Here’s why Capitol Hill’s Galbraith House is being demolished

(Image courtesy John Fox)

Officials at Sound Mental Health tell CHS the decision to demolish a landmarked Capitol Hill mansion comes in the midst of planning about how the property owner can best serve the more than 20,000 people it helps each year struggling with addiction and mental health.

“The number of folks who need support help in our community has increased exponentially,” Sound spokesperson Steve McLean tells CHS.

“Our challenges are myriad — one of our challenges is space.”

CHS posted Tuesday about salvage underway on the 1904-built Galbraith House at 17th and Howell. An application to fully demolish the building that has been used as a Sound — formerly Sound Mental Health — facility and its neighboring carriage house has been approved by the city.

McLean tells CHS that Sound has been evaluating its options for the property for the past several years even before it became unusable in 2017 due to safety and structural issues. “At this stage of this process, we are assessing what we are going to do with that property,” he said. Continue reading

Capitol Hill landmark-protected Galbraith House readied for demolition

It’s been a bit since CHS heard from neighborhood historian and preservationist John Fox. He’s moved off the Hill these days but we’ve learned to listen and take a look when he points us at a piece of Capitol Hill history. John wrote to us recently about a planned demolition at 17th Ave and Howell. Designated an official landmark in 2005, the Galbraith House/Seattle Mental Health building only had its exterior protected in the process. But the landmarks board decided recently to allow “no controls” on the building freeing landowner Sound Mental Health to move forward on its plans for the property. Those apparently include demolition — a permit to demolish the structure was issued on January 3rd. Preservationists have objected to the decision but work is already underway. The giant old house completed in 1904 for Seattle merchant James E. Galbraith and designed by the same architect as 15th Ave’s landmarked Gaslight Inn has been undergoing a salvage by Earthwise who have been nice enough to share some pictures. UPDATE: Here’s more from Sound Mental Health and the landmarks board about why the house is being demolished.

From John Fox
Many have probably noticed this grand Colonial Revival house at the corner of 17th and Howell is now surrounded with construction fencing. It is scheduled for demolition very soon.

It isn’t every day that we lose a building such as this on Capitol Hill. Continue reading

Capitol Hill Historical Society | E Pine’s Colman Automotive on the National Register

Photo by Joe Mabel (Wikimedia)

Colman Automotive in 2014 (Photo by Joe Mabel / Wikimeda)

The Colman Automotive Building entered the National Parks Service’s National Register of Historic Places very recently — in 2013. It is not currently a City of Seattle Landmark, but the national listing is good enough for it to make our Landmarks Profile roundup.

The two-story commercial building covers the short block between Bellevue Ave and Crawford Place on the south side of Pine Street. It was lovingly restored by Hunters Capital in 2012. They took a useful building that was well-known for its first floor tenant Area 51 and turned it into an Auto Row gem that ushers folks up Pine Street and into the neighborhood. Continue reading

CHS Video | Happy 100th birthday to Kelly Springfield (or, why they’re ‘tearing down’ the old Capitol Hill REI)

Though her construction began in 1917, she was actually born a year later so you still have time to get a gift. 11th Ave’s Kelly Springfield Motor Truck building is celebrating 100 years on the planet with a massive facelift. And, let’s be honest. Pretty much all that will be left of her is her face. Longtime CHS video contributor David Albright captured the 11th Ave changes of the former auto row facility, then REI, then Value Village in motion:

Kelly Springfield Motor Truck Building (1917-2017) from David Albright on Vimeo.

Critics call it facadism. Progressive architects — and others — point to the preservation of character and volume. While, indeed, not much is preserved when the preservation projects dig in, the neighborhood’s Conservation Overlay District’s incentive program has produced a handful of very large, more interesting than average developments across Pike/Pine.

The Kelly Springfield office + preservation project is on its way to becoming another one. But getting there looks more like a demolition than a preservation. Continue reading

‘Contemporary furniture’ retailer Blu Dot opening showroom on Capitol Hill

Minimalist but friendly, Blu Dot is bringing one its few worldwide showrooms to an auto row building on Capitol Hill that has been home to furniture before.

CHS has learned that the Minneapolis-headquartered furniture, design, and lifestyle brand will open a Seattle showroom on the corner of Pine and Crawford Place in the Colman Automotive building that is currently a whir of construction activity for a seismic overhaul and tenant upgrades. The work will create the new Blu Dot store and a new restaurant project lined up to neighbor it as well as a rooftop bar. The building was the longtime home of original and vintage furniture concern Area 51.

There are currently only five Blu Dot showrooms around the world. The most recent addition opened in Chicago this winter. UPDATE: “Blu Dot currently has six stores in the U.S. and nine stores globally,” a company rep tells CHS. Continue reading

Elliott Bay Book Company-friendly buyer found for Capitol Hill’s Ford Building

(Image: Hunters Capital)

(Image: Hunters Capital)

Hunters Capital, owners of the Ford Building, which houses Elliott Bay Book Company, the Little Oddfellows cafe, and fashion retailer Totokaelo, have found a likely buyer for the property.

