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

County expands $125M Eviction Prevention and Rental Assistance Program for landlords and renters

Capitol Hill and Central District property owners with renters struggling to pay during the ongoing economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis could be eligible to receive financial assistance as the first phase of King County’s Eviction Prevention and Rental Assistance Program begins. The first phase is starting with landlords with five or more units with tenants in need of assistance:

Outreach to landlords, property managers, and property owners is underway now, and enrollment of properties will happen over the next three weeks. Information for property signup is available on the EPRAP Landlord page.

Individuals and families living in properties signed up and approved for the program will be covered for rental assistance and will not have to apply independently in May.

By mid-May, the second phase including property owners with five or fewer units kicks in. Continue reading

‘90%’ — In tiff with Seattle City Council over COVID-19 hazard pay, Kroger says most employees ‘chose to continue working with QFC’ but has no answers on what’s next for Capitol Hill grocery

Not much left to sell at the 15th Ave E QFC (Image: CHS)

The numbers behind the decision may not exactly add up but the 15th Ave E QFC is still set for its final day of business Saturday as Ohio-based parent company Kroger continues to point the finger at specific Seattle leadership for its decision to cut the store over the city’s $4 per hour COVID-19 hazard pay.

The 15th Ave E location has been an active grocery store for 77 years.

“While it is never our intent to close stores, it’s unfortunate that the decision was made for us,” a company spokesperson told CHS Thursday. “The Seattle City Council’s ordinance made it impossible to keep these two underperforming stores open.”

The dispute is also a sore spot between the company and United Food and Commercial Workers 21, the local chapter of the powerful union representing grocery workers. UFCW 21 has protested the closure decisions and held mock “donation collection” events in front of stores set to close “to help raise funds for the top supermarket chain in the country to pay its workers temporary hazard pay and call on Kroger Co. to keep stores open.”

Kroger says “90%” of the employees involved in the shutdown took new jobs at other QFC locations.

The spokesperson declined to provide “specific store information” to CHS “as it is our policy not to share store sales data.”

There are two other QFCs on Capitol Hill — both on Broadway — and nine more across Seattle.

CHS reported in mid-February on Kroger’s decision to shut down two Seattle stores over the city’s COVID-19 hazard pay claiming its most expensive locations on Capitol Hill and in the Wedgwood neighborhood needed to go given the rising costs of operations. The closures joined other shutterings by the company following hazard pay ordinances in other cities. Continue reading

Replacing Urban Outfitters, Mosaic Salon and Spa Studios to create new space for independent hair and beauty pros on Capitol Hill

Mosaic is creating space for 58 independent studios inside (Image: CHS)

@hairapy.by.natalia operates out of Mosaic’s downtown location (Image: Mosaic)

By Jethro Swain

A big hole in Broadway’s commercial offerings is about to move from the youth fashion retail era of the past to a new era of hair and beauty.

Mosaic, a privately owned facilities management company that leases studios to salon and spa business owners, is opening its biggest location yet this spring on Capitol Hill.

The new set of leasable suites scheduled to open as early as May is taking the large retail space formerly home to Urban Outfitters in the Broadway Market shopping center corner of Broadway and Harrison. There will be both a street entrance as well as a second floor entrance above the market’s QFC grocery store.

“We’ve targeted the Capitol Hill market for a while, the ethos of Capitol Hill is perfectly suited for what we do,” said Mosaic owner Paul Griff. “The independent spirit and sense of community will be perfect.”.

Mosaic provides salon and spa owners with individual spaces that they can lease on a weekly rent basis and make their own. “What we do is straightforward — We provide a place for people to come and open their business and not have to worry about other things,” said Griff. Continue reading

QFC to shutter 15th Ave E grocery as company axes two Seattle stores over COVID-19 hazard pay — UPDATE

Blaming the city’s newly imposed $4 an hour COVID-19 hazard pay for grocery workers, QFC announced Tuesday it is closing two “underperforming” Seattle stores including its Capitol Hill grocery on 15th Ave E.

“Our business provides affordable groceries, good jobs with growth opportunities to thousands of Seattle residents, and proudly supports thousands of local community organizations,” the statement from the Kroger-owned grocery company announcing the closures reads. “We need a level playing field to deliver on these commitments. Unfortunately, Seattle City Council didn’t consider that grocery stores — even in a pandemic — operate on razor-thin profit margins in a very competitive landscape. When you factor in the increased costs of operating during COVID-19, coupled with consistent financial losses at these two locations, and this new extra pay mandate, it becomes impossible to operate a financially sustainable business.”

Kroger’s most recent reports show the company smashing forecasts with a surge in revenue and profits during the pandemic.

