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Clad in brick, concrete, and metal, design for five-story building replacing 15th Ave E gas station rounds into shape

(Image: Studio Meng Strazzara)

A plan to add 68 apartments and space for four businesses to 15th Ave E in a design that echoes auto row preservation-focused projects elsewhere in the neighborhood will be getting its turn before the design review board Wednesday, February 19th.

In this case, there is not auto row building to develop — only an old gas station to tear down. The Hilltop Gas Station had been put on the market in 2016. Hunter’s Capital, the Capitol Hill-based development company purchased the property for $2.75 million in 2018. Since then they’ve been working on a redevelopment plan, one which is now entering the home stretch.

The plan now calls for a five-story building, residential over retail. While an earlier version called for more residential units, that number has been scaled back to 68. Michael Oaksmith of Hunter’s Capital, explained the reason was simple, the developer wanted to add more one- and two-bedroom units into the building.

“More of a unit mix,” Oaksmith said.

Design review: 523 15th Ave E

There will also be space for four businesses. Oaksmith said there could be an opportunity for restaurant in one of the four, the other three will be for non-food and drink uses. While tenants are not yet lined up, Oaksmith did say one recent Capitol Hill staple won’t make an appearance.

“There will be no bank. You can write that down,” he said.

The Studio Meng Strazzara-designed project is set to have 21 parking spaces, which will enter and exit off E Mercer. There will be a roof deck for residents. New landscaping strips will be planted along both 15th and Mercer.

Keeping the design true to the neighborhood was one of Hunter’s goals, Oaksmith said. The façade will use brick, pre-cast concrete, and metal elements, designed to blend in with existing buildings to the south and the rest of the neighborhood.

Oaksmith said the materials, which can be a bit more expensive for builders, will be worth it, even if it means delaying the payoff.

“We are long-term investors, so we are going to be in the neighborhood for a long time,” he said.

All four of the businesses and the main residential entrance will be along 15th Ave. The plan calls for slight variations in the entrances, to break up the mass of the building along the block. The building is pushed a bit to the east, so as not to crowd the existing neighbors the property backs to. That likely means there will not be sufficient space for outside seating, should that restaurant materialize.

“We just hope the (design review) package shows the time and effort we put in,” Oaksmith said. “We want this thing to look good 20, 30, 40 years from now.”

There may be a bit of unsightliness on the southern wall. That face of the building will be completely blank. Oaksmith said that’s because the property to the south is what’s called a zero-lot line, meaning they can build all the way up to the property line. There are no current plans to redevelop that site, but eventually, it’s a safe bet it will happen. In these cases, Oaksmith said, things like windows are usually not placed along those sides, since they will one day be rendered useless.

The developers are currently finishing the clean-up process on the lot. As is typical with former gas stations, there was some contamination in the soil which will need to be dealt with before a new building can open.

Oaksmith said they have already pulled the gas tanks out, and the cleanup the rest of the contamination continues. He said they hope to have it finished soon. However, there may be an option to continue the clean-up during construction, if necessary.

Assuming everything goes to plan, Oaksmith said they expect to start working on the site in late summer or early fall of this year, and he projected a 16-month construction schedule.


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49 thoughts on “Clad in brick, concrete, and metal, design for five-story building replacing 15th Ave E gas station rounds into shape

    • I dunno, man. This is way better than when City People’s got replaced by that bland Walgreens. Everyone said RIP 15th then, too. (As they did when Red and Black Books closed.)

      Then again, let’s not forget that 15th Ave includes the time-honored abomination that is the QFC building. Not that it’s not challenging to watch a neighborhood change (it is!), but some of the street’s anchor buildings are waaaay uglier than this (key bank, anyone??) and yet somehow 15th has continued being 15th.

      • The Key Bank building is a great example of modernism that’s been ruined by lack of maintenance and bad color choices.

        Also, terrible landscape choices. Too many rocks.

