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.
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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