You had better get your piece of Capitol Hill’s old auto row soon. The market is hot. Capitol Hill-based developer Hunters Capital announced it has purchased the Stanley Automotive Building at the corner of E Pine and Bellevue for $3.85 million and plans to restore the 1910 building — and home to vintage furniture shop Area 51 — in a $200,000 overhaul.
“The Stanley Automotive Building is a classic from Capitol Hill’s ‘Auto Row’ days,” said Hunters Capital head Michael Malone said in a statement announcing the deal. “We are honored to be the new owners and will work carefully through the restoration process, remaining sensitive to the historic integrity of this iconic turn of the century building.”
Artist Jason Hallman, one of the partners behind Area 51, tells CHS he is happy with his new landlords and confirms that Area 51 will remain a tenant in the building. “Area 51 is thrilled to have a fine organization like Hunters Capital take over the stewardship of the building,” Hallman told CHS.
According to Hunters Capital, it plans to execute a $200,000 restoration of the building over the next six months to “restore the building’s façade to original stature.”
Completed in 1910, Hunters says the 20,000 square-foot masonry building was originally designed as a garage housing a variety of auto-related businesses that also included Cox Motor Car Co., Reo Truck, Co., Robert Taylor auto repair and the United Motors Co. Inc. The building is listed on a roster of Pike/Pine properties that cannot be demolished under the neighborhood’s preservation incentive program. CHS’s most recent look at Capitol Hill auto row history is here.
The purchase comes amid a flurry of activity in Pike/Pine as massive real estate transactions are being played out by developers eager to be part of the area’s growth and some of the generous incentives available for preserving the “character” of historic facades and building features.
Early tests of the Pike/Pine Conservation Overlay, however, reveal a challenging terrain for development. This plan for a 10th at Union development that would have wiped out three old structures while preserving a fourth couldn’t get by the city’s design review process and a revamp of plans is underway. Developers for the project are now meeting with neighborhood community representatives to discuss alternatives before returning to the board.
Still, the market to acquire Pike/Pine land appears strong. Late last month, an investor swept in with $14.9 million to buy the large BMW campus of buildings between Pike and Pine with plans to develop a mixed-use building at the site of the former auto showroom. Another sale is expected soon for the Sunset Electric auto row-era building at 11th and Pine. Meanwhile, another showroom appears to be on the market as E Pike’s Mercedes dealership will be on the move by 2013. If you find yourself in possession of a 1910-1920 former auto garage on Capitol Hill, you might consider getting that Craigslist posted quickly.
The seller in the Stanley Automotive transaction is listed as the Legg Family, LLC. The Leggs appear to have owned the property for decades though King County records can make it difficult to trace ownership of Seattle’s longest-held properties. The current home of Area 51 was once home to something called Video Supermarket — hence the huge, no longer lit neon VIDEO sign hanging from the building’s Pine front. The Bellevue side was also home at one time to Moroccan restaurant Mamounia.
The building is kitty-corner to the now-demolished Marion Apartments where construction of a 118-unit mixed-use project is underway.
Hunters Capital has been a very active player in the “adaptive reuse” of Pike/Pine. Its most visible and widely acknowledged project was the effort to bring Elliott Bay Book Co. to Capitol Hill but Hunters has also successfully put auto row properties back to work by attracting technology and design startups to the neighborhood and continuing to recruit new tenants even through some of the trials and tribulations of retail. It is also behind some of the new development in the area with the completion of the Broadway Building in spring 2010. A list of Hunters Capital properties is here.
“While many new developments have begun to take shape in the historic neighborhood, a valued and select number are original stock or have been rejuvenated for today’s residents, retailers, restaurants and businesses,” Hunters said in its statement announcing the purchase. “The Stanley Automotive Building is Hunters’ latest effort to preserve what was once Seattle’s ‘Auto Row’ and to build a broader base of commercial business and day time retail fostering a diverse neighborhood and community.”