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Frozen since the start of the pandemic, development plan for Broadway’s Jai Thai building being rapidly reheated as seven-story affordable housing project

The project will be designed by Redmond architecture firm Knit

It’s an emergency. The unthawing of pre-pandemic redevelopment plans for a block of Broadway home to one of the strip’s oldest remaining buildings is moving rapidly ahead thanks to emergency legislation passed in 2020 to ease the way for the creation of much-needed affordable housing in Seattle.

The Broadway Urbaine project is now being planned as “100% Publicly-Funded Affordable Housing,” according to City of Seattle records, and would rise seven stories with 95 new apartments, five ground floor live/work units, and retail space replacing the 118-year-old, two-story commercial building currently home to the Jai Thai restaurant, a collection of businesses including a Mud Bay pet supply store location, plus 14 upper floor apartment units.

Like with the old building, there will be no motor vehicle parking below the new development — the project will rise only a block away from busy Capitol Hill Station and the area is served by several bus lines and the nearby First Hill Streetcar.

CHS reported here on the plans to redevelop the block in February 2020 just as the COVID-19 crisis set in and most land use work and construction ground to a halt.

The project is now fully revived and moving about as rapidly toward construction as a major project can get in the Seattle process. Cannon Commercial is now joined in the development by TAP Collaborative and $3 million in affordable housing funding from the city announced in 2021’s last round of Office of Housing grants. A company registered to Joe Cannon and TAP’s Rebecca Ralston purchased the property for $6.25 million in 2018, according to King County records.

CHS reached out to TAP Collaborative after Mayor Jenny Durkan’s announcement of the affordable housing funding for the unspecified Broadway project. We’ve since learned that the funding is part of the development underway at Broadway and Thomas and have asked for more details about the project and how the community can get involved in providing feedback. We’ve also asked the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections for more information.

Despite a raft of emergency rules including eviction moratoriums and new longterm tenant protections, Seattle remains in the midst of a housing and affordability crisis with rents continuing to climb despite the pandemic and COVID-19 restrictions. Facing continued pressure to create more housing to address issues ranging from homelessness to affordability, the city is preparing for what pro-growth advocates hope will be major changes to its land use policies. In its most recent overhaul of zoning, the so-called Mandatory Housing Affordability plan altered the city’s zoning to surgically allow taller and more multifamily-packed development in the city’s densest neighborhoods including Capitol Hill and the Central District. The MHA plan tied upzones in 27 of the city’s densest neighborhoods to the creation of affordable units and was planned to transition a reported 6% of Seattle’s single family/Neighborhood Residential-zoned property. Growth advocates say much more is needed.

Now, new land use signs popping up as 2021 comes to a close have stirred interest from Broadway passersby and public comment on technical “master use permit” elements is being accepted and you can also email [email protected] referencing project 3036108-LU through December 29th — but the path to demolition and the new project’s rise will be faster than most now that the development is back in motion.

UPDATE: You can learn more about the project and how to leave comments here: https://web8.seattle.gov/SDCI/ShapingSeattle/buildings/Details/3036108-LU

Under emergency rules passed in spring of 2020 to help keep design and landmark reviews on track during the pandemic restrictions, the publicly financed affordable housing development qualifies for a fast track path to construction and will not need to pass through public design review.

The legislation also temporarily changed the process for historic structures, allowing the Department of Neighborhoods to administratively approve changes to historic structures and assume the role of negotiating with owners for landmarking controls of a structure but it’s not clear what path might be ahead for the Jai Thai building in regards to possible landmark protections.

The Wilshire Building has stood on this corner of Broadway and Thomas since 1903, according to the city. Historical records describe it as “one of the earliest extant buildings in the Broadway business district.” It once served as a hospital and, for a time, city records show that the second floor served as a sanitarium, “with access through the separate entry at the south end of the front façade.” The building is connected to a second structure added in 1982. The corner has been home to a variety of businesses including the Broadway Rexall.

In addition to the current commercial tenants, the Wilshire is also home to residents living in its handful of upper floor apartments. Some are hoping to bring public pressure to stop the building’s demolition and redevelopment and a petition has been launched.

