Rooftop restaurant and ‘marketplace’ planned for 7-story Melrose/Pine development

unnamedIn a city that loves a good view, a seven-story high rooftop restaurant on the precipice of Capitol Hill overlooking downtown sounds like a no brainer. Connected to a ground floor “marketplace,” developers behind a planned project at Pine and Melrose are hoping to make a staggering addition to a burgeoning part of the neighborhood.

Plans from SolTerra developers call for a tiered mixed-used building to rise up where a parking lot now stands, and include 70 residential units, a top floor restaurant, and ground floor retail. A facade made of sloping terraces at Esker — a term for a ridge — are envisioned to give residents outdoor spaces with commanding views over downtown while dampening the roar of I-5 below.

“We want to take advantage of the views and Seattle doesn’t have a ton of rooftop hangout spots,” said SolTerra president Brian Heather. “Rather than just put this monolith there, we wanted something that would gracefully greet you as you come up the hill.”

For years, a parking lot at Pine and Melrose has served as the rather drab gateway to Capitol Hill from downtown. Continue reading

Demolition clears the way for Broadway Whole Foods and 16-story apartment building

Demolition season continues around Capitol Hill. Here is the apocalyptic scene currently underway where First Hill meets Capitol Hill and the 16-story Whole Foods mixed-use apartment building is slated to rise.

Crews have spent the week tearing down the 1928-built, three-story masonry medical building at the tri-corner of Harvard, Broadway, and Madison. They have plenty more to go. The work at the corner is heavy with the smell of mildewy dust and the satisfying thuds of large vehicles of destruction laying waste to decades-old infrastructure. Continue reading

Design reviews: 30 stories on First Hill, 6 off E Madison

Destined to rise above First Hill at 800 Columbia

Destined to rise above First Hill at 800 Columbia

Fans of skyscrapers will enjoy one part of the design reviews slated to come before the East Design Review Board Wednesday night. They might scoff at the other.

A 30-story residential tower destined for 8th and Columbia on First Hill will finish the night Wednesday but not before the board — and some concerned neighbors — have their say on a proposed project at 20th and Madison that is seeking a, gasp, contract rezone from the area’s 40-foot limit to a whopping 65 feet… hey, skyscraper folks, stop giggling. Continue reading

Mandatory Housing Affordability in Seattle? Sign us up

From the Mandatory Housing Affordability presentation planned to be part of Tuesday's committee meeting

From the Mandatory Housing Affordability presentation planned to be part of Tuesday’s committee meeting

Seattle affordable housing proponents — there seem to be more and more even if Capitol Hill rents aren’t exactly dropping — say legislation coming before the City Council’s planning committee starting Tuesday morning could be the key to unlocking the lion’s share of the 20,000 units of affordable housing Mayor Ed Murray has called for.

Mandatory Housing Affordability — part of Seattle’s “Grand Bargain” — will link the creation of affordable housing with market-rate development by requiring all new multifamily buildings to make 5-8% of their units affordable to those making 60% of the area median income — or require developers to pay into an affordable housing fund.

Here is the call to arms from Brock Howell of Seattle for Everyone:

If passed, MHA would unlock 6,100 much needed affordable homes across Seattle – that’s fully 30% of the 20,000 affordable homes that Mayor Murray plans to build in the next 10 years through HALA and the Housing Levy. MHA leverages development of new, market-rate housing to fuel affordable homes – it’s the HALA model writ large, and it’s an incredible opportunity for the city to put roofs over the heads of more people who need them.

