The media company that has grown into a Seattle legend in its 28 years on Capitol Hill at 11th and Pine announced the news Tuesday afternoon that it will be moving to the International District at South Dearborn Street and Maynard Avenue South:
The Stranger is moving. After getting its start in Wallingford in 1991, and then spending 28 years on Capitol Hill, Seattle’s Only Newspaper has signed a new lease at a building in the Chinatown-International District that begins in July of this year and runs through 2027.
In 2015, CHS reported on the Stranger’s near exit from the Hill as redevelopment loomed. But landmarks protections granted to the White Motor Company building it called home gave the news and media outlet a new lease on life in Pike/Pine. The neighboring Value Village building also owned by real estate developer Legacy Commercial was not as lucky. Its landmarks protections only extended to the building’s exterior. 11th Ave is now home to a Capitol Hill WeWork.
Now this summer, with the Stranger’s home building due for a major seismic overhaul, 11th won’t be home to the neighborhood’s only newspaper.
In 2014, then publisher Tim Keck told CHS the Stranger and its associated publishing and ticketing businesses including around 50 employees were slated to move out by February 2016. “We’re looking around the market, Pioneer Square and Capitol Hill. We want to be where the action is,” Keck said at the time. “We’ve been on the Hill forever, but if we can’t be on the Hill, we can’t be on the Hill.”
An early component of Seattle’s REI history, the prominent terra cotta-faced building at 11th and Pine has stood at the corner since 1918. It is also home to Pike/Pine nightclub the Rhino Room. The landmarks board preservation decision focused on its auto row-era roots and ties to one of the nation’s most widely known outdoor retailers. If the building continues to stand, its place in Capitol Hill history will undoubtedly include its time as home to the city’s leading “alternative” newspaper.
When CHS contacted building owner Legacy Commercial about the status of the building and the Stranger’s lease in December, a representative stopped responding when we asked if the media company was leaving. There are currently no records of any seismic projects for the building in the city’s permit listings for the address.
UPDATE: Walter Scott of Legacy Commercial tells CHS there are plans for construction on the building but — currently — no plans for a full seismic overhaul. Instead, with the proper blessings of the landmarks board, Legacy plans to overhaul the exterior to better match its neighboring Kelly Springfield building home to a planned five floors of WeWork.
“We’re sorry to see them go,” Scott says of the Stranger’s exit. “Their business is changing a bit. They don’t have a need for that much square footage.”
As for the White Motor Company building, Scott says he hopes it will remain a solid part of the Pike/Pine neighborhood. “It’s very unique in that it’s landmarked,” he said. “You have to find the right tenant for it. A tenant that wants to be in the neighborhood.”
While he says the intent of the landmarks protections is “proper and beautiful,” Scott also says the decisions of the board to protect elements of their two 11th Ave buildings changed the history of the street. A “high end” grocery tenant wanted to be part of a planned development spanning the two auto row-era properties, Scott said, but had to back out when the protections made it impossible to create a large enough space and prevented the necessary underground parking garage.
“It was going to be something else,” Scott said. “But now it’s what it is.”
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