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Cluster of funky merchants clearing out for 12th/Pike development

(Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)

B&W Antiques has occupied the same space on Capitol Hill for 28 years: the turn-of-the-century building on the corner of 12th and Pike.

As the property’s owner Investco Financial Corporation prepares to demolish the structure to make way for a new mixed-use development, tenants have been given their 90-day notice of displacement.

Soaring Capitol Hill rents and the potential return on investment from creating new apartment projects are forcing several businesses to find new homes or close their doors, including B&W Antiques.

“It’s a sad thing that this is happening to the Hill,” said B&W owner Bob Leeds.

Affected businesses at 12th and Pike include vintage boutique In Commune, restaurant Bombay Bistro, and the adjacent Trading Post — whose owner will reportedly be moving to Minnesota along with the business.

In Commune owner Sara Hofmann said she plans to move her clothing business online after being unable to find an affordable space to occupy.

“I’m not looking to go into major debt to move my very small business,” she said.

Hofmann said the development is part of what she sees as a troubling trend, as rapid development makes low-rent space harder to come by on Capitol Hill and around Seattle.

“It’s happening so rapidly it doesn’t feel very natural,” she said.

Though she said “not every change in the last 10 years is negative,” Hofmann said she worries that over the next few years, development will make running smaller shops like those on 12th and Pike difficult on Capitol Hill.

A look at the project to come

A look at the project to come

“Part of what allows (small operations) to happen is small spaces with low rent… well, not low, but not $35 per square foot,” she said.

Leeds said he shares Hofmann’s worry about the changing nature of Capitol Hill real estate.

“They’re crowding small businesses out of the city,” he said. “People will have to go off the Hill and out of the neighborhood to find small, independent shops.”

In Commune will be shutting down at the end of the month, while B&W antiques plans to stay open until the mid-September deadline.

In the meantime, the 12th and Pike project will unveil its final design proposal for public review in August.

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35 thoughts on “Cluster of funky merchants clearing out for 12th/Pike development

  1. The truth is as it’s always been that money (making it) is the most important thing. Of course property owners are going to make lots more money by putting up another cookie-cutter building. Reality is that as long as there is demand for what they are making the trend will continue.

  2. Pete Seeger authored and sang his “Little Boxes” song (60s?), ala Daly City tract homes. Now, with big box stores, perhaps it is somehow appropriate that we have “Bigger Boxes” (in the form of these large apartment developments) ala Big Box Stores.

    I, for one, am genuinely sorry to see the demise of the little shops with their individual personalities and wonderful assortment of merchandise getting pushed out in favor of “street front retail space” (ugh!) with their exorbitant rents.

    • Actually, this was written and sung by Malvina Reynolds in 1962, and then recorded by Pete Seeger in 1963. I agree with your points, but lets give this foremother her due.

  3. This is a shame. Not only the businesses, but for the uniqueness of that lot – it looks like there was originally a few SFR’s, and they built storefronts on the front yards. A snapshot of another time when development was rapidly occurring on the hill.

  4. Let me guess…another strip mall of Qdoba, Yogurtland, MOD, some overpriced kids clothing store, an overpriced Pilates studio and a “funky fusion” restaurant?
    Die Yuppie Scum!

  5. Our landmark preservation board has failed us. This building is a landmark. That’s clear to everyone with a brain who lives in the neighborhood. There goes our history for an ugly box of expensive retail.

    • Agreed. Remarkable to me too is that the investor who bought it in 2007 asked for landmark status, spending 3 to 4 years in limbo:

      From the CHS blog: “In 2011, a long, drawn-out process came to an end with the Seattle Landmark Preservation Board rejecting Investco’s request for landmark status for the building originally constructed in the early 1900s as a home and transformed over the years into one of the area’s first examples of mixed-use living.”

      Another Seattle governance fail.

      • “Remarkable to me too is that the investor who bought it in 2007 asked for landmark status”

        – Developers often submit a building to the landmark board, not because they *want* landmark status, but because they want to get the question resolved and out of the way before they start developing – rather than have someone in the community submit later and cause the development to be put on hold. So it’s not about asking for landmark status, so much as it is about controlling the process.

        First time around in 2008, seems that Invesco submitted and then later withdrew the nomination – only to submit again later on. – more at

    • I used to live in this building, it is a shit hole. While I loved my neighbors, the building itself was in terrible condition and Investco were never interested in rehabbing it or even maintaining it. While I doubt I’ll like what goes up in its place, I’m honestly not sad to see it go.

