Hoping to continue their long relationship with the literary-focused nonprofit, property owners of the under-construction, mixed-use development on 11th Ave and E Olive have offered to sell the nonprofit Hugo House a 10,000 square-foot ground floor space for about half of its estimated market value.
Hugo House, which is temporarily located at 1021 Columbia, made its home in the 1902-built former mortuary at 11th Ave and E Olive until its demolition last June.
The nonprofit has intended to move into the new development since plans were announced in 2014, but the below market price offer to sell the space to Hugo House is an unexpected opportunity.
“It wasn’t something we could have imagined,” Hugo House executive director Tree Swenson told CHS about the offer.
Those in the Hugo House community and general bibliophiles can expect a call for help to support Hugo House as its early 2018 move-in date nears. Swenson declined to disclose how much the owners are offering to sell the space to Hugo House for but said the price will be made available later this year.
Swenson said the question of securing the funds to purchase the space is “when” — not “if.”
Purchasing the property would ensure Hugo House has a space on the Hill, a place where many arts organizations have been priced out.
“It would be really too bad for Seattle not to take advantage of this opportunity to have a home for writers secured in the future,” Swenson said.
The city’s Capitol Hill Arts District, launched in 2014 as a marketing initiative with tools like a website dedicated to cataloging “arts spaces” around the Hill, hasn’t yet evolved into a program that can create or preserve those spaces. Meanwhile, other longtime arts organizations face long odds. Century Ballroom marked its 20th anniversary in the Odd Fellows Building as a new developer is planning a purchase and overhaul of the building.
In the late 1990s, writers Frances McCue, Andrea Lewis, and Linda Breneman were searching for an “urban writer’s retreat with readings and services for readers and writers” when they found the property across from Cal Anderson Park that could serve as a home for their budding organization, Hugo House. Breneman, and Linda and Ted Johnson bought the property and are now developing it.
Since its opening, the owners have allowed Hugo House to live at the location rent free.
“If not for these extremely generous owners, Hugo House would not be here today,” Swenson said.
Earlier this month, Hugo House asked for support via calls and emails to state lawmakers as they consider a grant for the nonprofit through the Building for the Arts program. The Senate’s proposed capital budget was released Wednesday and does not include the recommended $1.032 million for Hugo House.
The new center will include six classrooms, offices, two performance spaces, and space for writers to write.
This post has been updated to correct information regarding the ownership of the Hugo House property.