“Preserve the building and businesses by either making it a historic landmark, that cannot be demolished OR preserve the facade of the Wilshire Building and give the option to grandfather in current businesses,” it reads. More than 300 have signed so far.

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CAPHILL
CAPHILL
27 days ago

BUILD BUILD BUILD!

Xtian Gunther
24 days ago
Reply to  CAPHILL

Fer F’s sake, build on a less historic lot. Better yet, build this on one of the several nearby PARKING lots (and build taller, if ya really want to alleviate homelessness and the housing crunch).

Preserve this piece of history. Seattle loves to tear down its past.
So stupid and criminal.

Derek
Derek
26 days ago

No!!!! I love Jai Thai and their comedy nights

Tom
Tom
26 days ago

Correction: you cannot submit comment to prc.gov. You will get an auto-reply email that tells you that that email address is no longer monitored and to use SDCI’s new public comment tool that curiously does not give you the option to comment on this project.

Cappy
Cappy
26 days ago

I am all for building up and building more housing…I just wish developers would re-use or replicate the existing facades of buildings to be demolished. All of the “squares” are pulling the character out of Capitol Hill.

Michael Calkins
26 days ago
Reply to  Cappy

I hadn’t thought of this especially around the cap hill light rail, it just looks like I’m still in downtown now.

kermit
kermit
26 days ago

I think it’s a shame that this beautiful old building is to be bulldozed, all in the worship of the almighty “density.” Broadway is slowly but surely turning into a canyon of tall, cold buildings, without any character whatsoever.

PeeDee
PeeDee
26 days ago
Reply to  kermit

First of all, it’s not some beautiful, architecturally significant building.

The design is mediocre on a good day.

Second, the current structure lacks the capacity needed considering its location near light rail.

Third, the design of the structure is IN KEEPING WITH CURRENT DESIGN TRENDS.

This is what contemporary buildings look like.

To advocate for some fake-craftsman, or fake-Victorian monstrosity is to pine for some nostalgic period of Seattle architecture that either never existed (there were never large numbers of Victorians built here) or has been long over (the craftsman period was over ages ago, let’s all allow it to rest in peace).

This architectural nostalgia has to stop; it makes for some of the ugliest structures this city has ever seen. As an example: remember the last housing expansion in the 2000s? The city built many, many boxy townhomes with a bunch of fake-craftsman bits glued — and I mean glued — onto the exterior.

Lots of white trim, vinyl windows, and beige-painted cedar shakes.

This is architecture begat of gross nostalgia and a lack of taste; it’s the kind of architecture you get when the only people at design review meetings are a bunch of tasteless grannies whose living rooms are a sea of doilies and pictures of children who never visit.

It is an architecture of compromise. Compromise skewed to the tastelessness of Northwest grandmas, of a generalized nostalgia for a past that never existed (as an aside: the past had none of the modern conveniences like the internet, cell phones, and other things we value today. The PAST UNIFORMLY SUCKED AND YOU WOULD BE UNHAPPY LIVING THERE).

So, rant over, but please stop it with the architectural nostalgia and get over the fact that contemporary buildings don’t look like those of the past.

J R
J R
26 days ago
Reply to  PeeDee

There is a difference between saying this design lacks architectural quality or character and advocating for faux-historicism. This building is banal at best. There are a number of excellent contemporary apartment buildings on the Hill, look at 19th and Mercer for two examples.

And while I’m at it, I’m all for more housing everywhere but the existing building is architecturally significant. It seems like our preservation system is broken if generic garages from the 1920’s are preserved but this one can slip though without a hearing. Keep the facade, keep retail on Broadway, stack up the units above and everybody wins.

PeeDee
PeeDee
26 days ago
Reply to  J R

Do you know what maintaining this facade while constructing a new building behind it would cost?

“Facading.” as they call the practice, is often impractical in many ways. Financial, engineering-wise, etc.

And, no, this building is not architecturally significant in any way. It’s a run-of-the-mill structure for it’s age and has far outlived its usefulness.