        Oh and get a load of the oversize molding on the top of the rendering above…I think the ringing I’m hearing is 2004 calling to ask for its trendy design choice back.

        Ugh, get rid of that molding.

  1. I’m curious about the soil contamination and what they are doing to remove it. Is it some kind of steaming of the soil or something? Anyone know more details?

    • Any site with a gas station is subject to a remediation project consultant unless the developer can jump hoops or pay back room $. This site will be under intense scrutiny from the city as it goes through permitting. Soil contamination will be delt with in full hopefully. The biggest issue is now how this building reinforces the scale-blind, shitty new-build, “this is authentic”, street frontage concept that architects and developers have been propagating along Broadway since the early 2000’s. The trend migrates north, now. What the fuck happened to vernacular architecture? And who is the landscape architect?

  2. Councilmember Sawant will stop this atrocity at once. We need gas stations. We need street parking. We don’t need overpriced housing for people who threaten my way of life.

    Sawant saved the Showbox. She saved Saba restaurant. She is responsible for Amazon moving 15,000 jobs to Bellevue, where they belong. She will save the gas station. She will save street parking for the senior Seattle soldiers who bravely defend the city.

  3. Who owns the rest of the low rise further along 15th. The temptation for $$ is going to start to build up. I know the QFC site was sold a while back as well. It’s basically going to be a clone of broadway with long stretches of characterless buildings…

  4. 15th sucks a ton now…….glad I moved out of the hill a long time ago

    Techie crash needs to happen ASAP… look forward to the days all these buildings stand empty and landlords go bankrupt

      • Sawant hate is manufactured? Really? There are so many things wrong with her I’m not typing them all up. I will summarize and say she has contributed to the decay of Seattle and her socialist ideology is one of failure and starvation that has been repeated across the globe across cultures and has led to the deaths of hundreds of millions. She has never had a real job and lives off her ex-husbands stock earnings at Microsoft.

      • Well we D3ers like her…so get over it.

        We are tired of being oppressed by the tyranny of Amazon and Jenny Durkan constantly butt-kissing them and sacrificing the welfare of the people.

      • Poor Janice seems to have an advanced case of Fox News Brain Rot, or FNBR.

        Stay strong, Janice, there’s always hope for remission with FNBR.

      • Please name one successful socialist country or one place it has succeeded. You can name call all you want but it doesn’t make you right.

        If you want to fully buy into the neo-liberal socialist ideology without an eye to history then you’re what your political representatives would call a useful idiot.

    • Sure, Janice’s original question may indeed be “name one socialist country that is successful”. But then she and may others use that as an argument why one shouldn’t support any individual socialist policies at all, without having to engage in actually discussing them one by one. Or why any candidates who support any socialist policies. But for the very reason you mention, her original question is a complete red herring for that purpose. Call it whatever you want, a country can have the various the policies that Sawant or Bernie or other progressive standard bearers in the US are promoting, and be a prosperous stable democracy. Would you agree with hat statement?

  5. Welp, no. This isn’t a great design. It looks like all the buildings that people cried over when you could simply save the facade and build on top of it? This looks like a a version of the Sun Electric building, but there’s no saving of an original facade, so why the hell does it look like this?

    I have so many questions…

    Why does the language of the pilasters just stop after floor 2?
    What the F is that white saddlebag?
    It looks like there’s 3 different buildings all smashed together. I applaud the nicer materials, just wish this building could hold an actual design strategy together for more than 2 floors.

    The new Hugo House could be a good example for this project to learn some restraint. That building is a fine, nice building…

  6. Janice Shapiro

    Please name one successful socialist country or one place it has succeeded.

    OK:
    Canada
    Japan
    South Korea
    New Zealand
    Australia
    Ireland
    Northern Ireland
    England
    Scotland
    Finland
    Sweden
    Norway
    Denmark
    Iceland
    Portugal
    Spain
    France
    Belgium
    Holland
    Germany

    • Not one of those countries is remotely socialist. Having social programs is different from an attitude of “private wealth is bad”, which sadly the message from many of the leading contenders for the leadership of our country.

