In a city that loves a good view, a seven-story high rooftop restaurant on the precipice of Capitol Hill overlooking downtown sounds like a no brainer. Connected to a ground floor “marketplace,” developers behind a planned project at Pine and Melrose are hoping to make a staggering addition to a burgeoning part of the neighborhood.
Plans from SolTerra developers call for a tiered mixed-used building to rise up where a parking lot now stands, and include 70 residential units, a top floor restaurant, and ground floor retail. A facade made of sloping terraces at Esker — a term for a ridge — are envisioned to give residents outdoor spaces with commanding views over downtown while dampening the roar of I-5 below.
“We want to take advantage of the views and Seattle doesn’t have a ton of rooftop hangout spots,” said SolTerra president Brian Heather. “Rather than just put this monolith there, we wanted something that would gracefully greet you as you come up the hill.”
For years, a parking lot at Pine and Melrose has served as the rather drab gateway to Capitol Hill from downtown.
Developers will be taking their plans to transform the block before the East Design Review Board on July 20th. The building will feature a green roof, solar panels, and rainwater cistern along with the rooftop restaurant, and marketplace, and will be built to LEED Platinum standards.
No tenants have been lined up for the rooftop restaurant or the ground level “marketplace,” which Heather said will be inspired by others in the neighborhood like Melrose Market. Further up Pine, developers are considering another marketplace for the former Value Village space. Heather said the Esker market would likely have a heavy food focus.“Think of food carts that have done really well but that want to move into a permanent space,” he said.
With few surface parking left to plunder and the resurgence of activity along lower Pike/Pine, redevelopment of the lot seemed to be a foregone conclusion. The appraised value of the property shot up $1 million since 2014 to $2.6 million, according to King County property records. Some developers previously passed on the parcel when they could not buyout an adjacent property, Heather said, where a two-story commercial building is home to La Cocina Oaxaquena and Seattle Counseling Service.
Located on a sloping parcel bounded by I-5, Pine, and Melrose, Heather said SolTerra would be working with geotechnical engineers to design around the terrain. Ironically, parking will be one of the biggest challenges for the site. Heather said Esker will likely employ car elevators to lower cars into an underground lot.
A steep embankment along I-5 adjacent to the parking lot has been a long been used by homeless people to camp. CHS wrote earlier about the numerous encampments and SPD trespassing enforcement along the state Department of Transportation property above and below I-5. While developers may need to work out an agreement with WSDOT for construction, Heather said the project will stay within the current property boundaries.
The parking lot is also a frequent gathering space for crowds leaving The Baltic Room across the street and other nearby nightlife venues. Safety concerns on the block were raised last year after a 23-year-old man was shot to death at the Republic Parking Northwest-operated lot.
“We’ll put a major focus on ground floor retail … which creates a little more activity and creates a little more safety,” Heather said.
Pedestrian activity in the area is already on the rise with attractions like the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Melrose Market just around the corner. Foot traffic is almost certain to increase after the opening of the Washington State Convention Center Addition just across I-5. Not surprisingly, Heather said he is a big fan of a campaign to build a lid over that part of the interstate.