Howell and others are hoping the turnout at City Hall Tuesday morning is strong. If you aren’t planning to be in City Council chambers, the easier way to participate is to email the committee’s chair, Rob Johnson, at

Tuesday’s committee discussion and public hearing will build on the resolution passed last fall as the Council members consider the legislation to update the Seattle Municipal Code. Rezoning and upzones in certain key areas like 23rd and Union are also part of the proposal: Continue reading

How three projects used incentives to create E Pike’s ‘preservation’ row

Capitol Hill’s preservation incentivized construction projects are hard to miss, with their large iron braces supporting thin brick walls as seven or eight stories of shiny new development rise above. The merits of these projects and the preservation incentive program the helped create them have been debated since the rules were passed in 2009. Whether you think it pure facadism or a unique expression of a neighborhood in transition, preservation projects have come to represent the modern era of Capitol Hill development.

While the incentives have been tweaked over time, the conservation rules are based on a fairly straightforward premise: developers get potentially lucrative extra height and bulk bonuses for saving building facades or character structures in their projects. For preservation-minded developers like Hunters Capital, the incentives offered under the Pike/Pine Conservation District have made saving some of Capitol Hill’s auto-row past a feasible business decision.

“Density is going to happen in an area like Capitol Hill,” said Michael Oaksmith, development director at Hunters Capital. “Your alternative is to just crash down the entire building.”

13 of 22 projects within the conservation district have used the incentives since 2011. City Hall is currently preparing yet another update.The Pike/Pine Conservation District’s revised guidelines are currently available for review here. Three projects along three blocks of E Pike wrapping up construction and coming into the Capitol Hill rental market offer a good survey of the different forms the projects have taken:

  • AVA Capitol Hill, 600 E Pike — Avalon Bay
  • Pike Motorworks, 714 E Pike — Wolff Company
  • Dunn Motors, 501 E Pike — Hunters Capital

Continue reading

Have your say on Seattle U 12th and Madison development plans including 10-story dorm

"View West on Madison"

“View West on Madison”

As a “major institution,” Seattle University has to go about building things a little differently. Monday night brings what could be the last chance for the public to weigh in on the school’s plans for a new 10-story dorm and office building on E Madison and a transformation of the ground floor of the storage facility at 12th and Madison into the new home of the Seattle U campus book store.

Not subject to the design reviews typical of big development around Seattle, the school is, however, subject to an advisory committee’s approval of its plans. The Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council is encouraging people interested in the Seattle U project to attend Monday, June 20th’s meeting of the Seattle University Standing Advisory Committee:

Monday, June 20th, 5:30 to 7:30 PM
Seattle University, 901 12th Ave, Stuart T Rolfe Room, Ground Floor to the left of the Main Entry

UPDATE: New Location —  1000 E James Way – Student Center conference room 210 **The Student Center is located on the Seattle University campus, where 11th Ave and E James Way would intersect**

This group advises the City of Seattle and Seattle University on issues related to the design and construction of new buildings and other projects proposed under the City-adopted Seattle University Master Plan.

“SU is proposing a major redevelopment of the site they own at the southwest corner of 12th and Madison,” the PPUNC announcement reads. “Scope includes the Public Storage Urban Self Storage Building as well as the parking lot immediately to its west. This type of project will not go through Design Review, so this is your chance to opine.” Continue reading

Survey: What iconic Capitol Hill businesses need saving?

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 11.32.25 AMAffordability in Seattle isn’t just an issue for residents trying to afford the rent. The city’s small businesses need help, too. As Seattle looks at options like commercial rent control,  Lisa Herbold, chair of the City Council’s Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development & Arts committee, has a question for you:

Greetings, Businesses and Community Groups,

I’m writing to ask for your help as I develop a “Seattle Legacy Business Program” proposal, which is intended to help preserve the bars, restaurants, cafés, and shops that give Seattle its unique character and sense of community. With the recent pace of development, neighborhood gems like Silver Fork, Mama’s Kitchen, and Piecora’s  Pizza have been lost, and aren’t likely to return.

I’m working with partner organizations to:

  • Survey community members to identify our most important business establishments
  • Identify elements that contribute to the culture, character, and history of Seattle; and
  • Establish tools to protect them.