  6. Every aspect of city development and “planning” has failed this city. It’s such a truly lost opportunity to have done density in more thoughtful, interesting and sustainable ways. Especially with so much of the development needing approvals to go beyond current zoning limits (e.g. height). The capital investment firms would still be chomping at the bit for the opportunity to profit even under more controlled circumstances. There are left over traces of previous good efforts seen in requirements on providing some number of lower rent units and 1% for art. I don’t see why those couldn’t be modeled from to create requirements on providing certain amounts of lower rent small business spaces,1% for public transport and limits on numbers of parking units in “luxury urban” buildings, as a start.

  7. Voting with your dollar works. A laundry list of national corporate chains have failed on the hill. Most recently Qdoba. Sadly, we will be stuck with these vacant new builds that no one wanted.

  8. This on rush of development; great that the economy is growing, that people are moving into neighborhoods, need places to buy stuff–from the necessities of life to that discretionary, spur of the moment purchase…but not when what is new becomes another cookie cutter building with retail space that only a corporate chain can afford. All of that new construction in Ballard, for example, almost the Made in America, expensive version of Soviet era constructed apartments. Too many at one time, too many for the neighborhood—housing built around the ideal occupant, that modern resident as researched by tracking the history of purchases from any upscale big box retailer–kind of spooky, NSA uniformity.
    Those SFR properties; why aren’t they worthy of protection? Those unassuming structures are a testament to what the neighborhood once was, more importantly
    how Seattle grew, changing into what we see today…for better or worse.

  9. What intrigues me most about these articles on transitioning Capitol Hill is the angst I readin the comments. I’m in agreement that our preservation standards seem weak, and our design board seems to really lack any teeth whatsoever. But now comes the intriguing part? Where’s the backlash? Who is mounting an effort to revise our development guidelines and our design boards?

    It is wonderful that we live in a neighborhood that cares about the character of their environment, but other than kvetching in this blog, I’m not seeing much effort to revise any of the governing rules that Seattle and developers are using.

    • That takes real effort and conviction. Getting out of the virtual world and into the flesh-and-blood, face-to-face, actually show up world. You know– something more than pounding on a keyboard.

  10. Prost, I have attended a number of meetings addressing various concerns (as have several of my neighbors here on Capitol Hill) only to have people such as Richard Conlin and assorted City of Seattle department officials nod their heads, cluck in sympathy, and go right ahead with their original plan. Honestly, I have walked away from these meetings feeling as though some sort of action regarding our concerns is actually going to occur, simply to find that time will pass and the original actions will go right ahead as though no one has said anything.

    I don’t know what the answer is. I believe in civil action (i.e., voicing my objections or concerns and attempting to come up with a viable alternative) but to no avail. Short of the sort of action that the anarchists engage in (and I will say right here that I will not engage in any sort of property destruction or harm to anything living), what do you propose? I have also written all sorts of letters, to which I have received form letter responses (the SAME form letter, incidentally).

    So I ask again: what do you propose be done?

    • What to be done? Don’t vote for these guys. One concerted effort on one of these council members and let them know why there is an effort to oust them, will make the others pay attention.

      • Well, I should hope that your advice goes without saying but in the event there are people out there who are concerned: MAIL IN YOUR VOTING BALLOT FOR THE AUGUST 6 PRIMARY AND DO NOT VOTE FOR RICHARD CONLIN.

      • Gracie, thanks for your comments. I certainly share your dislike for Richard Conlin, who is clearly in the pocket of rich developers….but unfortunately his opponent is a socialist with left-wing ideas and has no chance of defeating him. Therefore, I will not vote for either of them in August….I’m thinking of a write in candidate “Joe Schmo.”

        But I guess I’m a little more optimistic that citizen action can make a difference to City officials. One example…microhousing…even though Conlin has stubbornly refused to do anything about this, Tom Rasmussen has heard the complaints and it looks like the City Council will take some actions soon to tighten up the regulations on these atrocities. Thanks Tom, boo Conlin!

    • My personal list:
      1. Support the urban planner, architect running for Mayor, Peter Steinbrueck. These credentials are important during this time of unprecedented growth in Seattle. Expect him to remove the long entrenched head of the Department of Planning and Development. Separate the Planning and Development/Construction from each other because it is not a healthy relationship. Since Steinbrueck served on the Council for a decade and headed Land Use before this chaos started, he would know how to accomplish this quickly.

