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E Olive Way fostering two growing Capitol Hill industries — legal pot… and kids

The International Montessori Academy’s Yimin Chen

E Olive Way has a little something for everyone. For parents in search of a multilingual education for their young children, starting this month, the curving street is now home to a new International Montessori Academy.

Work has completed to transform a new-era but unsuccessful Chinese restaurant and the  Bellevue-based provider of Mandarin Chinese, French, or Spanish language immersion and Montessori education for elementary school-age children is set to fully open this month, school founder Yimin Chen tells CHS.

“The construction delay set us back a little bit,” Chen said. “Some families had to withdraw because of the delay.” But the typical City of Seattle permit issues and contractor scheduling challenges have not dampened demand. There has been a small group of day care kids putting the newly re-built out space through its spaces. Soon, daily classes will begin.

CHS first reported on the plans for the new academy late last year as Chen said the E Olive Way location close to Capitol Hill Station and not far from downtown were the big draws. “It’s close to downtown with very easy access and there are lots of families on North Capitol Hill,” Chen said at the time. “People live there, people work there.”

For a while earlier this year, it looked like the academy project might have been permanently stalled as graffiti began accumulating on the shuttered restaurant was a frequent stop for East Precinct police called to move along squatters. But work kicked back into motion in recent months.

The project overhauled 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. Given all the recent food, drink, and nightlife investment, the school’s construction effort was more about modifying the recently fortified bones of the building.

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. The seller was the family behind Zhu Dang — they had paid more than $3.3 million for it in 2013.

The academy’s purchase has been part of a wave of real estate activity on the street spurred by another lucrative Capitol Hill industry. In August, The Reef pot shop opened on E Olive Way in the former Amante Pizza building which sold for $1.4 million in June 2017. Coming soon will be another pot player as Uncle Ike’s moves into a former law office building — it sold for more than $2 million in September 2017 — next to The Crescent.

Meanwhile, International Montessori Academy won’t stand alone in the kid business on E Olive Way. The Harvard Avenue School is across the street and completed a major expansion in 2017 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.

The new academy’s arrival did mean displacement for one longtime part of E Olive Way culture. You can now find Artful Dodger Tattoo on E Pike.

With all the little kids around, don’t worry that E Olive Way might be losing its edge. The Crescent provides a seemingly permanent dive bar anchor on the street — even with new ownership. And a block away, a briefly shuttered deli + bar concept is set to reopen soon with just the bar concept.

The International Montessori Academy is located at 1715 E Olive Way this winter. You can learn more at

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4 thoughts on “E Olive Way fostering two growing Capitol Hill industries — legal pot… and kids

  1. I was looking to enroll my youngest in a nice small pre-K. The review of this place was slightly alarming, just FYI to the owners…

  2. The sidewalk smoker traffic in front of the bodega/ sports bar combo next door should add some real Capitol Hill flavor to that outdoor play space they have out front!

    • the time most smokers would be out front (nights&weekends) doesn’t line up too well with when the little kids will be there.

  3. It’s nice to see that a long-vacant space is now being activated, and by a school no less. Best of luck to them!

    Now, if we can just get some business to go into the old Broadway Grill space. Why has it been vacant for SO long? Are potential developers waiting for the expected re-zone, to allow taller buildings along Broadway?