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Save the Harvard Exit? Fan wants to work with developer to keep theater in redevelopment plans

969231_707229022640095_343339471_nAn effort to “save” the Harvard Exit as a theater space has started as most grassroots advocacy does these days — with a Facebook page. Save the Exit has been created by a fan of the movie house to help rally an effort to sway the developer acquiring the historic property to preserve the lower theater portion of the building’s interior.

“Let’s not rule out hope,” one of the initial postings to the page reads, “perhaps the one thing fans and lovers of The Exit can do is an to appeal to save the lower theater as some form of venue for not only cinema, but also for concerts, performance art, lectures, readings etc. A restaurant and bar would dovetail with such a venue quite nicely and the surrounding businesses and neighborhood would benefit as well.”

The Landmark Theatres movie chain that has operated the venue since 1979 will close things out with one final day of screenings on January 8th  11th.

CHS broke the news just before Christmas that developer Scott Shapiro was acquiring the nearly 90-year-old building home to the Harvard Exit with plans to preserve the exterior but transform the venue into a restaurant and office development.

The Save the Exit page is encouraging people to contact Shapiro with ideas for including the building’s history as a theater in his plans. “Please be civil and constructive in your remarks and let’s work with him, not against him to make the redevelopment of The Exit a win-win for everyone,” one page update encourages.

In addition to the letter campaign, the page is also pointing Exit fans to a petition with a 10,000-signature goal asking that the “theatre space be preserved in some format reflective of the history of the Harvard Exit and its role in Seattle and Capitol Hill arts and culture.” So far, it has 13 sign-ups.

Shapiro says the goal is to reopen the Harvard Exit with new tenants by early 2016.

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Nick Sincere
Nick Sincere
6 years ago

The Harvard Exit right now is an anchor business for many of the restaurants, bars and boutiques at the north end of Broadway, meaning that the theatre attracts many people from outside the neighborhood who will see a movie which they can’t see in their own neighborhood and then spend money at the other businesses in the surrounding blocks. This is especially true during the 3+ weeks of SIFF. Replacing such a business with more small businesses that need such an anchor business to survive and thrive and which will be in direct competition with the other small businesses may not be the smartest move. I know several of the businesses across the street depend on the business that comes in during SIFF for their annual revenue.

CaphillTom
CaphillTom
6 years ago

“Please be civil and constructive in your remarks and let’s work with him, not against him to make the redevelopment of The Exit a win-win for everyone,”

I couldn’t agree more. It’s more likely ideas will be viewed and not immediately dismissed if they’re done in a constructive manner. I’m not optimistic it will matter at this point, but hey, why not try?

Manny
Manny
6 years ago

IMO you need to come up with a financial argument if you seriously want to convince the developer to leave this space untouched. What are your ideas to make sure this space draws in enough people on a regular basis so it makes a consistent profit? Is it feasible that this square footage can generate as much revenue and be less of a hassle to maintain than if it was converted and leased out as retail/office space? I don’t know the answer but this is what it comes down to obviously.

RWK
RWK
6 years ago

Looking at that photo of the beautiful lower theater makes me sad all over again that it may not last. It would be a real pity if it was demolished. At least now there is some hope that this will not happen. It seems to me that a combination movie theater, restaurant, and bar would be amazing, but I don’t know if that would pencil out financially.

Teejay VanSlyke
6 years ago

I just sent Scott the following email. Hopefully it will encourage some kind of change.

Dear Scott:

As I’m sure you’re well aware, the decisions your firm and other real estate investment firms make have profound impacts on the culture and community surrounding your projects. It has come to my attention via the Capitol Hill Seattle blog that your firm plans to redevelop the Harvard Exit building, a historic landmark at the northern tip of East Broadway.

As both a champion of smart growth, a capitalist myself (I work in the tech industry), and a defender of cultural heritage, I cannot support your firm’s decision to redevelop this community space into more offices. What happens when a few firms own every single lot in the whole of Seattle? How can we expect to produce diversity and inspiration when we’re surrounded by cookie-cutter five-story eye-sore condo and office buildings?

Please: Hear the neighborhood’s plea. Make good as a steward of the Seattle community as a whole and Save the Exit.

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[…] The 2002-born Chop Suey business was on the market for just under $100,000 this summer as the Japanese company that has owned the venue since 2009 decided to bring its investment to an end. With larger live music and performance-focused venues on Capitol Hill on the wane, the end of Chop Suey and its eclectic bookings has added to concerns about the changing culture of the neighborhood. But the Suey’s landlord and building owner Scott Shapiro has said his first hope has been to maintain the 4,900 square-foot building as a music venue. Another Shapiro project, by the way, includes no such promises at this point — the Harvard Exit is slated to open for its final day as a theater on Thursday, January 8th. […]

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