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Spilling the beans: Starbucks building giant coffee roaster and cafe at base of Capitol Hill

Following projects like the 2010 overhaul of the E Olive Way "Gaybucks," Starbucks is building on Capitol Hill again (Image: CHS)

Following projects like the 2010 overhaul of the E Olive Way “Gaybucks,” Starbucks is building on Capitol Hill again (Image: CHS)

Soon to be filled by 15,000 square feet of cafe, retail space and coffee roasting machinery

Soon to be filled by 15,000 square feet of cafe, retail space and coffee roasting machinery

$57.4 billion global coffee giant Starbucks is making a massive investment where Capitol Hill rises from downtown. A representative for the Seattle-headquartered company tells CHS that Starbucks is planning a coffee roastery, cafe and retail project that will fill the 15,000 square-foot former auto row building at 1124 Pike.

“The project is still in its early stages, but our vision is a mixed-use manufacturing and retail site that will include a specialty coffee roasting operation,” the Starbucks rep said in a statement sent to CHS about the company’s lease and building plans.

For the coffee giant, the Pike roaster will be the first neighborhood facility of its kind. Currently, Starbucks roasts its beans at a few, large facilities across the country — the closest one to Seattle is in Kent. Starbucks now intends to join nearby Victrola as well as Vita and Stumptown 12th Ave in utilizing the neighborhood’s light manufacturing zoning to operate coffee bean roasting facilities. Meanwhile, neighborhood institution Bauhaus is preparing for a two-block move as it approaches its 20th anniversary at Melrose and Pine.

UPDATE: For Victrola, the announcement is sure to burn a few beans. The Whidbey Coffee Co.-owned cafe has its own Seattle roastery just 200 feet from the Melrose front of the new Starbucks project. On one hand, the move will create a veritable coffee roaster row on Pike. On the other, Victrola had some not neighborly things to say about previous Starbucks projects in close proximity. You can also expect more change near Victrola and the coming Starbucks project — CHS reported that the Six Arms building is opening up a new retail space that could appropriate for a food+drink venture.

The1920-built building, the longtime home of the Bob Byers Volvo dealership and Utrecht Art Supplies, neighbors the bustling Melrose Market complex and the changing food, drink and retail scene of lower Pike/Pine. On the other side of the Market on Pine, work to build this eight-story development is slated to begin in October. Meanwhile, below Melrose, the Pine+Minor building and its $2,300 per month 655 square-foot studios opened earlier this year.

The planned Starbucks facility and retail elements are destined to fill the spaces previously home to the 4,000 square-foot art store and the 9,000 square-foot dealership and garage. Parking will push the planned overhaul of the single-story building to a development weighing in at more than 30,000 square feet in total. We’ll have to verify with the Department of Planning and Development but it appears that because this will not be fully new construction, the city’s design review process will not be invoked. Any new commercial project larger than 4,000 square feet in the building’s zone would normally go through the full design review gamut.

CHS reported this spring on plans for the Volvo dealership to leave Pike after XX year (Images: CHS)

CHS reported this spring on plans for the Volvo dealership to leave Pike after 15 years. Before the Swedish imports, the showroom was once home to Fiats, Datsuns and Packards. (Images: CHS)

The building has been owned by developer and real estate investor — and “Emeritus Board Member” of the Downtown Seattle Association — Frederic Weiss since 1997 when his company paid $2 million for the property. It is currently valued at more than $3.5 million according to King County Records.

People familiar with the situation tell CHS a separate project had been looking at the property for a potential beer brewery.

The building currently has no tenants. This summer, CHS reported on the departure of Utrecht following an art supply-industry corporate merger. Previously, we documented the planned departure of the Volvo dealership — the latest in an exodus of dealerships from the Hill as the final vestiges of the neighborhood’s auto row era are being rapidly transformed into food, drink and multi-story apartment developments:

Capitol Hill’s transformation has carried its auto row buildings from the boom days to bust to a new boom of reuse and redevelopment. The new “showrooms” of Capitol Hill have drawn national acclaim. Meanwhile, the exit of the last bastions of auto row has cleared the way for almost unimaginably massive developments. This 260-unit apartment building will replace the BMW campus that runs between Pike and Pine at Harvard. The former Mercedes dealership on the street will also be part of a project that will eventually rise to seven stories. Currently, there are no records on file with the city that indicate a redevelopment future for the 1920 building the Volvo dealership has called home. The same owners have held the building since 1997 according to King County Records.

In a neighborhood where large food and drink chains can struggle, Starbucks has been a major player in the Hill’s cafe scene. The neighborhood was home to one of the company’s most ambitious recent projects — and, some would say, failures — in creating “indie styled” cafes that strayed, briefly, outside the Starbucks brand. One of the “Fauxbucks” lives on as Roy Street Cafe while the E Olive Way Starbucks and many more in the company’s global empire benefitted from facelifts inspired by the short-lived experiment. Its most recent project transformed a former Tully’s and long ago bank at Pike and Broadway into its sixth Capitol Hill store.

