Capitol Hill gets ‘efficient’ as two new-era microhousing projects face design review

"It doesn't feel like microhousing at all!" -- Guy in rendering

“It doesn’t feel like microhousing at all!” — Guy in rendering

As CHS reported last fall, Seattle’s new microhousing rules left plenty of room for aPodment-style development on Capitol Hill. One of the biggest asks for microhousing critics was to subject the “efficiency unit” building type to the Seattle design review process. Critics — and the rest of us — can see their dreams become reality at Wednesday night’s meeting of the East Design Review Board.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 2.13.46 PMBoylston Flats
1404 Boylston is familiar territory for the board. The seven-story “affordable” apartment building with 105 units averaging around 440 square feet a piece and slated to replace the 1905-built Emerald City Manor apartments took its first run through early design guidance back in November.

At that meeting, the board didn’t like what it saw and kicked the project back to microhousing developers Tyler Carr and Kelten Johnson and architect S+H Works to sort out the issues for another EDG round. Continue reading

CHS Pics | Slummit Block Party, LLC

(Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

(Images: Alex Garland for CHS)

IMG_6877Last week, CHS reported that the artist enclave Summit Inn had been sold to a developer with plans to transform the Inn “into conventional apartments” with a total overhaul and inevitably higher rents.

Saturday night, some of the Inn’s remaining residents and other Summit Ave neighbors got together for a winter edition of the block’s annual music festival. Here are a few scenes from this weekend’s Slummit Block Party, LLC.

Meanwhile, the Summit Inn’s new owner Brad Padden‘s plan — “Substantial Alterations to an existing 40-unit apartment building. Renovate all units and decrease unit count to 35 small efficiency dwelling units” — is wending its way through the Department of Planning and Development.

#caphillpsa: Capitol Hill signs — Starbucks apologies, Comet code of conduct, City Market on Tom Brady’s balls

(Image: Comet Tavern)

(Image: Comet Tavern)

It’s a sign. One of the most effective ways to communicate your thoughts on the Hill on the Hill is to create a big, giant sign. CHS has a pile of Capitol Hill sign updates to share, below.

  • As you can imagine, we’ve been sent the Starbucks apologies banner that popped up on the side of Benson’s Grocery several times over the weekend. But Dan Nolte sent it first.

    This appeared on Bellevue at Pike over the weekend -- thanks to @noltedan (and everybody else) for sending

    This appeared on Bellevue at Pike over the weekend — thanks to @noltedan (and everybody else) for sending

  • We assume the sign makers “Mark and Sam” are referring to this. But maybe they meant this?
  • Benson’s, by the way, knows a little about the city’s on-premises advertising rules regarding signage.
  • We look forward to the Amazon, Microsoft, and CHS editions of the apology banners. Continue reading

CHS Pics | Rising above the relentless development of Capitol Hill

IMG_3672IMG_3662IMG_3668Don’t let the relentless change of Capitol Hill get you down. Rise above. Seattle photographer Alex Garland — our busiest CHS photography contributor — took a climb on our behalf Thursday afternoon above 501 E Pike on the construction crane helping to build the eight-story Dunn Automotive development, a project its backer says will set a standard for new buildings utilizing the Pike/Pine Conservation District’s preservation incentives.

The views, we think, will help you remember you live in an amazing city full of incredible sights. And, yes, you’ll also see a lot of cranes. Continue reading

New owner, higher rents bringing an end to the Summit Inn DIY house and artist collective 

The freewheeling, DIY days of Capitol Hill’s Summit Inn are coming to an end. The culprit? Higher rents, of course.

Longtime building owner Pete Sikov recently sold the Inn to real estate investor Brad Padden, who residents say is raising rents in an effort to transform units into conventional apartments. Residents at the 1722 Summit Ave building that spoke with CHS said many of the building’s artists and musicians are now moving out, or planning to in the coming weeks.

On December 31st, residents were notified that rents would increase by around $100 and continue to increase for the foreseeable future. “We understand that the living conditions at the Summit Inn are in need of a major makeover. We will begin that process immediately,” said the letter form the building’s new manager, David Sharkey. Continue reading

Thanks to auto row and REI roots, The Stranger building to join neighboring Value Village as protected landmarks

One of Pike/Pine’s most recognizable auto-row buildings is likely to remain intact for decades to come thanks to a gush of neighborhood support and a key vote on Wednesday.

The Landmarks Preservation Board voted 8-0 to designate the White Motor Company building an official city landmark, citing its auto row-era roots and ties to one of the nation’s most widely known outdoor retailers. The landmark bid now moves to City Council for final approval.

“It is very easily identifiable, even to those not familiar with Capitol Hill,” said board member Deb Barker.

An early component of Seattle’s REI history and now home to The Stranger and the Rhino Room, the prominent terra cotta-faced building at 11th and Pine has stood above Cal Anderson Park since it was was constructed in 1918.

REI voiced support for White Motor’s landmark bid, but the outdoor retailer has not said if it has any future plans to become more involved with the building. An REI spokesperson would only say the company was following the landmarks process “with interest.”