That said, you are correct that the weird emphasis on preserving “auto row” structures is best described as “idiotic.”

I mean, there’s no good reason these structures and their style should be preserved. Even at the time of their construction they were retail architectures designed with utility, and not aesthetics, in mind.

The 19th & Mercer building is a **great** example of good modern design done by someone who clearly understands modernism. We do have far too much awful modern architecture in this city, clearly thrown up my developers who care little for design and just want something built as quickly as possible.

The current aesthetic should be called Too Much Hardiboard.

Why the city allows these developers to use so much hardiboard — a material designed specifically to be used to offset the cost of more expensive materials used in other parts of a structure — is beyond me.

Of course, there is an answer to why, and it’s called “corruption.”

So gross.

Xtian Gunther
24 days ago
Reply to  PeeDee

PeeDee, you’re simply missing the entire point. It doesn’t matter if this building would win an award or is a great representation of any Seattle era, real or imagined. It has historic character, the likes of which are unseen on most of the hills newer buildings of the last 50 years. You overlook it’s ornamental features, the likes of which are non-existent today, whatever the quality might have been perceived as when it was built.

Gimme a break! THAT matters. If it’s too costly to keep, develop affordable housing elsewhere on the street. There are MUCH better candidates, including friggin’ parking lots.

This building falls into the ‘they don’t build them like that anymore’ column. Because they don’t. They build crappy boxes with little flair or panache. Sorry it’s not palatial enough for you.

And, your justification assertion that the new design is contemporary is as empty a statement as I’ve read. Most contemporary design in Seattle is mediocre at best and garbage at worst!

Kathleen L Atkins
Kathleen L Atkins
24 days ago
Reply to  Xtian Gunther

Yes! Exactly right!

Glenn
Glenn
25 days ago
Reply to  PeeDee

Most of those grannies could kick your sorry ass.

Kathleen L Atkins
Kathleen L Atkins
25 days ago
Reply to  Glenn

Thank you, Glenn. Yes, we could.

Kathleen L Atkins
Kathleen L Atkins
25 days ago
Reply to  PeeDee

Wow, PeeDee. I bet you can be even more insulting to Northwestern grandmas, etc. if you let yourself go. Doilies, indeed. Meanwhile, that Broadway Urbaine looks like just another cheap, gray knockoff of a Mondrian abstraction, which had the virtue of being exciting in the first half of the 20th century, roughly the same time Craftsman houses were being built, by the way. Now the copyists are just producing dreary boxes that look as if they’re slapped together from plastic panels. Ugly plastic panels–future nonbiodegradable waste. That’s what current design trends are–featureless and flimsy junk? Oh yay.

Below Broadway
Below Broadway
23 days ago
Reply to  PeeDee

The past was great; I was there. You probably weren’t.

kmcm
kmcm
24 days ago
Reply to  kermit

Wild to see so many hyper opinions from what sounds like a real estate fleet. I live near 19th and Mercer, and it has not struck me that those buildings stand out as stellar models of modernism. Good to know. That we need to be instructed as much seems a little sad if not belligerently patronizing.

Kermit’s points touch on that old Jane Jacobs idea that mixed ages and sizes of buildings serve a city better than the over-scaled urban renewal she fought against, which now appears to be echoed in perhaps a good faith if not exactly successful density explosion currently redefining Seattle.

No question there have been wrong turns getting to this point. The more recent granny look is painful; have to agree it’s a gut punch to see that kind of misdirection cloned with abandon. Also have to agree the auto row look is…odd, a forced fit for the marketing schemes of developers. But developers like to run with treacly fantasy-land identities for their properties, so why not acknowledge the heritage they’ve displaced? At least these structures offer variety, again to kermit’s point.

What I’ll miss about the little corner strip from 1903 is its very humility in its old-school, little shop nooks, maybe unremarkable but not nearly as unremarkable as many of the new buildings going up; the design of the 1903 replacement, case in point. This sense of place is something I don’t feel at 19th and Mercer, or for that matter on First Hill which feels totally lobotomized in spite of supporting small-business storefronts.

