COVID-19 made Bay Area real estate startup miss out on Capitol Hill — for now

Marketing for Starcity Los Angeles

By Jethro Swain

The COVID-19 crisis has churned up the waves of redevelopment hitting Capitol Hill and the Central District in ways we’ll be sorting out for your years.

If one planned 11th Ave development two blocks north of Cal Anderson is an indicator, the health and financial crisis may have snuffed out ambitious early plans from a roster of real estate startups looking to create projects in the neighborhood and change the way the country builds new housing.

The property, home to a three-story, 1963-built, nine-unit apartment building, was lined up to be the site of a Seattle project for Starcity, a San Francisco based co-living development firm.

Founded in the Bay Area, Starcity has developed properties in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Barcelona. Their focus as a company is “to build affordable-by-design rental housing in cities that are experiencing a missing middle class,” and where rents exceed 30% of the area’s median income, according to Starcity representative Mo Sakrani.

The company fashions itself in the mold of WeWork and other new era real estate startups. It touts its co-living setups — familiar here in the Hill’s many microhousing developments — as benefits to be passed along to renters: Continue reading

Amid outcry over inequity, Hugo House announces resignation of executive director — UPDATE

Swenson (Image: Hugo House)

Calls for change at Hugo House have led to the resignation of executive director Tree Swenson, the organization announced Friday morning:

The Hugo House Board of Directors today announced the resignation of executive director Tree Swenson, effective immediately. Swenson leaves Hugo House in strong financial health after nine years of steady growth under her leadership, including a new home for the organization on Capitol Hill. Continue reading

Director faces call for resignation amid demands to make Capitol Hill’s Hugo House ‘a welcoming and supportive place for writers of all races’

Writers, teachers, and members in the community around Capitol Hill’s Hugo House are calling for the resignation of the nonprofit’s leader for failing to adequately respond to calls for change born out of the Black Lives Matter marches and occupied protest this summer on the streets outside the 11th Ave literary center across from Cal Anderson Park.

UPDATE: Representatives for the group calling for the resignation tell CHS their “advocacy to reform Hugo House has been ongoing for several years.”

“This latest push came as a pushback to (Hugo House’s) performative statement on race equity sparked by the events in summer of 2020,” Shankar Narayan, an advocate involved in the effort, writes. “So it was a response to HH’s false effort to capitalize on BLM, not BLM itself” that inspired the effort.

In an open letter from July, a group of writers and members were joined by a list of around 200 signatories criticizing executive director Tree Swenson and Hugo House over “structural and systemic racism” and the nonprofit’s failure to serve as “a welcoming and supportive place for writers of all races” — Continue reading

‘We didn’t want to open in a pandemic’ — Barca plays it cool in exit from 20 years of Capitol Hill nightlife

(Image: Barca)

The COVID-19 crisi has claimed Capitol Hill’s Barca, a bar that managed to survive multiple editions of Pike/Pine’s rapid mutations. That stubborn sense of righteousness did the bar in, longtime manager Dan Carlisle tells CHS.

“We didn’t want to open in a pandemic,” Carlisle said.

With state and local officials warning that the spread of the virus has again reached levels that will soon overwhelm the area’s health systems,  and people being asked to mark the Thanksgiving holiday alone, does it make sense to keep Capitol Hill’s bars and restaurants open?

Carlisle said the management at the 11th Ave bar considered “50 different ways” to reopen but none made financial or moral sense. Continue reading

No injuries reported as fire scorches 11th and John apartment building

A fire burned an apartment unit and did heavy damage to the Case Verde Apartments building at 11th and John on Capitol Hill late Wednesday night.

Seattle Fire said there were no reported injuries. Continue reading

Reopening: New at Chophouse Row — Light Sleeper ‘terroir bar’ and a new Capitol Hill outdoor dining street closure

Chophouse Row is hosting outdoor music sessions on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 6 pm, and Sunday afternoons at 1 pm through Labor Day — wear a mask! (Image: CHS)

As its Capitol Hill and its businesses and restaurants reopen, one of its most innovative developments is also finding new ways to be a safe part of people’s lives as they slowly venture back out to enjoy some neighborhood shopping, food, and drink. Chophouse Row is introducing a new restaurant and a new Capitol Hill temporary dining street as it joins the neighborhood’s reopening.

“In these tough times we are excited to work with amazing business owners, growers, makers, chefs, fitness experts and local musicians to support customer needs in a safe and responsible way”, said Chophouse Row developer Liz Dunn. “We’re growing and adapting as things quickly change, while also creating ways to support our community.”

