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Amid wave of development around Capitol Hill Station, 115-year-old Broadway building wins a landmark reprieve

A 1905-built Broadway building home to neighborhood restaurants and 14 upstairs apartment units might just have won a reprieve that will keep it standing amid a wave of housing and retail redevelopment around Capitol Hill Station.

The city’s landmarks board voted to extend protections Wednesday to the Capitol Crest building, the auto row-era home to Annapurna and Albacha restaurants, the Ace Barber Shop, as well as the handful of apartment units planned to be demolished to make way for a planned mixed-use project from Champion Development.

George Ma, the building’s owner, tells CHS it is too early to say what would come next for the building but he said that “obviously” any protections likely would bring an end to his plans to redevelop the property.

Sujan Sharma of Annapurna was also cautious to celebrate until he heard more from his landlord. He said the restaurant has been on a month to month lease and that its search for a new home has far been unsuccessful.  In summer of 2015, Annapurna celebrated their Yeti Bar expansion after surviving years of nearby light rail construction and fully aware of the plans for their block that have been in motion since 2013.

CHS first reported on the impending doom for the 1905-built Capitol Crest building back in 2016. The project to create a new development with a mix of 50 market rate apartment units above 3,500 square feet of space for a store or a restaurant on the property started the design review process back in 2017 but has been on pause since.

Meanwhile, four seven-story buildings are under construction around Capitol Hill Station and set to open later this year creating hundreds of new affordable and market rate homes, a new community plaza, and thousands of square feet of retail space — including a new 16,000-square-foot H Mart — on the busy block in the heart of Broadway. Demand is so great for Station House’s 110 fully affordable units that more than 1,300 people have applied to live in the building on the northeast corner of the station development site, nonprofit developer Capitol Hill Housing says. Meanwhile, a market rate development project south of the station site replacing the old Bonney Watson mortuary will add another 200 apartments and 16,000 square feet of commercial space to the area.

Originally known as the Avon Apartments, the city’s historical sites database describes the structure as “one of the older large buildings remaining on Broadway” but notes “it has been significantly altered” — often a death knell in the landmarks process.

In December when the landmarks board decided to take up the nomination, the focus was on preserving the building’s exterior, a board representative said.

There is reason to be cautiously optimistic for Annapurna and its neighbors. First, the specific controls of the protections must be approved by the board and then approved, again, by the Seattle City Council. Those controls and limits could result in a full scuttling of the planned redevelopment or a transition to a landmarks-friendly overhaul.

There are also examples where the landmarks protections took a back seat to money and growth. In 2018, Sound Mental Health was allowed to tear down the landmarks-protected Galbraith House at 17th and Howell after making the case that preserving the property was financially unsound.

But it’s not an easy argument to mount in Capitol Hill’s still-hot real estate market. A representative for the real estate investment company that owns the White Motor Company at 11th and Pine that will be home to the Stranger for only a few more months told CHS that its plans for a major redevelopment of the block that would have included a large “upscale” grocery store were scuttled when the board extended protections to the 11th Ave buildings it owns. In that case, the dollars and growth lost out to auto row preservation.

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21 thoughts on “Amid wave of development around Capitol Hill Station, 115-year-old Broadway building wins a landmark reprieve

    • You might be moving to West Seattle, but the same thing is happening there too. Gentrification is making it to White Center too. The only thing that is making it slower to happen in White Center is that most of it is in unincorporated King County, and not it the Seattle City Limits. If it was actually part of Seattle, I am pretty sure the zoning would be much different. I grew up near where both areas meet and when I visit, I am amazed at the changes.

  1. How is that building a landmark worthy of historical status? I like old architecture, but this building is indistinguishable from so many others in Seattle. It does noy appear to have any special appeal. And we are going to preserve it right where we are building around a light rail station? The
    Public investment in that station envisioned denser housing and retail to feed and benefit from the new transportation option. Not the outcome envisioned.

    • It has no historic value other than recent in the eyes of people who don’t want Seattle to change. The landmarks board is a joke and I imagine their decision was based more on personal bias than objective review.

      • No doubt your deep personal relationship with the landmarks board, understanding of all the people involved and the issues, and your attendance at meetings informed this incredibly well-thought-out opinion.