      2. Do not allow developers to sit on the Citizen Design Review Board and Historic Preservation Board at all. Currently one of the top executives for one of the world’s largest construction company sits on the board governing Capitol Hill development. This is not disclosed on the City’s website but a quick Internet search of names and photos makes the conflict of interest clear. When informed, City Council aides say, “All the design review boards are loaded with developers. That is a given.”

      3. Rent hikes are being fueled by a perception of shortage, not actual supply and demand which was studied by the Seattle Weekly. Microhousing units which are extremely cheap to build as well as tax subsidized are being marketed at rates double or triple the regular square footage which is jacking up the rents everywhere. The current attitude from the Mayor’s Office and DPD is making it hard not to tear down and develop because regulations are so lax and developer friendly.

      4. Attend several City Council sessions and you will get a much clearer picture of Council members actually interested in the health of Seattle for ALL citizens–not just those with lots of money. It is easy after that to eliminate people like Richard Conlin, Mike O’Brien, Sally Clark. You start to admire Nick Licata and Tom Rassmussen for their willingness to question what the Department of Planning and Development recommends for Seattle’s future. Remember that these elected officials live in single family houses in single family neighborhoods where little of this is happening.

      5. Join some of the neighborhood groups like the Capitol Hill Coalition, Seattle Speaks Up, and Reasonable Density Seattle.

      6. Slow the current vision of creating a utopian green society of high rise microdwellings with no public space, nor parking only haphazard transportation systems all in the same place. This vision is making a lot of money for the developers and construction companies selling this idea. More careful study is needed of the current situation. Neighborhoods need to be consulted instead of top down decisions.

      Everyone should have access to public vistas of mountains, water, sky and sunlight. Not just those with money. We want to share our streets and sidewalks with people who are happy to be living here. We also want small, locally owned businesses to thrive so each community has it’s own identity in the larger city. The current climate of greed from developers and city leadership is leaving us with a dull, homogenized, crime ridden neighborhood!

      • Excellent comments and suggestions!! I agree with every one of them.

        As far as the upcoming primary, I would suggest that citizens look closely at voting for Albert Shen instead of Mike O’Brien. Mr. Shen is much more likely to take a more modest and balanced approach to urban development. O’Brien is just an errand boy for McGinn.

  11. This is garbage and has to stop. Seattle and Capitol Hill in specific are losing pieces of our history one “mixed use” building at a time. These buildings price out stores that normal people can afford to operate in favor or corporate owned chain and cookie cutter stores. The condos above them are pricing us right out of our neighborhoods as well. We are being replaced one building at a time.

    First our beloved shops are forced to shutter their doors and close. Then the building gets demolished. When the new one goes up, a few hundred Microsofties and Amazon a-holes move in because the rents and prices are so exorbitant that we can’t afford it anymore. This happens block by block until every business and average low to middle class person has been replaced by these corporate cookie cutter buildings, businesses and techies. Welcome to the new Capitol Hill.


    • Many of those affected by the ostentatious reshaping of their once purely upmarket neighborhoods said that they often wish for a return back to the privileged communities they helped to overdevelop just a few years ago. Among the first to feel the effects of the encroaching aristocracy have been local business owners like Fort Greene, Brooklyn resident Neil Getz.

      “Around here, you used to be able to get a Fair-Trade latte and a chocolate-chip croissant for only eight bucks,” said Getz, who is planning to move back in with his parents after being forced out of the lease on his organic grocery store by a harpsichord purveyor. “Now it’s all tearooms and private salon gatherings catered with champagne and suckling pig. Who can afford that?”,2419/

  12. I really think zoning rules should be changed to encourage smaller, cheaper spaces in new buildings for small businesses to survive on the Hill. On our current trajectory we are becoming Bellevue. Bellevue is fine but it’s not Seattley.