Jill Cronauer, Chief Operating Officer with Hunters, said the company has a letter of intent with a local buyer.

“It’s not some big, national conglomerate,” Mike Oaksmith, director of development at Hunters said at a Monday Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council meeting.

The potential buyer’s identity and any agreements on price are under wraps for now. Continue reading

Rapha Seattle opens on Capitol Hill this week

In October of 2013, neighbors enjoyed one final night at Bauhaus inside its original Melrose and Pine location. The only activity at the corner since has involved hard hats and construction crews building the eight-story, preservation incentive-boosted Excelsior Apartments above the old block formerly home to the cafe and a collection of independent shops and a small handful of apartments.

That will change this week as global cycling brand Rapha is ready to debut its latest “clubhouse” retail and cafe concept on the corner:

We’re thrilled to announce the opening of Rapha Seattle on Wednesday, March 22nd at 8AM. Rapha Seattle will offer the latest Rapha products, host events and exhibitions, serve the finest coffee as well as screen live road racing throughout the year. We hope to see you soon.
Continue reading

‘Sellers’ market’ — The Ford Building, home to Elliott Bay Book Company, up for sale

Elliott Bay Book Company (Image: CHS)

Elliott Bay Book Company (Image: CHS)

With its neighbor already on the block for a potential sale, another centerpiece of Pike/Pine auto row preservation, culture, and arts is having its tires kicked by prospective buyers.

Word spread Wednesday that the Ford Building, the 97-year-old former auto row warehouse now home to Elliott Bay Book Company, the Little Oddfellows cafe, and upscale fashion retailer Totokaelo has been put on the market touting its “100% leased” status, its place as a “prime Capitol Hill retail creative space,” and its hosting of an “iconic master tenant” —

Jones Lang LaSalle is pleased to present the opportunity to acquire a 100% fee simple interest in the The Ford Building (“The Property”), a one-story building with two street level retail spaces, located in Seattle’s historic Capitol Hill submarket. The property’s location is walking distance to the city’s Central Business District, and a plethora of city destinations, including dining, retail, medical, professional, public transportation, Seattle Central Community College, Seattle University, the Northwest School, and Cal Anderson Park. The property has easy access to convenient transit and commuter options, only 1 block from the Capitol Hill Street Car stop and 2 blocks from the Light Rail station.

“This offering represents a unique opportunity to invest in a 100% leased property with a stable retail income stream and future development potential located in one of Seattle’s hottest and growing neighborhoods,” the pitch from the Jones Lang LaSalle real estate firm concludes.

If and when it is redeveloped, the building is eligible for Pike/Pine’s preservation incentives which provide potentially lucrative extra height and bulk bonuses for saving building facades of character structures.

Development opportunity aside, current owner Capitol Hill developer Hunters Capital says the building’s existing tenants are one of its greatest assets.

“We have thought long and hard about selling one of our buildings,” Hunters chief operating officer Jill Cronauer tells CHS. “We add value to properties and feel we have maximized the improvements in the Ford Building through restoration and implementing long term leases with strong retail tenants. It’s a strong sellers’ market and we would like to take the capital and reinvest in another property where there is room to add value.” Continue reading

What Capitol Hill’s new Kelly Springfield office building will look like

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Here is a Pike/Pine history lesson. In 2013, CHS reported on a mixed-use apartment, office, and commercial development being planned to incorporate the 11th Ave block home to the REI-rooted, auto row-era buildings housing The Stranger and Value Village. Nearly four years later, the developers behind the project are ready with what could be the final design for a reduced, apartment-less version of that original plan.

With final design approval Wednesday, the new project will mean an overhaul and new life for Value Village’s old mid-block Kelly-Springfield Motor Truck Company building and its landmark-protected exterior. But thanks to landmark status both inside and out, the lucky old one-time home to White Motor Company next door — where The Stranger still does its thing — at 11th and Pine will live on untouched by the new Kelly Springfield project and its planned 65,000 square feet of office space, 12,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space, and parking for around 30 vehicles — none of them probably “motor trucks.”

The project faces what should be its final design review after years of meetings with everything from the design review board, to the landmarks board, to community groups, Wednesday night: Continue reading

CHS Pics | Last visit to Capitol Hill’s Value Village-REI-Kelly Springfield building

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Last week before the holiday weekend, the neighborhood had one last chance to say goodbye to the old Capitol Hill Value Village before a landmarks-protected, preservation-friendly office and commercial redevelopment of the nearly 100-year-old building. A Punk Rock Flea Market was a fitting end to its era as a thrift store. Images from the final nights in the space show a few glimpses of the structure’s deeper past.

Dubbed the Kelly-Springfield Motor Truck Company building for its first tenant after construction in 1917 and built as an investment development for $70,000 in the midst of World War I, the “Chicago School style,” concrete frame building with red brick, parapets and window spandrels was home to an important player in the area’s burgeoning auto row economy: Continue reading