Karen True (Pioneer Square Alliance), Moderator Michael Wells (Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce), Binko Chiong-Bisbee (Kobo), Tracy Taylor (Elliott Bay Book Company), Michael Oaksmith (Hunters Capital), Linda Derschang (The Derschang Group), Chip Ragen (Ragen Associates), Tim Farrell (Tarragon).

Panel Members Left to Right: Karen True (Pioneer Square Alliance), Moderator Michael Wells (Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce), Binko Chiong-Bisbee (Kobo), Tracy Taylor (Elliott Bay Book Company), Michael Oaksmith (Hunters Capital), Linda Derschang (The Derschang Group), Chip Ragen (Ragen Associates), Tim Farrell (Tarragon).

2014_9 Broadway Retail Panel 2As a reminder, anybody can post to CHS. You can find our latest contributions in the CHS Community section. Posts of high quality and interest may be shared on the CHS homepage. Thanks to all community contributors for being part of CHS! CHS reported on the “transit oriented development” process at Capitol Hill Station here: Developers vying to build Capitol Hill Station housing+retail say properties are overvalued

By Michelle Hippler, Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce

Thursday, the Capitol Hill Champions hosted a Broadway Retail Panel Luncheon at the Capitol Hill Library where neighborhood business owners spoke candidly to the developers who will bid on the prime real estate above the Link light rail station on Broadway. The resounding message was that developers have to get it right, and that means thinking more creatively about the retail spaces.

The bottom line, as Linda Derschang (Linda’s, Oddfellows, Smith, et. al.) put it: what really created the thriving Pike/Pine corridor business district was the high rent on Broadway. Pike/Pine happened because “nobody small and new could afford Broadway anymore.” Fast-forward to 2014 and even she is nervous about signing a long-term lease for Linda’s Tavern on Pine where the rent is expected to triple within a few years and the landlord refuses to make any improvements. “Will the renters filling up all these new apartments come to Linda’s? Will all the indie rockers move away?”

Continue reading

Capitol Hill developer with knack for making room for more has plans for addition to 91-year-old 13th Ave apartments

The proposed project will neighbor 13th Ave's St. Nicholas Cathedral which went through some construction of its own in 2013

The proposed project will neighbor 13th Ave’s St. Nicholas Cathedral which went through some construction of its own in 2013

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 2.59.45 PMA Capitol Hill developer experienced in squeezing new units into some of the oldest apartment buildings in the neighborhood brings a new project to the East Design Review Board Wednesday night that will add an entire apartment building next to the 1923-built Washington Irving apartments at 13th and Howell.

With the continued demand for apartments on Capitol Hill, it’s not surprising that prolific Capitol Hill real estate investor Morris Groberman and development partner Dan Ronz Ron Danz are making plans to demolish an old garage and construct a new apartment building just south of the existing 39-unit, 1305 E Howell building. What might be more surprising is that the developers and architect Neiman Taber are proposing a two-story building where they could build four. Continue reading

Seattle’s new regulations leave space for densest microhousing to continue in Capitol Hill’s core

IMG_5351

This 12th Ave microhousing project will have room for a Basque restaurant. This one will have beer. Put that in your regulations! (Image: CHS)

34 pages of legislation ( here in PDF) — plus a few possible last minute additions related to elements like defining exactly how many sinks an aPodment-style unit should have — are ready to move on from City Council as Seattle seeks to complete a long, drawn-out quest to regulate microhousing developments. Meanwhile, a legal battle that had a seeming happy ending for neighbors fighting a Capitol Hill microhousing development near the tony Harvard-Belmont Historical District will have a judicial epilogue.

DPD "congregate housing" related permit activity, 2010 to present. Big clouds of microhousing headed your way!

DPD “congregate housing” related permit activity, 2010 to present. Big clouds of microhousing headed your way!

Tuesday afternoon, the City Council’s land use and planning committee is expected to unwrinkle a final set of amendments before sending the bill onto the full council.

“People living in smaller units is a choice,” planning committee chair Mike O’Brien said. “What we really care about is how big the building is on the outside.”

UPDATE: The committee approved the legislation Tuesday afternoon and the bill will move to the full council for a vote on October 6th.

