A multimillion, just before Christmas real estate deal will put the 15th Ave E land home to Hilltop Service Station in the hands of a Capitol Hill developer.
Hunters Capital, the real estate development and management company known for preservation friendly investments in commercial, retail, and housing developments across the neighborhood, is purchasing the property with long-term plans for development.
“We’re big fans of 15th,” Hunters Capital’s Mike Oaksmith tells CHS about the deal. “We love that neighborhood feel.”
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The Broadway-headquartered development and real estate firm had better — it now owns a big chunk of 15th Ave E’s future.
In spring of 2017, CHS reported on Hunters Capital’s $11.25 million acquisition of the block of 15th Ave E retail including the neighborhood’s QFC and large parking lot. “While redevelopment of this building is possible, current leases in place make it unlikely to happen in the near future. However, we do hope to create a more engaging street front for our tenants and neighbors,” a company representative said at the time.
Oaksmith said Hunters Capital also plans a methodical approach to its new acquisition of the service station property at the corner of 15th and E Mercer — but for a different reason. The property’s many years as a service station will likely mean a long process of testing and decontamination, a common element on Capitol Hill given the neighborhood’s auto row past.
Records show gasoline reservoirs below Hilltop are capable of holding between 4,000 to 5,000 gallons of gasoline each, pumping fuel through lines to the station pumps since 1966 when they were first installed. The Washington Department of Ecology determined that leaks in one or more of the underground reservoirs and the fuel pumps caused a contamination release into the soil below. While contamination did not affect groundwater, and reports consider seepage is as relatively shallow, the state mandated the site to appear on the Confirmed and Suspected Contaminated Sites list until the ground soil is fully decontaminated, a standard practice during development of a property like Hilltop. You can see drill wells capped in the pavement around the station used for testing and monitoring the soil. Meanwhile, the station stopped pumping gas last year.
Hilltop Service Station remains open, however. You can call it Jim’s Hilltop now. CHS reported on mechanical technician Jim Peters who stepped up to take over the service station last year after longtime owner Mike Burke decided to step aside. Oaksmith said Hunters is happy to have Hilltop continue to stay in business at the location and is working on a plan to keep the mechanics operating at the site for another year or two.
The opportunity for Hunters Capital to own another stretch of 15th comes after the owner of the site since 1960 passed away in 2016 and his heirs placed the property with a trust while starting a search for a buyer. A deal with Colorado-based real estate and development firm Cadence Capital for the property fell through and Hunters Capital was able to make the numbers work for an as of yet undisclosed price.
Oaksmith said with the property’s long path to development and the current not far from peak prices on the Hill, Hunters Capital isn’t getting a bargain.
“It’s not the best time to buy, but things along 15th just don’t come along very often,” Oaksmith said.