The preservation, office space, retail, and food and drink development announced its newest food and drink venture will open next month as Chophouse tenants are also working together to create the neighborhood’s latest food and drink-friendly street closure for outdoor dining on 11th Ave south of E Pike.

At the center of things, the new “terroir bar” replacing Bar Ferdinand CHS reported on earlier this year will be called Light Sleeper:

Owner Eli Dahlin and his business partners Ezra Wicks, Will Mason, and Salomon Navarro are sure to surprise with their carefully curated food and drink offerings. The restaurant is set to open early September, with plenty of outdoor seating in the Chophouse Row courtyard. Their operating hours will be 12pm-11pm, 5 days per week.

Sibling wine shop Wide Eyed Wines has already opened offering “sustainably grown, small production wines from around the world.” Continue reading

Even in challenging times for Capitol Hill restaurants, no time like the present for new Mai’s Kitchen to finally open

Thanks to CHS reader Scot for the picture

For first-time restaurant owner Trang Nguyen, it wasn’t supposed to take more than a year after buying her new space on Capitol Hill to open Mai’s Kitchen.

But the COVID-19 crisis did its best to sabotage the new project after she and co-owner Doanh Dang bought the Semillon French bakery at 11th and Union last summer.

Finally this weekend, Mai’s is ready for business with plans for a soft opening Friday before the new restaurateurs dig in for a new life behind the counter in a neighborhood they hope to grow from.

“On Capitol Hill, everyone is young and open to new ideas,” Nguyen said. “We have the freedom to express ourselves.” Continue reading

After mayor’s vow to peacefully clear camp, another shooting in Cal Anderson protest zone sends man to hospital — Plus, possible second victim

A victim in Tuesday morning’s shooting incidents is loaded in an ambulance at 11th and Denny (Thanks to a CHS reader for the image)

Seattle Fire took one person to the hospital and a possible second shooting victim was rushed by private vehicle to Harborview as Tuesday began with another bout of gun violence on the edges of the Capitol Hill protest camp at Cal Anderson.

Seattle Police confirmed they were responding to a shooting at 11th and Denny early Tuesday and confirmed one person had been shot and taken to the hospital. UPDATE: SPD has posted a brief on the incident saying the victim is a man in his 30s who was not cooperative with police and provided no details of what led to the shooting. SPD says it does not know if there was a second victim.

According to Seattle Police radio updates, police were called to the area on the north end of Cal Anderson near residential apartment buildings around 4:45 AM. After staging for about five minutes to gather enough officers to enter the area of the protest camp, police reported finding a man who had been shot screaming on the northwest corner of 11th and Denny. Continue reading

Good Weather, part of strong pack of bike cafes around Capitol Hill, set to expand

(Image: Good Weather)

Slowly but surely, the area around Capitol Hill is becoming an easier place to ride a bike. The area’s bicycle-focused hangouts have also grown and, apparently, prospered. One venture in the heart of Pike/Pine has now cycled from a small shop tucked away on an upper floor above 11th Ave to the heart of Chophouse Row, and, now, an expansion in the development’s mix of food, drink, and retail.

Chophouse bike cafe Good Weather is expanding by 100%.

“Good Weather Bicycle & Cafe is doubling in size at the end of February and adding space to both the full-service bike shop and the cafe/bar,” co-owner Brandon Waterman said in an an announcement on the expansion. “We’ll warmly continue serving our delicious breakfast tacos as well as ramp up our beer selection, add seating for events and groups, and showcase a larger curated selection of bicycles and parts.” Continue reading

Despite tough 2019, WeWork Capitol Hill will be open for the first Monday of 2020

(Images: CHS)

The first full work week of 2020 will include new offices kicking into motion for the first time above the streets of Pike/Pine in a project many thought would never survive WeWork’s tumultuous 2019.

WeWork Capitol Hill is set to officially debut as the company’s newest Seattle facility Monday, January 6th officials confirmed with CHS this week.

The opening will continue a string of activity for WeWork in the area. Its Ballard location — a more modest, two-floor affair above a development that also added a Target to the neighborhood, opened last week.

As the fast-rising and now cost-cutting office real estate and coworking company is reportedly searching for solutions to remove itself from hundreds of leases around the country, its ambitious new 11th Ave facility will come online after months of delays and in a limited fashion that will leave much of the five-story building it and its customers will call home empty and still under construction, and without its key central tenant — Microsoft.

The major cause for the delay and softer than hoped launch on Capitol Hill won’t be WeWork’s dramas documented in Vanity Fair.

WeWork has run into something much more brutal than the cutthroat world of startups and pre-IPO valuations — the City of Seattle’s permit desk. Continue reading