As Seattle is now demolishing so much of its architectural heritage, it feels like it is turning into vapid, almost Soviet drabness. The new “Mondrian” strip is like post-war Berlin Alexanderplatz. Maybe this is appropriate for Seattle as a whole, but queer Capitol Hill?

Bruce Nourish
Bruce Nourish
26 days ago

Yes, I love it. Now we just need to make fast tracking the norm so we can build market rate units this way.

Is there a counter petition I can sign to tell the NIMBYs to put a sock in it?

Derek
Derek
25 days ago
Reply to  Bruce Nourish

Can we tell people like you the same? Keep facade, build on top. Not hard. We need to keep our old.

Prost Seattle
Prost Seattle
26 days ago

This project is exactly the kind of density and development that is needed on Capitol Hill. AFFORDABLE public housing one block away from our multibillion transit system. Yes, the neighborhood is changing, it’s been changing since I moved here in 1987. I’m happy that entry level workers or those on fixed incomes can find housing here. A neighborhood isn’t just buildings, it’s people.

Derek
Derek
25 days ago
Reply to  Prost Seattle

Yes it’s also landlords making lots of money gutting fine infrastructure. This won’t be affordable.

Prost Seattle
Prost Seattle
25 days ago
Reply to  Derek

The Broadway Urbaine project is now being planned as “100% Publicly-Funded Affordable Housing,” according to City of Seattle records, and would rise seven stories with 95 new apartments, five ground floor live/work units, and retail space replacing the 118-year-old, two-story commercial building currently home to the Jai Thai restaurant, a collection of businesses including a Mud Bay pet supply store location, plus 14 upper floor apartment units.

That is from the article. Yes, Derek, it will be affordable. Let’s not put up barriers in our neighborhood to provide housing for people of modest means.

Luba T.
Luba T.
25 days ago
Reply to  Prost Seattle

It’s already dense enough. Metro is expanding, so why not to build more affordable housing in the other neighborhoods, closer to public transportation as well? We need to restore old buildings, not demolish. What will happen vto Capitol Hill, when nothing but apartments left? It will be nothing interesting.

Prost Seattle
Prost Seattle
25 days ago
Reply to  Luba T.

We want more density near our light rail stations. I wish all of Broadway and John were filled with more density.

Derek
Derek
25 days ago
Reply to  Prost Seattle

It doesn’t have to be ugly and it can keep old buildings and build on top….

Fairly Obvious
Fairly Obvious
25 days ago
Reply to  Luba T.

Metro is expanding, so why not to build more affordable housing in the other neighborhoods, closer to public transportation as well?

Who says they aren’t?

Brian
Brian
26 days ago

The only thing I don’t like is the live work units. Would prefer retail at street level along the entire building on both streets like what we have now. That block of E Thomas has retail on both sides all the way down it and I think it should stay that way.

Prost Seattle
Prost Seattle
25 days ago
Reply to  Brian

I don’t think live/work are a good idea, either, I think Townhome entrances would probably be better, like the Brix has on E. Mercer and 10th Ave E.

Below Broadway
Below Broadway
23 days ago

Do we really want to lose walkable mainstays Mudbay, Scream, and Jai Thai and one of the more beautiful buildings left on Broadway? I don’t.

Ripping the still beating heart out of Broadway Ave for an apartment development that could be done almost anywhere. Not awesome.

Below Broadway
Below Broadway
23 days ago

The word “affordable” will be meaningless once the developers sell and re-incorporate. The Rubix and the Joule (now Patent523) were both vended to the city as “affordable, guaranteed low rent.”

Neither are now. Both “affordability” promises were ended within a year later.

Developers throw this word around and Utbanists fall for it. Or are part of the developers themselves fleecing the public.

Get a 20 year written guarantee of “affordability” and define what that means, or its worthless vaporware peddled by slick salespeople to a gullible public.

Destroying existing businesses in the process.

Paul
Paul
3 hours ago
Reply to  Below Broadway

You’re spot on…. Too bad this neighborhood is largely populated with poser leftists who in reality are complete shills for big pharma, developers and the government. You can’t make this stuff up lmao.