I hope you’ll take a moment to take this quick survey, so we can learn from you what businesses in your neighborhood you’ve loved and lost or fear may be in peril.  You can learn more about the proposal here. We want this effort to inform the Mayor’s Commercial Affordability Taskforce’s efforts moving forward in determining what policies/funding support may be necessary to preserve and protect Seattle’s iconic small businesses.

Thank you for your consideration, and please let me know if you have any questions.

As usual, we encourage you to “work out loud” and share a few thoughts in the CHS comments. Feel free to nominate CHS :)

One note on the announcement of the survey. While the loss of Piecora’s was certainly a marker of nostalgia-pulverizing change on Capitol Hill, it probably doesn’t make a very good poster child for Herbold’s cause. The family behind the much-loved pizza joint did just fine in the $10.3 million acquisition of the property.

Demolitions make way for Capitol Hill future, reveal Capitol Hill past

Revealed Remnant of Capitol Hill's Past

Early June became demolition season on Capitol Hill this week as three old buildings came down, raising clouds of musty dust and nostalgia in mostly equal measure. For the two most Capitol Hill memory-filled structures, we had some warning as the wrecking crews came for the old Broadway post office and the longtime 11th Ave home of Hugo House. Fewer knew about the impending doom that awaited the Emerald City Manor apartments on Boylston. But we’re guessing there might be some nostalgia floating in the dust over there, too. Continue reading

Queen Anne appeal delays Seattle ‘backyard cottage’ plan

(Images: The backyard cottage blog)

(Images: The backyard cottage blog)

That plan to make it easier to turn the backyard of Capitol Hill and Seattle single family homes into new housing to help ease the city’s crunch…

“No one needs to be told that we’re in a housing crisis right now,” Mike O’Brien said. “Backyard cottages are a great place to add more capacity. They could happen in our single family neighborhoods, which cover the majority of our real estate, and [they] can be done in a way without having some of the visual impacts that some neighbors are concerned about.”

has hit a speed bump in Queen Anne:

The legislation encouraging more backyard cottages has been delayed due to an appeal filed by Marty Kaplan of the Queen Anne Community Council. We are now hoping to vote on the legislation by the end of the year. On May 19th, when the legislation was made public, the Office of Planning and Community Development for the City of Seattle issued a determination that the legislation would not have significant adverse environmental impacts. The Queen Anne Community Council is challenging that determination and will appeal to the Hearing Examiner. The process of being heard by the Hearing Examiner can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months, and we should have a better understanding of the timeline in the next few weeks as the hearing date is scheduled.

An email from Council member Mike O’Brien’s staff revealed the filing Friday afternoon. The appeal document is embedded below.

The staffer email says O’Brien “will continue to pursue non-regulatory strategies to make both backyard cottages and mother-in-law apartments more affordable for homeowners” including “trying to work with the County on reducing or subsidizing the sewer capacity charge, looking into establishing a series of ‘pre-permitted’ designs, creating a guide for homeowners interested in building a backyard cottage, and working with lenders on creative financing tools.”

The appeal comes as Seattle looks for way to increase its housing stock even in areas where single family homes still dominate and amid debate about the role community councils should play in determining city policy and how much clout the groups should hold at City Hall. Continue reading

11th Ave preservation and office development project passes first design review

(Images: Ankrom Moisan)

(Images: Ankrom Moisan)

Wednesday's review (Image: CHS)

Wednesday’s review (Image: CHS)

The project to transform a landmark-protected 11th Ave auto row-era building that also played a big role in the growth of REI and was the longtime home to Capitol Hill’s Value Village will move forward in the city’s review process after approval of its preliminary design at a meeting Wednesday night.

The East Design Review Board signed off on the design that will change the old Value Village space into an office and retail project. Parking and impact on residential and commercial neighbors were discussion points during the meeting. The building’s preservation goals and landmarked exterior were also discussed.

“Preserve and enhance the defining aspects of the landmark building – that’s our main goal here,” said Mack Selberg of Ankrom Moisan architects. Continue reading