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Development follows Twilight Exit to the Central District (but this time the dive bar has years to prepare for it)

The Twilight Exit’s alley mural (Image: CHS)

Development, once again, is following the Twilight Exit. Fortunately for the E Madison ex-pat dive bar and its E Cherry neighbor the Tana Market, this round of change still has years to play out.

Development “is always in the back of your mind,” Stephan Mollmann tells CHS about the business of building bars outside the Pike/Pine and Broadway core of Central Seattle.

As the Twilight prepares for its 20th birthday next spring and a decade after its move from E Madison to make way for development there, Mollman’s bar is again being prepared for a changing neighborhood.

Capitol Hill developer Liz Dunn is planning “a four-story building, approximately 40 feet tall, built at grade with no underground parking” with retail space occupying the frontage along E Cherry and residential units above.

“Two existing buildings will be demolished,” the development team from Dunn and Hobbes writes. “The team is working with existing retail tenants to facilitate the option of moving back into the completed project.”

Dunn purchased the property three years ago for just over $800,000 and has been a good landlord and provided good communication about the development plans, Mollman said.

UPDATE 9:38 AM: So, if construction isn’t being planned until three or four years from now, why start the development permitting processes now? Dunn tells CHS, with Mandatory Housing Affordability changes coming, she preferred to develop the property under existing zoning “because it’s a nice neighborhood scale and modest four story height” that will help to keep project costs and and allow the developer to provide affordable workforce housing “by sticking to this height and not digging down for parking.”

“We bought it years ago before MHA was even in the radar,” Dunn said. “Since we have no plans to build right away, we can still evaluate MHA once it goes through, but in the meantime are proceeding under the existing zoning.”

“I’m very supportive of MHA in concept but the math needs to work and the scale has to be appropriate for the neighborhood,” Dunn tells CHS. “Either way the intent is to provide an affordable for rent (or possibly even for sale) product that meets an appropriate price point for the neighborhood.”

Dunn’s most recent big project was the Chophouse Row development on 11th Ave between Pike and Union. CHS spoke with her recently about her development philosophy and projects mixing housing, offices, retail, and food+drink.

With the E Cherry project unlikely to begin for years, it’s too early to say whether the Twilight and Ethiopian grocery Tana Market might take Dunn up on the offer of moving back into the new construction when it is completed. It’s a tricky feat for a business to pull off with a need for either a temporary location, secondary businesses that can absorb longtime employees, or a long break like Capitol HIll’s Bill’s off Broadway employed before it moved back to the corner of Pine and Harvard.

Mollman’s Twilight family did recently expand. In July, CHS reported on the bar’s takeover of a tavern down south in Hillman City now known as Twilight Rainier.

The Twilight circa 2008 (Image: CHS)

The original Twilight Exit moved from E Madison to E Cherry in 2008. Today, a six-story apartment building stands at the original site across from the 22nd/Madison Safeway. Mollmann also opened The Neighbor Lady at 23rd and Union in 2011.

Dunn confirmed the basic details of her Cherry Street project with CHS but declined to say much more about it at this point. A community meeting is planned for later this month as part of the city’s new development outreach requirements. You can learn more about it here.

The developer did want to emphasize that nothing will happen on the project “for several years” and that the buildings won’t be torn down until construction is ready to begin. In the meantime, Mollman said it will be business as usual at the Twilight.

UPDATE 9:30 AM: We should do the building right and make sure to share the latest artwork that went up this summer:


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11 thoughts on “Development follows Twilight Exit to the Central District (but this time the dive bar has years to prepare for it)

    • Yeah, Kshama, let’s totally destroy all investment going forward by subjecting developers to the whims of any and all Seattle politicians after-the-fact, retroactively imposing rules whenever you feel the desire to make them up. That won’t discourage any development at all. And it won’t even impede affordable housing either. Certainly would-be developers would “just trust you”. No problem. Please Kshama, “save us” some more.

  1. Twilight patrons – if you like East African food and want to make your own, know that Tana Market sells fresh injera. It happens to make an awesome base for a tuna melt (Ethio-american lowbrow fusion food!).

  2. Well, it’ll be a shame for the Twilight to have to move yet again – let’s hope it’s lucky enough to survive another round! – but if the site has to be developed, Liz Dunn is the one to do it. If you haven’t visited Chophouse Row, it’s well worth wandering through; I’d love to have more quirky, approachable, non-cookie-cutter-feeling spaces like that in the city. It has a little of the feeling you get when wandering through the maze of Pike Place Market buildings – little surprises around every cozy corner.

    • Quirky = insufficient seating, intense lighting, no patio, no pinball, bye delish tots, hello $8 draft beers.

      No parking you say? Good thing there aren’t mammoth construction projects also sans enough parking a handful of blocks in each direction.

      Heartbreaking news for locals that want an escape from Noveau Seattle, great news for tourists looking for surprises around every cozy corner.

      • Don’t drive to a bar. You’ll drink there and then you’ll feel compelled to drive home. Drinking and driving might result in a person being killed. Don’t kill me.

        In conclu, bars shouldn’t have parking.

      • Not everyone gets blotto every time they go out, and lots of people venture out with friends who don’t drink, or do designated drivers.

    • Little supprises around every cozy corner…for rich people. There is nothing in Chophouse Row that aligns with most people in the CD. Every single place that we can come together as neighbors and feel a sense of community is being taken and transformed into something sterile, cold and uninviting. This is shameful and a tragic loss for many.