Saved from redevelopment as a major grocery store in the heart of Pike/Pine by the city’s landmarks protections and thrust into history as a catbird seat to the 2020 CHOP protests as Seattle Police tear gas seeped through the building’s drafty windows and into the eyes of the few remaining journalists at alternative weekly The Stranger before its move from the neighborhood, the old White Motor Company building at 11th and Pine is undergoing a full overhaul to “beautify,” restore, and upgrade the 104-year-old structure and put its upper stories back into use with new tenants.
A representative for the building’s owner Legacy Commercial tells CHS the work underway now through the end of November will restore the building “and make it high energy at the same time.”
Windows are being removed and replaced as systems work is done throughout the three-story building. Meanwhile, the exterior will be restored “with the same colors” and original terra cotta rosettes — removed when the building was being lined up for possible redevelopment eight years ago — will be reattached.
Legacy’s goal is to reinvigorate the building and attract new tenants for the upper story office floors.
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 home to Pike/Pine nightclub the Rhino Room.
The 2015 landmarks board preservation decision focused on its auto row-era roots and ties to one of the nation’s most widely known outdoor retailers. Its place in Capitol Hill history will undoubtedly include its time as home to the city’s leading “alternative” newspaper.
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.
To better accompany its preservation incentive-boosted Kelly Springfield office development next door, Legacy is now setting to work on the White Motor Company corner where at one point the developers had lined up a “high end” grocery tenant that wanted to be part of a planned development spanning the two auto row-era properties. A Legacy representative told CHS in 2020 that the grocer had to back out when the White Motor protections made it impossible to create a large enough space and prevented the necessary underground parking garage.
11th Ave is now home to a Capitol Hill WeWork where companies like Microsoft and Duolingo keep desks. Virtual golf bar Five Iron Golf moved in downstairs. And, at the corner of 11th and Pine, the Stranger is long gone — work to remove the paper’s legendary “penthouse” shack was done last summer, a Legacy rep said, to address water leak issues. The Black Lives Matter mural fills E Pine below.
Now it is time to sort out what comes next for the White Motor Company building after its overhaul.
Demand for boutique office space on Capitol Hill with its public transit and food and drink riches and growing supply of market-rate apartments for workers who want to be close to their teams continues to show signs of life despite the uncertainty of the pandemic.
With around 16,000 square feet of space, 15-foot ceilings, Legacy has a lot of space to fill. And the challenges in the process to redevelop the landmark have continued. Part of the work plan includes replacement of the property’s unique masonry-work sidewalk. Bricks won’t withstand the wear and tear and safety requirements so new materials will be used but the work has been complicated, a Legacy representative said, by “a void” discovered underneath. It’s a problem Legacy is working out with approvals from the city but another sign that history and time are in charge when it comes to the White Motor Company building.
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