    • Leon,

      Get your terms right my man, none of those countries on your list are socialist, they are a mix of democracies and republics that have democratic socialist party representation within their federal government’s legislature. Outside of the UK’s Labour Party and Ireland’s Sinn Fein, support for those parties are generally middling with election turnout somewhere in the single digits to mid teens. Hell, of those countries on your list only Portugal, Iceland, and Northern Ireland are even governed by democratic socialist parties. 🤦‍♂️

      • Yes but all of those countries have in place a wide range of precisely the types of policies that Sanders promotes at the national level and Sawant at the local level.

        The right can’t have it both ways. You can’t call policies that are common in throughout the developed world like universal health care or higher taxes on the rich, free or much more highly subsidized higher education, etc. “creeping socialism”, but then turn around and declare that there aren’t any successful countries that are socialist in order to oppose candidates whose policies are right in line with all those other countries. It’s a semantic game you use to allow you to avoid actually discussing the specific policies.

      • Steve,

        The original statement from Janice was
        “Please name one successful socialist country or one place it has succeeded.”

        None of those countries that Leon listed are socialist. Yes, there are countries that have successfully implemented socialist policies (us included) but those countries still have capitalist economies. It’s not semantics, it’s a reality.

        FWIW, just because someone isn’t on board with the SA or DSA doesn’t mean they’re on “the right.”

      • Sure, Janice’s original question may indeed be “name one socialist country that is successful”. But then she and may others use that as an argument why one shouldn’t support any individual socialist policies at all, without having to engage in actually discussing them one by one. Or why any candidates who support any socialist policies. But for the very reason you mention, her original question is a complete red herring for that purpose. Call it whatever you want, a country can have the various the policies that Sawant or Bernie or other progressive standard bearers in the US are promoting, and be a prosperous stable democracy. Would you agree with that statement?.

  7. Judging from the drawings, this looks to be quite a nice-looking building. Thank goodness for Hunter’s Capital! They seem to be one of the few developers today who actually respect our neighborhood, and at least make an effort to blend in with what is already there.

  8. Not bad overall. Nice materials, setbacks, colors. At least in the rendering. And nice they are doing some larger units. This is responsible. Not so much the Safeway redo or the horrible Walgreens. Compare the Walgreens on 15th to the later one done on Pine and Broadway. The latter works and has housing above. A lost opportunity for sure. And don’t get me started on the gross fake windows. And remember that the prior City People’s owner, a woke woman I hear, sold at a nice profit to Walgreens and walked away, leaving us with a building that was town down to the back wall, rebuilt as a gross building with little if any design review because the remaining wall allowed them to escape it and call it a remodel.

    The Key Branch with a very large parking lot on 15th is a waste of space for a growing city. The branch itself is oversized. When I am there, I am usually one of 4 or 5, the only customer or one of two, and 3 employees or so. A multistory building can have a small bank branch if they wish. Don’t know how many use the safe deposit boxes. I used to have one but no more. I hear their use is on the decline.

    15th really needs some TLC. Scrappy one story cinderblock buildings are ripe for a redo. And while at it, redo the Safeway and Walgreens.

    As to unsavory elements coming into Ike’s? Prove it. And better pay attention to the beggars in front of the QFC, Walgreens and the feral elements that hang at the Safeway and get their shoplifting done at will. You can’t get into Ike’s without ID and present it again when you buy. And the owner has been the only vendor on the street who has to my knowledge taken a public stance against panhandling and offered options to divert well intended funds to useful assets like Country Doctor. Those who give to panhandlers are an equal problem to the elements one of the commenters complains about. I wonder how many shoppers at Ike’s come stick around and spend their disposable income elsewhere on the street? I am one of them.

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