The new rules pounded out after over years of debate will continue to allow microhousing development in dense areas like Capitol Hill while setting a new average size requirement for the apartments built in lowrise-zoned areas. Under the compromises forged by O’Brien, Seattle will end up with two types of microhousing. In areas zoned lowrise where you’re more likely to find single family homes or small apartments, microhousing units must average 220 square feet — though Tuesday’s amendments may adjust size thresholds.Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 4.19.29 PM

But buildings within “urban centers” like the western core of Capitol Hill and “urban villages” like E Madison, Miller Park, and parts of the Central District will be open territory for good ol’ fashioned microhousing with shared, congregate elements and units that can average smaller than 180 square feet.

But we're only talking about 100 or so projects and no massive uptick through 2014's partial year tally

But we’re only talking about 100 or so projects and no massive uptick through 2014′s partial year tally even as Seattle still doesn’t have a plan in place to tackle housing affordability. It’s OK, though — at least somebody is thinking big

“My proposal will allow these to continue to be built as congregate housing, but specifies that they can only be built in higher density zones in our urban villages and urban centers,” an O’Brien statement on the legislation states. “These are the places that most likely have access to transit and amenities to support a higher density community.” Continue reading

CHS Video | Capitol Hill + gentrification + power pop = Bridge to Hawaii

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 4.29.11 PM Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 4.28.53 PMScreen Shot 2014-09-11 at 4.30.01 PMIt’s dark and it rains all the time
I’m guessing not the destinations that you had in mind
Your brain’s unraveling, the endless traveling
And you can’t go up, jump into the ocean

Tacocat’s newly released video for their song Bridge to Hawaii is a Capitol Hill classic: Bummed out people in the rain bitching about buildings getting torn down get together for a Rav 4 Geo Tracker Hawaii party. Happens. All. The. Time.

h/t to @whitnud and, of course, @TacocaTs.

It’s not every day you see 19th Ave E in a music video.Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 4.28.23 PM

Developer says Capitol Hill apartment building ready for tenants despite $500k+ construction lawsuit

(Images: CHS)

(Images: CHS)

IMG_5425A color problem briefly brought one E Union development project to a halt earlier this year – a $500,000+ problem has put the development of another E Union apartment project into what the developer says will only be a short limbo even as the more than $11 million construction of the six-story building is mostly complete and marketing for new tenants already started.

CHS has learned that a King County judge ruled late last month that a construction company holding a major lien on the mostly completed Evolve Apartments project at 10th and Union is owed hundreds of thousands of dollars and can proceed with a foreclosure on the property if the developer behind the project does not pay up.

Despite the ruling, the developer tells CHS the building is open and already home to tenants. Continue reading

Sound Transit issues clarifications for Capitol Hill Station development proposals as cost concerns mount

Lots of concrete got pumped in to help complete Capitol Hill Station this spring and summer. Lots of money will need to be pumped in to complete the "transit oriented development" around the station (Image: Sound Transit)

Lots of concrete got pumped in to help complete Capitol Hill Station this spring and summer. Lots of money will need to be pumped in to complete the “transit oriented development” around the station (Image: Sound Transit)

As the projected start date for construction of the apartment complexes and businesses that will populate the area surrounding the Capitol Hill light rail station approaches in coming years, Sound Transit has released clarifications of many of the rules governing how the short-list of potential developers will outline project proposals for the developments. According to Cathy Hillenbrand of the Capitol Hill Champion community group, Sound Transit has provided new information about how the proposals will be graded and selected as well as aspects of the design process.

“What I’ve been hearing is that the developers will be having to spend a couple hundred thousand dollars if not more just to complete these proposals just because of the level of design-detail Sound Transit wants,” said Hillenbrand. “So if you’re one of the six teams competing for Site A, that’s not a great percentage of chance for winning, so are you going to lay out hundreds of thousands of dollars for that?”CHStation-TOD-area-600x467-1 Continue reading

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

Ruling allows pro-development group to pursue push to halt height rollback in Seattle’s lowrise neighborhoods

In a victory of process though not yet substance of argument, a Seattle pro-development group has won the right to continue its challenge to efforts to roll back lowrise zoning heights in the city.

An announcement from Smart Growth Seattle sent Tuesday afternoon says the group “has prevailed in the first round of it’s (sic) appeal of the City’s proposed massive downzone of the city’s low-rise zones.”

Here’s the “too long, didn’t read” version of the decision:

Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 4.14.33 PM

While not exactly a first round victory on the merits of the group’s arguments that lowrise heights shouldn’t be lowered, the decision does allow the appeal to the Seattle Hearing Examiner slated for later this month to continue.