  13. Amen, HillFan. Unfortunately this is a well-known cycle–gays and artists and such move into a neighborhood and make it fun and funky and beautiful. Next rich people come in because they like what we’ve built and start forcing us out, meanwhile making the neighborhood more like what they are used to–suburban crap. Gays and artists and other low-income people move to another neighborhood and invest their love and sweat and tears until it’s fabulous and then they have to pick up and move again. As the well-known rant says, “this is why we can’t have nice things”. I think perhaps one of these times we should only beautify the insides of our dwellings and keep that a secret. Also rich techies taking over is another new cycle–witness the recent article on NPR saying doctors even have trouble affording San Francisco now because of the tech jobs. And to those tech people reading this who think–so what, we work hard, we deserve it? So do the rest of us! We can’t help it that your specialty is often rewarded far out of proportion with others that require just as much (or more) talent, hard work, and study. Many of us have advanced degrees and years in our fields. Add the entitled attitudes of some of the people that comment from the entitled newly rich perspective and you wonder why we’re angry about being overpriced and/or forced out of our homes. Further add that some of the people forcing us out are imported tech workers. And someone says we’re not doing enough to fight this–what can we do? The cards are stacked against us, and powers that be don’t really listen to those of us who can’t afford to buy their ears.

  14. Hell, I would attend an intervention in City Councils offices, I’ d go help storm Conlin with my questions.A People on my block have remarked that City Council no doubt have been treated, wined, dined and sweeted financially by the developers like quadrant.
    My block was previously peaceful and livable. New construction including micro housing has put, literally 11 feet from my bedroom window, a nest of apartments full of people who, partly because of the building design, feel the rest of the people nearby can eat sht. I cannot sleep in my bedroom on certain nights because of partying including outright screaming. Of course, if I were making noise, the dwellers in these units could simply close their double paned,soundproof windows, which were the selling points of the units.

    Hell, I would attend an intervention in City Councils offices, I’ d go help storm Conlin with my questions. Are we on? People on my block have said that City Council no doubt have been treated, wined, dined and sweeted financially by the developers like Quadrant and the Micro-developers if.
    My block was previously peaceful and livable. New construction including micro housing has put, literally 11 feet from my bedroom window, a nest of apartments full of people who, partly because of the building design, feel the rest of the people nearby can eat sht. I cannot sleep in my bedroom on certain nights because of partying including outright screaming. Of course, if I were making noise, the dwellers in these units could simply close their double paned,soundproof windows, which were the selling points of the units.

    The micro housing’ s owner, is a recent U dub graduate who was even heard boasting that his building is gonna secure his entire financial future. Of course he does not wish to talk to us or actively gonna contribute to the neighborhood he’s changing. So our block lost cohesion and gained buildings which are architecturally out of sync with the rest of the block. We gained a floating troop of ghosts in Lexuses. One of the building projects was supposedly ” green,” a term that gets bandied around with no precision or clear delineation. The construction process did not appear to be Green to me. City Council are out of touch, and yes I bet they’ ve been bought. If he has any open-mindedness in him, Conlin should move on to my block for two weeks to see what it’ s like. Oh yes I would attend a storm on city Council’ s offices to protest this and find a way to send this 12 & Pike nonsense back to the drawing board.

    • “architecturally out of sync”

      Exactly. Developers should be held responsible by contributing to the culture, not killing it.

  15. Overall this is sad, but frankly the small businesses on 12th and Pike never seemed to have any customers. Walking by you have to wave your hand in front of your face to keep flies out of your mouth and nose (I walk by almost every day). The corner restaurant has never flourished (since it was 1200) despite the good location. I’m no fan of current architecture trends, but change and growth -and decay- are not only built into our urban and economic systems, they are the way of the world. Be thankful we’re not Detroit.

  16. when i first moved to capitol hill in the late 1970s people i worked with at the UW told me to be careful…that much of the area was blighted and questioned my safety. Over the years artists and funky stores came in and made the area vibrant and exciting. more folks moved in and now we see that the people who saved a neighborhood are being pushed out by BIG money. its a cycle seen around the country. whats odd is the CHARACTER that brought many of us here is being destroyed and replaced by folks with money and attitude and greed. so some of us may move to cheaper places because our once cheap rents are skyrocketing and the cycle will start again… in 30 years that area we settled will become the IT place to be. the dark side of capitalism wins.

  17. I think Georgetown is the real Capitol Hill, and it might stay that way. Wealthy people don’t like being near landing paths of Boeing Field.

    • But oddly enough, love being near the landing paths of Kenmore Air. Still got leaded diesel flying out of planes.

  18. All the great character, and affordable creative space, is moving south to Georgetown, South Park, and White Center. Five years ago I used to spend most of my free time on the Hill but now I find myself hanging around Georgetown and White Center. Parking is free plus dining and drinks are good and cheap.

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