The 15th Ave E store will remain open through April 24th, the company said. The 35th Ave NE store in Wedgwood is also on the chopping block. Continue reading

Redfin says 30% want to live ‘somewhere else’ because of protests

In a new study, Seattle-based real estate service Redfin really gets to the heart of the matter of the summer’s Capitol Hill occupied protest zone — condo prices:

“Seattle’s condo market has really struggled in general during the pandemic, but the units that are closest to the CHOP have typically been selling even more slowly than other condos in Capitol Hill,” said local Redfin real estate agent Forrest Moody.

“I had one listing that was a block away from the CHOP and across the street from a Ferrari dealership that had its windows smashed,” Moody goes on to say. “The condo actually sold within five days, but that’s likely because we listed it for $25,000 less than we had planned to back in February.” Continue reading

A Broadway development more than 20 years in the making, the process to fill Capitol Hill Station’s new apartments has begun — UPDATE

Capitol Hill Station’s Park luxury apartment building will provide its tenants with plenty of Cal Anderson views (Image: Live Capitol Hill Station)

One quarter of the first batch of units in the new Capitol Hill Station mixed-use development have been leased, as of early this month, according to the complex’s general manager.

The major project above the light rail transit station has been seen as a key development for the neighborhood creating hundreds of new homes and thousands of square feet of new commercial space on Broadway. The COVID-19 crisis has delayed construction but the new, mostly “market-rate” apartments are finally hitting that market.

110 affordable units in the Station House development on the northeast area above the station opened earlier this year and faced high demand.

More than two years after the project’s groundbreaking across the street from Cal Anderson Park, which included a ribbon cutting from Mayor Jenny Durkan, the leasing process on the first 94 units of 400-plus on Broadway started in mid-September amid the coronavirus pandemic, general manager Kristin Lipp told CHS. Continue reading

Capitol Hill’s Volunteer Park Cafe says goodbye… for now?

(Image: Volunteer Park Cafe)

Nearly 14 years of baking and cafe goodness has come to an end at 17th and Galer where there is also an uncertain future for the 117-year-old house that stands there.

The Volunteer Park Cafe served its final batch of muffins, scones, and breakfast sandwiches over the weekend under owner Ericka Burke who announced the restaurant’s closure with a post celebrating the Biden-Harris victory while bidding a bittersweet farewell to the home and business:

It is a HAPPY SAD day. We have new president in the house and tomorrow will be our last day in this #littleyellowhouse. It is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye- it’s been a wild ride. Our hearts are filled with optimism about the future. It’s been 15 years of #alwaysfreshgoodness. We are excited as we move forward to find goodness in everything that crosses our paths. On this little corner we have experienced so much- joy, challenges, life, death, but most of all LOVE and FRIENDSHIP. For that we are immensely GRATEFUL. Thank you. To my VPC ride or die crew-thank you from the bottom of my heart. You all made VPC happen. I could have never done it without your talents, huge hearts, your scrappy determination. You are my family and you always will be. I LOVE you. We will see you on the flip side. Peace out and thank you for so many years of support!

The closure comes following the 17th and Galer’s cafe’s reopening in May after a temporary shutdown under COVID-19 restrictions that also threw a planned sale of the house and business into limbo. Continue reading

Capitol Hill Goodwill lined up for mixed-use development

Plans have been filed with the city to replace the Capitol Hill Goodwill with a mixed-use development that would add around 170 new apartment units to Belmont Ave E just off E Olive Way.

The Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce reports the planning could be part of the first steps in a sale of the 1926-built building by longtime ownership.

In the early filings, the development is being planned by VIA Architecture as a seven-story structure with 171 apartment units on the sloping lot. Continue reading

Capitol Hill auto garage in CHOP 911 controversy leaving 12th Ave as development moves forward

(Image: CHS)

With reporting by Gabrielle Locke

A longtime 12th Ave small business that ended up playing an outsized role in the summer’s Capitol Hill occupied protest zone is closing shop and leaving the neighborhood — a move that will be viewed through the prism of months of protests but that has been in the works for years as part of a multimillion dollar land and development deal.

In 1999, John McDermott and Russell Kimble bought Car Tender, a Capitol Hill auto repair garage on 12th Ave at E Olive St.

“We have our craft and we do enjoy that but, like everything, it has its challenges. What we enjoy the most is helping people,” Kimble tells CHS. After 49 years of serving the Capitol Hill community, Car Tender is relocating to Shoreline. “Our move has been coming for a long time because our property sold, so moving has always been the plan,” Kimble said.

The business has been servicing European cars including BMW, Volkswagen, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Land Rover, and others, in the city since 1971.

In 2016, the garage partners bought the property where their business was located in a $7.6 million deal. Two years later with early development planning in place, the property was sold to developer Mack Real Estate Group for $10.2 million. Continue reading