        Perhaps you should actually read the landmarks board’s decision on the property.

        The only personal bias I see in your comment is your own broadbrushing of “People who don’t want Seattle to change”.

  2. This is an odd decision. As much as I like Annapurna Cafe, this is not an architecturally or historically significant building, unless I’m missing something, and it seems to be in rougher shape than other buildings with similar architecture in the neighborhood.

  3. The Preservation Board has jumped the shark.

    This building is shit.

    We need to build more housing. We have a housing shortage and here we are saving a shitty building right next to transit. Good move….

      • We need more housing everywhere.
        We are so far behind housing numbers it’s criminal. It is the root cause of all our problems.

    • Have you happened to notice what is happening across the street from this building? There are hundreds of new apartments being built there, south of E John/Olive Way….turning Broadway in those blocks into a canyon (even more so when the new building goes in on the west side of the street). The constant pleas for new housing is turning into a juggernaut, to the detriment of our city. Enough is enough!

  4. the old brick buildings where the station now is (and the new affordable housing apartments) had so much character. still remember the old russian bakery. this anonymous building pales in comparison.

    • 100% agree. Protecting a less significant building now doesn’t balance out the loss of buildings that were better maintained and brought more character to the neighborhood.

  5. If this building gets Landmark status but Cinerama doesn’t (if rumors are to be true that its being prepped for sale) then I will really lose hope

    • Prepped for sale? That makes no sense. The value in Cinerama is in the land it sits on, not the building. Why would they close a profitable business to simply list the property?Also, if anyone is going to develop that piece of property it would be Vulcan, who already owns it. Which is what they did with the land right next door to the theater. Vulcan built The Martin and then sold the completed building for much more than they would have if they had just sold the land.

    • prepped for sale…. where’d that silly rumor start?. Movie theaters get icky – it’s getting a deep clean (new carpet) and other renovations to make it even more swanky.

      I doubt Vulcan will ever get rid of it any more than they’d think of getting rid of MoPOP… I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s in Paul Allens will somewhere, seeing as he loved Sci-fi so much.

  6. If this building does receive landmark status for its exterior, then the original three floors should be restored to their original aesthetic while allowing allowing redevelopment within and above the building to best make use of prime space near a mass transit station.

  7. Good call. It’s essential that we preserve our history. This nihilistic desire to tear down the past to add yet more characterless apartment boxes is shortsighted and ignorant.

    • Shortsighted to replace a building that has lost nearly all its historical character to build much needed housing (Yes, much needed. The general consensus across the city is we need more housing; regardless of your opinion on the matter) that sits, literally, on top of a mass transit station?

      While I believe we need to preserve history this building doesn’t fit the bill. It’s historical significance is long gone. Except for perhaps in the minds of people who wish to stick their heads in the sand and pretend they can lock Capitol Hill into some kind of time capsule that reminds them of happier times.

      What’s ignorant is not learning from the mistakes of San Francisco which put a lot of restrictions and limitations on replacing “historic” buildings. This left few places to build to support the growing population; hence the reason why the cost of living in the city is really only affordable for the very wealthy. This would have been the perfect example of what to replace so we could keep other historic buildings that hold more significance.

      • Seattle != San Francisco. SF was built much denser pretty much from the beginning, in large part. SF’s historical restrictions are only a small part of their overall housing challenges. Seattle’s problem was that most of the City’s land area was zoned SFH. HALA changed that. Pretending that somehow one building on Broadway is the answer to our (real) need for housing is silly. Seattle can’t (shouldn’t) destroy the past to satisfy the present. There are thousands and thousands of acres of SFH in perfectly fine neighborhoods, and if you want to talk about ‘less relevant’ structures, there are miles and miles of 1950s and 1960s SFH homes out there that no one would miss. We don’t build stuff like this building anymore – and whatever else is getting built on Broadway has all the character of a glorified breadbox. Woohoo, more steel and glass, please! Plus please spare everyone the myth that if only we build more housing somehow Seattle housing will be ‘affordable’. At best you’ll slow the rate of increase. Boomtowns are expensive.

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