A new generation of Capitol Hill is experiencing its Bauhaus moment this week as word spreads about plans for a new mixed-use development destined to replace the block currently home to LGBTQ+ nonprofit Gay City and the E Pike Kaladi Brothers.
Capitol Hill-based Hunters Capital confirms its is entering into an agreement to develop the property at the corner of Belmont and E Pike into a new eight-story apartment building with street-level retail. As with most developers, a spokesperson for Hunters who confirmed the plans with CHS emphasized the long-term and said construction is still years away.
But for those who consider the 500 block of E Pike a second home, once the development clock begins ticking, it’s difficult not to worry about what the future will bring.
At Gay City, executive director Fred Swanson said his organization has already started its search for a new home.
“Our landlord did not renew our lease after our last term expired, so we had started exploring options,” Swanson said. “We had started looking at other spaces, anticipating that we would need to move at some point, yes. Coronavirus obviously impacted our ability to do additional searching, and none of the spaces we had seen before coronavirus were a good match.”
“I’m surrounded by brilliant people at work who care a lot about LGBTQ folks, so I’m sure we’ll land somewhere great,” Swanson said.
The 517 E Pike building is owned by the Ragen family who own the Ragen and Associates landscaping business that calls the top floor of the building home. CHS talked with owner Chip Ragen in 2012 about the building’s odd history. The 1910-built, two-story commercial structure was very nearly the tallest building on Pike before the neighborhood’s booming auto row claimed it from residential development more than 100 years ago.
Hunters Capital and developer Michael Malone have already been active on the block. They developed the eight-story, preservation incentive-boosted Dunn Automotive building next to the current home of Gay City and Kaladi. The architects at Studio Meng Strazzara will also design the new project.
Both Gay City and Kaladi both recently invested in renovations to their E Pike spaces. In 2018, Gay City expanded its library and made room for a new business partner who didn’t work out. Kaladi, meanwhile, has a history of hopping around E Pike. In late 2018, the Alaska-based coffee chain reopened in a transformed space that it had once inhabited when it first arrived on Capitol Hill in 2007.
The Hunters Capital representative said the developer expects Gay City to need to move on to a new location but hopes that Kaladi might move back into the development after its two years or so of construction.
Before all that, there are public design and permitting processes to complete and a possible consideration of the property for landmarks protections and preservation.
But for the southern side of the 500 block of E Pike between Belmont and Summit, yes, the clock is ticking.
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