A landmark designation, along with the recent landmark designation of the adjacent Value Village building, threaten to halt plans for a preservation incentive-powered development project by owner Legacy Commercial though appeals could be in the offing.

Members of the public spoke in favor of a landmark designation on Wednesday and the board had previously received dozens of letters in support of the bid. With relatively little deliberation, the board also voted to landmark the building’s third floor interior wooden beams. Continue reading

Last chance to have your say (via email) on 11th/Pine as Seattle landmark

IMG_2175-600x400Screen-Shot-2014-11-18-at-12.39.48-PM-600x357Wednesday afternoon, the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board will decide whether it will extend its protections to the White Motor Company building at the corner of 11th and Pine. You might know it as The Stranger building.

The Wednesday vote follows a decision by the board earlier this month to protect the building’s neighboring auto row-era structure with REI roots currently home to Value Village. The White Motor Company has a similar auto row and REI mixed pedigree — and, the board decided in December, it also has an impressive enough interior that it, too, could be worthy of the board’s ongoing oversight.

Wednesday’s meeting includes an opportunity for public comment but you can also provide your thoughts via email to Sarah Sodt – Pike/Pine coordinator for the landmarks program. In its deliberations about the two early twentieth century structures, the board has consistently cited the many comments and shows of public support for the building it has received. CHS wrote here about efforts by preservation advocates to win protections for the buildings.

It’s not clear what impact the landmarks designations would have on the plans for a large office and commercial space development planned to integrate the facades and massing of the historical structures. A representative for real estate developer Legacy Commercial told CHS after the decision on the Value Village/Kelly Springfield building that it was too early to say what bearing the vote would have on his company’s plans to for a Pike/Pine’s preservation incentive-powered development.

#blacklivesmatter: As the Central District blanches, a house speaks


Inye Wokoma inside his mother’s former house (Image: Casey Jaywork)

On New Year’s Eve, Inye Wokoma joined three of his brothers to tour the gutted skeleton of a house on Marion. “This was our mother’s house,” he later told friends, “owned by our grandparents, and the center of our childhood and young adult lives.” Strapped for cash, the family recently decided to sell the house and reinvest the proceeds into adjacent rental properties.

The house’s story is a microcosm of the Central District, the historically black and increasingly white series of neighborhoods between downtown and Lake Washington. “The black vitality of the Central Area was mighty and strong” during the post-WWII decades, says longtime resident Vivian Phillips. From 1940 to 1960, the black population of Seattle grew by more than 600%. Phillips describes the CD of that time as a bastion of black business, black community, and black activism.

But in recent decades that outpost of what some call “the African diaspora” has been eroding. In 1990, the CD’s black residents outnumbered whites by nearly three-to-one, writes Seattle University’s Henry McGee, Jr. By the turn of the millennium, whites had become the majority. “You can call it displacement, you can call it an exodus,” says Wokoma. “The community I grew up with no longer exists… People basically dispersed and found places where they could afford to live.” Places, that is, outside Seattle. Continue reading

It’s time to put the arts in 12th Ave Arts as new Capitol Hill stages come to life

The Sprawl set gets some paint inside 12th Ave Arts (Image: WET)

The Sprawl set gets some paint inside 12th Ave Arts (Image: WET)

The lights are up, the seats are set, and production managers are geeking out over new equipment. The inaugural season of theater at 12th Avenue Arts is ready to commence.

12th Ave’s three resident theater groups have been settling into their two black box spaces since the lights went on in November at the Capitol Hill Housing arts and affordable apartments complex. Strawberry Theatre Workshop, Washington Ensemble Theatre, and New Century Theatre Company have solidified their first slate of plays, which kick off next week. Continue reading

In contentious expansion of Swedish Hospital, Squire Park neighbors struggle for balance

Screenshot 2015-01-11 at 8.28.50 PM

Today’s Swedish Cherry Hill campus

Surrounded by soft lighting and beige carpet, the three microphones pass back and forth across the tabletops as the committee members address one another in the calm tone of an extended sigh. “The administrative errors that have been made have since been fixed,” says one member. Another asks about traffic mitigation. Soft lighting bounces off the white ceiling. Starbucks coffee marinates in urns beside a tray of supermarket cookies and a small fort of pizza boxes. On the wall, two projector screens display a screensaver.

Then the public comment period begins.

“This is one of the most depressing and terrible things that I do in my month,” resident Abel Bradshaw tells the committee. “I’m tired of coming to these meetings and seeing our neighborhood chewed away at with words.”

She’s referring to the proposed expansion of Swedish Hospital’s Cherry Hill campus, which is co-owned by the nonprofit hospital and by the Sabey Corporation, a private developer. The Community Advisory Committee (CAC) she’s addressing has spent the better part of two years considering the expansion proposal (called a Major Institution Master Plan, or MIMP), which essentially asks the city for special zoning permissions on account of the hospital’s good deeds.

