Capitol Hill: Goodbye Bauhaus, Hello Future!

Sigh. Here we go again. From the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog.

Another half-block of Pike/Pine has been purchased by an Eastside developer with plans to create a new mixed-use development that will likely push out several long-running commercial tenants and residents of the apartments currently part of the old buildings along E Pine and Melrose.

This lead in to a post about a property acquisition in my neighborhood, Capitol Hill leaves absolutely zero room to consider the possibility that the acquisition might lead to some good.

Instead it is the typical story line: greedy developer from the Eastside buys up quaint, happy little shops to liquidate them, pushing them out to make way for (gasp!) mixed-use development.

I hate to tell everyone this but the block already is mixed-use. And if there are no legal limitations on it created by preservation laws or requirements the developer is under no obligation to do anything but what is legally required. If she or he wants to level it and replace it with something like this, he or she can:

I love the block just as it is. It is full of memories for me, and I am sitting in Bauhaus right now, looking at the beret wearing mystery man who appears to be writing music or battle plans or something.

In talking with the baristas (who know me and what I drink without me asking) I found out they have known this was coming. The buildings need to be retrofit to make them safer for, you guessed it, people. In our chat at the register we agreed the point is to make whatever happens good, better than other things we don’t like. But the buildings are going away.

It is easy to forget that what matters is the mystery man, the old men drawing with their dogs, the baristas, you, and me and all the other people on Capitol Hill who live here and who may be living above the spot where I am sitting. Remember, Density is People, not buildings. If I was a billionaire and could acquire the block, retrofit it so it was safe, and keep it the same I would. I’d give it as a gift to the best neighborhood in Seattle, Capitol Hill.

But I’m not, and we have to put our energies into embracing the change that will come to the block. We are the best neighborhood, in my opinion, in Seattle because we embrace difference, noise, and change. This is the neighborhood that thrives on the diversity and adversity of city life and doesn’t cower in the face of things that would make other neighborhoods cry like a baby.

Capitol Hill can make this shift. Who cares about the buildings. We’re the ones that matter. We are the neighborhood and it is up to us to make whatever ends up on the block a reflection of what we need as customers, residents, and city dwellers. Let’s not try to kill the project with a thousand cuts. This is our chance to show neighborhoods like Roosevelt how to do change. Let’s not just embrace change, let’s make out with it, and fall in love with it.

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3 Responses to Capitol Hill: Goodbye Bauhaus, Hello Future!

  1. Dod says:

    Who cares about buildings? I do.

    The design and character of the buildings of Pike/Pine contributed strongly to my decision to move to this neighborhood. I chose to call this part of the Hill my home due to the its character. Admittedly, part of that character comes from the people and businesses within the community; however, the design and architectural expression of the buildings is as much part of the fabric of this neighborhood as the people who live here. Changes to the buildings which help to form the spine and character of the neighborhood will effect on the people who live in and around those structures. Supporters of this type redevelopment turn a blind eye to that fact in the name of financial gain. That is tragic. I moved here in part because of the density of the neighborhood. I support additional density, but not at the expense of destroying the physical fabric of a vibrant community.

  2. Ryan on Summit says:

    The types of businesses that survive on that block need old buildings to keep their rents low. The businesses that go in will not be as neighborhood-centered.

  3. Daniel says:

    I agree that the neighborhood character is largely comprised of the people who inhabit it, but the buildings that comprise the neighborhood go a long way toward determining who and how we interact with our fellow residents. I am all for thoughtful development that fosters density and allows this neighborhood to become even better. But at the same time I dread projects that erase the finer grain of the neighborhood and embed large scale projects in perpetuity (as the buildings that are going up today have lifespans of 40-50 years). It’s a lot easier to combine lots and build a big project building to replace smaller buildings than it is the other way around. And once you do build big, you narrow the landlords and therefore the opportunities for small retailers and startups in the neighborhood.

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