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Next for E Olive Way restaurant space: International Montessori Academy

One of the more rapidly blighted empty spaces on Capitol Hill will spring back to life in 2018. The little ones who will put it to use every day will say more about Capitol Hill Station and the neighborhood’s proximity to downtown than this stretch of Capitol Hill’s nightlife growth or a new highly anticipated industry coming to the street.

The International Montessori Academy, a Bellevue-based provider of Mandarin Chinese, French, or Spanish language immersion and Montessori education for elementary school-age children, is set to begin construction to overhaul the former home of the giant Zhu Dang restaurant on E Olive Way, shuttered since late November 2015. Before its life as a restaurant, the short-lived The Social nightclub venture overhauled the building as a dance club and restaurant.

“It’s close to downtown with very easy access and there are lots of families on North Capitol Hill,” school founder Yimin Chen tells CHS about the next big project coming to E Olive Way. “People live there, people work there.”

In addition to overhauling the building to serve as a school, the academy is a major investment. A company owned by Chen purchased the 1928-built property for $4.8 million over the summer. The seller was the family behind Zhu Dang — they had paid more than $3.3 million for it in 2013.

The Capitol Hill location of the academy — the third school in the family — will focus on a younger set — bilingual and immersion in both Mandarin and Spanish for toddlers as well as pre-schoolers up to kindergartners, Chen said. The construction is underway and hoped to be completed in time for a mid-winter opening. Components of the former high-end Chinese restaurant concept that previously transformed the old building will be leveraged — those kids will have one hell of a kitchen. The new school will take over the top level of the building but Chen said other tenants including Artful Dodger Tattoo and Comics in the lower level of the building — that stuck with the space even as fences went up to try to keep squatters out — will be moving out. “We’re going to be using the entire upstairs,” Chen said. “the downstairs shops will have to move.”

As for an influx of young children around E Olive Way, Chen’s Academy will have company. The Harvard Avenue School is across the street and completed a major expansion earlier this year that claimed a neighborhood coffee shop. Capitol Hill, meanwhile, has also seen the arrival of big chain day care in the neighborhood with Bright Horizons opening in Pike/Pine in 2015. A day care is also part of the plans for the development underway around Capitol Hill Station.

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Meanwhile on E Olive Way, there is also a wave of investment coming to the street from another Seattle growth industry. CHS reported in November on three pot shops vying for two E Olive Way locations with potential for retail marijuana approval. As that process plays out, Chen said the coming new stores are “not a worry yet” but that she and school officials are “keeping an eye” on the outcome.

The education entrepreneur is now focused on the coming months of construction and a successful opening on Capitol Hill. The expansion will likely be the last big new investment for the International Montessori Academy for a while. “Our goal is to not have more but to truly offer the highest quality multilingual school in the area,” Chen said.

International Montessori Academy is planned to open at 1715 E Olive Way this winter. You can learn more at

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4 thoughts on “Next for E Olive Way restaurant space: International Montessori Academy” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

  1. Can we start placing bets on how long this place will be in business? They’re operating as a private school — not a preschool like Harvard Ave across the street — so their tuition and contract are bonkers. I think Yen is confusing this part of Capitol Hill with the north end of the neighborhood, which is already serviced by a number of private schools.