The neighbors of Squire Park aren’t buying it.

“This is just absurd and should be rejected out of hand,” says resident Murray Anderson.

“It’s just too big,” says resident Ken Torp. “It is three pounds of manure in a two-pound bag.”

“I urge the CAC to reject, in its entirety…the MIMP,” says resident Jack Hanson. “Send Swedish back to the drawing board.” Continue reading

We would have called it The Taco Time Apartments

Surprisingly, won't be marketed as The Taco Time Building (Image: Johnson Architecture)

Surprisingly, won’t be marketed as The Taco Time Apartments (Image: Johnson Architecture)

The East Design Review Board convenes Wednesday night to take a first look at a six-story project slated to replace a rejected Capitol Hill landmark and what the developers hope will be a final look at the long-planned apartment building on the site of a different sort of Capitol Hill landmark — the old E Madison Taco Time.

Broadcast Apartments
Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 4.34.15 PMA brand new buyer and a marketing brand for the new project accompany the plan for a six-story apartment development at 1420 E Madison across from the super-green Bullitt Center in the now-empty lot where Taco Time once stood. Last April, we speculated whether the sale of the property by the family behind the Taco Time chain would open up a new life for the project that had so far experienced a rather critical trip through the design review process after the old fast food restaurant was razed back in 2009. Continue reading

Hill Wonk | Dreaming big — asking ‘What if?’ — invites us to imagine a shared future

We’ve asked Zachary Pullin, Vice President of the Capitol Hill Community Council, to contribute to CHS about community civics and politics on a monthly basis. If you’re an expert and want to share with the community in a recurring CHS column, we’d like to hear from you.

Martin Luther King Jr. (discoverblackheritage, flickr)

[This is dedicated to a special woman, K. Toering.]

Sitting at the back of the theater — the din of people shuffling in, a lingering aroma of freshly-made popcorn — I waited for the film to begin.

Selma, shown as part of a special community screening for communities of color groups and organizations, portrays one of our country’s most critical chapters in civil rights history. Before it began, she stood at the front of the theater and looked out at all of us, smiling. The type of smile born of confidence in the creation of something that evolves into more than imagined, and she asked, “What if?” Continue reading

The belated development at 22nd and Madison

The giant, 200+ unit project planned for the north side of E Madison was planned to have this massive internal courtyard

The giant, 200+ unit project planned for the north side of E Madison was planned to have this massive internal courtyard

“I started drinking with Deano in about 2005,” says Jim Mueller, referring to the eponymous owner of a bar that long made E Madison west of 22nd Ave its home. Mueller, a local, says that after leaving development giant Vulcan, he wanted to work on his own neighborhood. “It has long been obvious to me that some investment was needed,” he says. So he began working on plans for a mixed retail and apartment building on the site.

“This is a key neighborhood block and one of the last yet to be redeveloped on that stretch of Madison — Seattle’s only Sound-to-lake corridor,” The Seattle Times reported in 2008. “Its renewal would finally bring to this locale the kind of gentrification that has been taking place east and west of it and throughout much of the Central Area.”

“And then we had a recession,” Mueller says. “It was a project interrupted.”

Continue reading

Capitol Hill Value Village building with auto row and REI roots wins landmarks status but how much protection will it afford?

REI called 11th Ave home during its early growth as a retailing giant (Image: REI)

REI called 11th Ave home during its early growth as a retailing giant (Image: REI)

You already knew this but Capitol Hill’s Value Village is a landmark.

Or it will be after a City Council vote.

Wednesday afternoon, the Seattle Landmarks Board voted 9-0 to designate the historic Kelly-Springfield Motor Truck Company building as an official Seattle landmark saying the building held special significance in the neighborhood due to its history in the early years of REI and its place in the “economic heritage of auto row.”

As a landmark, the building will be afforded special protections and alterations to its exterior will be subject to review by the board. But the designation may not stave off development planned for the site.

A representative for real estate developer Legacy Commercial said it was too early to say what bearing the vote would have on his company’s plans to use Pike/Pine’s preservation incentives to create a 75-foot tall office building above street-level commercial space with the property. The building is owned by the Ellison family that founded the Value Village chain.

One likely next step could be an appeal of the board’s decision. Another representative for the developer called the Kelly-Springfield building “a middling example” of auto row-era architecture in asking the board not to support designation of the property.

CHS wrote about the Kelly-Springfield nomination here. The neighboring White Motor Company building — currently home to The Stranger — will take its turn in front of the board on January 21st after successfully moving through the first round of the landmarks process in December. In that session, the REI connection for the two buildings was firmly established and the board was swayed to consider not only the 1918 building’s exterior but also its classic auto row-era guts including the three-story structure’s impressive upper-story truss.

In voting for landmark status for the current home of Value Village Wednesday, the board cited the many letters it had received from the public in support of protecting the buildings and the connection to REI as a significant factor in the decision. “The building has industrial automotive significance,” one board member said. “Letters have expressed that the building conveys that significance.”

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.