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Will new owners mean new life for design-challenged Capitol Hill ‘Taco Time’ building?

The troubled design of the stalled Taco Time building

The troubled design of the stalled Taco Time building

Earlier in April with Earth Day attention on its big shiny neighbor across the street and in the wake of much lamentation for its other nearby neighbor the Piecora’s building, an underutilized patch of E Madison real estate has been sold to a developer with plans to get a stalled apartment development destined for the lot back on track.

The former location of the E Madison Taco Time sold earlier this month for $3.6 million, the Puget Sound Business Journal reported. The price tag might seem a bit of a bargain following the Piecora’s parcel going for $10.3 million. There, developers tell CHS they are planning a six-story, 140-unit mixed-use apartment building.

The Taco Time family held similar plans for their side of the E Madison street. CHS talked to Robby Tonkin about the razing of the old fast food restaurant and the family’s hopes of creating a mixed-use development on the land here in 2009:

Tonkin, part of the fourth generation in his family to run the company, said that planning for a mixed-use development at the location started years ago. But in 2004, Taco Time’s plans hit a snag — required testing showed soil at 1420 E. Madison was contaminated. It’s a common problem on parts of the Hill with an industrial past. Tonkin says that solvents from an old metal shop at the location are possibly to blame but that, until there is further testing, they can’t be sure the contaminants are even coming from the property his family owns.

“We generally know how ‘bad’ it is. It’s not all that bad,” Tonkin tells us. “We’re not talking about a whole lot of contamination. In fact, there are some quarters when we’ve tested and gotten ‘non-detects.’ We’re primarily trying to determine whether the contamination source was on our site (e.g., the metal shop that existed there before this became a Taco Time in 1965) or whether the source is from another property.”

While contaminated soil is a relatively common issue along Capitol Hill’s former auto row (and relatively simple to mitigate), the Taco Time building’s design issues seemed to be a more significant barrier for the project. A year go, the building’s plans were rejected yet again by the East Design Review Board.

The new landowners are Seattle-based developers Metropolitan Companies. Its recent mixed-use projects around the Hill included 19th/Madison’s Lawrence Lofts and the Collins on Pine at 13th and E Pine.

UPDATE 5/9/14: The answer to the headline’s question? Yes. Yes, it will. A design review for the recommendation phase of the process to take the initially reviewed design forward has been scheduled for late May:


Date:                            Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Time:                            08:00 p.m.

Location:                       Seattle University
ADAL Building (Admissions & Alumni Building)
924 12th Avenue

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7 thoughts on “Will new owners mean new life for design-challenged Capitol Hill ‘Taco Time’ building?

  1. This is great news! Unlike other neighborhood developers, Metropolitan Companies has demonstrated an ability to design/construct beautiful buildings with quality materials. While some may disagree, I think Lawrence Lofts is exactly the kind of development we should be hoping for throughout Capitol Hill.

    Unfortunately, quality buildings will trigger the “rent is too damn high” comments.

  2. Please, no more cheap monolithic apartment buildings covered in cheap siding in hideous colors. WTF is wrong with this city? It lets developers get away with criminally bad design. That’s what’s wrong with this city.

  3. Pingback: We would have called it The Taco Time Apartments | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle