Boom Warehouse Alchemy
posted by October 24 at 13:24 PMon
While the city considers ways to preserve the historic buildings in the Pike-Pine neighborhood, current rules promote knocking those buildings down and holding back developers from restoring them.
But Scott Shapiro and Liz Dunn aren’t waiting for the city to act. Over the past few years, the developers have gutted drab warehouses on 12th Avenue and renovated them into neighborhood icons. Café Press, Osteria La Spiga, Retrofit Home, and others are in their portfolio. Now they’ve set their sites down the barrel of Pike-Pine.
Two adjacent warehouses on Melrose Avenue lay low, an unmemorable olive green. But in February, Shapiro and Dunn will begin renovating them into restaurants and stores—injecting life into a historically dead wedge of the neighborhood.
“It’s a serious investment, but it’s worth it for us,” says Shapiro. “As long-term local owners, we believe we are creating something unique to a neighborhood that values creative and unusual spaces.”
These sorts of projects are labors of sacrifice. Choosing to limit a building to one or two stories represents potentially passing on millions of dollars in revenue because zoning rules through most of the Pike-Pine neighborhood allow developers to build up to 65 feet. Moreover, renovating these spaces—sandblasting the massive fir beams and bringing century-old buildings up to modern standards for retail spaces—costs even more.
“Some other developers are tearing down buildings that housed some really great places that people on Capitol Hill and the rest of Seattle value,” says Shapiro.
But existing city regulations work at odds this sort of renovation and restoration. Shapiro says the code requires many upgrades that may be unnecessary, such as throwing out old windows and purchasing new ones. While the new materials are more energy efficient, discarding the old material in a landfill and manufacturing new material is a net environmental and financial burden, he says. “That makes a new development cheaper because a developer doesn’t have to deal with the hassle and cost of the restrictive land-use code,” he says. “It would be great if there were more flexibility to allow a building to keep its existing character.”