Earlier this summer, CHS reported on the efforts at City Hall to roll back height increases made a few years back:

The groundwork for the lowrise conflict was laid in 2010 when Sally Clark spearheaded an update to the multifamily zoning code that included allowances for higher buildings. With the first generation of buildings under the new code constructed, many neighbors have complained the buildings are too big and too tall. Where lowrise development is generally thought of as three to four-story townhouses and apartments, some developers have used incentives to cram five stories into tightly packed apartment and microhousing buildings.

In addition to what will surely be riveting Hearing Examiner drama later this month, expect Smart Growth Seattle and its opponents to be increasingly vocal this week leading up to the re-start of City Council negotiations over regulating microhousing in Seattle.

Capitol Hill apartment boom getting new ripples as 15th Ave E development moves foward

The Salal sign went up in 2010 as the Group Health Credit Union got a new brand (Image: Prima Seadiva via Flickr)

The Salal sign went up in 2010 as the Group Health Credit Union got a new brand (Image: Prima Seadiva via Flickr)

There are more signs that developers expect Capitol Hill’s building boom to continue and demand for apartments to remain steady if not continue soaring. CHS has learned details of a project moving forward to create a new four-story, 60-unit apartment building on 15th Ave E.

According to filings with the city, developer John Links of The Metropolitan Companies is moving forward on a plan to redevelop the lot currently home to Salal Credit Union in the 100 block of 15th Ave E across from Group Health. The planned building will stand four stories, be planned for 60 units and could have two levels of underground parking.

Continue reading

Capitol Hill theater company stages one final performance before move to 12th Ave Arts

Inside the future home of the Main Stage at 12th Ave Arts (Image: CHS)

Inside the future home of the Main Stage at 12th Ave Arts (Image: CHS)

Ali el-Gasseir's WET will be one of three theater groups resident in the new development (Image: CHS)

Ali el-Gasseir’s WET will be one of three theater groups resident in the new development (Image: CHS)

By Rayna Stackhouse with reporting by Justin Carder

Greg Carter and Strawberry Theatre Workshop aren’t about to get rich. But the company is putting on one last show on Capitol Hill the old-fashioned theatre way.

“Our industry doesn’t work very well in a capitalist model,” says Carter. “The rich get rich, while the poor get poorer.”

While the city’s behemoth performance and arts organizations like Seattle Opera have a full staff to raise money, sell tickets and can support and pay their performers, small theater companies around Capitol Hill typically barely scrape by. The money they make is mostly from tickets and booze, Carter says.

The 12th Ave Arts building, slated to open in early November, should help change that equation for Strawshop and its two companion theater companies, Washington Ensemble Theatre and New Century Theater Company, teaming up to form a new kind of arts organization resident in the new Capitol Hill Housing development.

Capitol Hill Housing and Black Box representatives were on hand this week for a “hard hat” tour of the new building. The $47 million $38 million, 29,000 square-foot 12th Ave Arts project is creating 88 affordable apartment units, office space, retail space and a theater facility above parking that will also be utilized by Seattle Police’s East Precinct.

The project is the result of a two-decade push from community groups and organizations to create something greater with the East Precinct parking lot that used to call the land home.

Capitol Hill Housing’s Michael Seiwerath said it was community pressure that finally moved the project through the mire at City Hall.

“These citizen volunteers went down there and said there’s a better use for this,” he said about the old, barbed wire-ringed police parking lot.

In a most unusual twist on the typical “mixed-use” development around the Hill, 12th Ave Arts will also have two fully tricked out, state of the art performance spaces totaling nearly 6,000 square feet: one with room for 149 seats, the other Studio Stage with an 80-person capacity. Hardcore theater geeks will nerd out at the catwalks above and sound suppression enveloping both venues. Continue reading

12th Ave community group votes for apartment development over city ‘pocket park’

Reverb-Spectrum-11th-And-AlderIn response to a condemnation order placed on a site owned by real estate firm Spectrum Development Solutions at 11th and Alder in order to build a new pocket park, the 12th Avenue Stewards community group has voted unanimously to rescind the order and allow the construction project to continue rather than begin design on a new public space.

Following the vote, Mayor Ed Murray officially withdrew the proposed condemnation order, representatives tell CHS.

“This issue is something that has been difficult for the group,” said Bill Zosel, vice-chair of the 12th Avenue Stewards told CHS in a statement on the vote. Continue reading