Starbucks, which employees more than 120 people at those six company-owned stores on Capitol Hill, hopes its new neighbors will be excited about its latest Hill project.

“Starbucks is proud to have been part of the Hill’s vibrant coffee culture and community since 1979, and we are looking forward to sharing more in-depth plans with the neighborhood over the next few months,” the company representative told CHS.

UPDATE: Imagine going up against the global coffee giant for a prime Capitol Hill property. These guys can tell you all about it.

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46 thoughts on “Spilling the beans: Starbucks building giant coffee roaster and cafe at base of Capitol Hill” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

  1. That’s awesome! Glad to hear that they’re investing the in the neighborhood with an interesting concept that’s different than a normal store. Of course, the usual complainers can continue to go elsewhere, and that’s fine.

    As for the E. Olive Way store, the “gaybucks” moniker simply doesn’t fit. (And whoever thought of that? Lame!)

    • jeff,

      i respect your opinion, and i’ll add my 2 cents for balance.

      i’m stoked!

      everyone loves to bag on starbucks, and i respect that.

      and i’m all for conscientious consumerism, but personally i prefer starbucks coffee.

      gimme dark burnt coffee! no sour notes. no astringent notes. and no herbaceous nothin’. yes, i’m a coffee philistine…

      anyway, starbucks does this better than anyone – and with the clover (*monopoly) (other than Trabant), even better.

      i used to live by the olive/denny starbucks and i miss a short morning walk to coffee. now i live a block from this location and i’m stoked.

      and hate all you want, we all do, but one thing i’ve noticed is that many of the same employees of the olive/denny starbucks are still there. like 7 years later?! plainly, that means they are treated well.

      if the coffee’s good and the employees are happy, that’s good enough for me.

      instead of hating on starbucks (and the poor developer who just happened to time the market AND land a big tenant during this transition period when downtown is encroaching on cap hill) let’s focus on a constitutional amendment to neutralize the supreme court’s “citizens united” decision. (16 states have signatures!)

      until we get corporate money out of politics, we’re all hosed – and big coffee companies are among the least of our worries…

  2. It may not be ideal, but at least the building isn’t being torn down to be replaced with yet another over-priced 7-story apartment building.

  3. Yay!
    I love the new one on Pike and Broadway. And I’m glad a business owner with staying power and a willingness to experiment is taking that beautiful old building.

  4. I’m happy to see the small stretch of what constitutes as actual usage here on the Hill. With Sun Distillery building their bottling facility for Alaska Airlines and now a roasting facility in that cool old building, it feels like we’re actually seeing “doing” rather than simply “displaying” and serving. I have no beef w/ Starbucks. They employ people and they do less damage than an overpriced apt bldg. Welcome!

  5. I say welcome! More employment opportunities in the neighborhood. Although they have never paid particularly well it is a good company to work for, and very gay friendly which fits the spirit of the neighborhood (although some of the new tenants are trying to change that). Besides, they have good coffee of consistent quality.

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  7. I live across the street from here and am so upset by this. There is already a great local coffee roaster, Victrola, less than half a block away. Way to take a dump on the little coffee shops with your crappy burnt corporate coffee Sarf*cks.

    • The whining about how crappy Starbucks is that immediately emanates from fans of the independent coffee houses is pretty much proof positive that there will always be a market for independent (or even “anybody but Starbucks”) coffee houses. They’ll do fine. They have their fans and they always will.

  8. Whether or not you like Starbucks coffee, they are a local-based business who gives their baristas health benefits and reasonable pay, and as a corporation is sensitive to their surroundings when building on the Hill. This sure as heck beats some Eastside developer coming in and tearing it down to build another aluminum sided pole barn like on Pine and Bellevue.

  9. Starbucks is $57.4 billion? Apparently they must have purchased Maxwell House and Folgers. :-)

    Starbucks is more like $13 billion. Great to see they push their own boundaries within their home market. Great for the area.

    • Since they’ve stated that they intend to skirt around the design review process because this won’t be net new development, it is implied that they only plan to gut and expand, rather than demolish anything existing.

  10. I’m just happy it’s not going to be another “just a bar” or “state of the art EDM venue” or “$9 for a piece of bread lounge”. The micro-micro brewery that lost out to Starbucks would have been nice, but it’s good to have more businesses that are open during the day around.

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  12. I’m surprised at all the complaining about “overpriced” apartments. The more apartment units, the lower the average price will be.

    • I hope that’s true and it certainly makes logical sense, but it doesn’t seem to be working out that way, and it doesn’t in a lot of cities. If all of the apartments are targeted at the same demographic I don’t see it really panning out for us lower income folks. In other words, all of these new apartments are aimed at people who can afford $1500 + for rent, and there seems to be an endless supply of people willing to pay this. So why would anyone charge less? You’d be hard pressed to rent a studio on the hill for under $1000 (or $1200 really).

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