Coworking giant WeWork coming to Capitol Hill in preservation incentive-boosted Kelly Springfield project — UPDATE


The future of 11th Ave is coworking (Image: Ankrom Moisan)

The preservation-incentive boosted development that is turning the old Capitol Hill Value Village space — and before that, REI, and before that, the Kelly Springfield Motor Truck Company — into an office and retail complex in the heart of Pike/Pine will be filled with desks from coworking startup WeWork.

The Puget Sound Business Journal broke the news Tuesday on the plans for the company to be the sole tenant in the five-story building, filing the project’s 70,000 square feet or so of office space with WeWork’s brand of glossy coworking space, entrepreneurial and “business incubator” services, and, maybe a WeWork company store.

Company officials have confirmed the Capitol Hill WeWork project but few details of the 11th Ave facility. WeWork has grown rapidly across the country and in tech hot spots like Seattle with pricing around $300 for a drop-in desk, $400 for a dedicated desk, and $550 for a single private office. WeWork currently operates 11 locations in Seattle and Bellevue. Some are single floors of office buildings. Some, like the Kelly Springfield building, are dedicated to their WeWork lease.

UPDATE 11:25 AM: Expect to see WeWork folks in the neighborhood by late summer, according to a company spokesperson. The company continues to grow the services it offers beyond coworking desks to include entrepreneurial investment and computer coding training. It also hopes to add retail and larger event spaces — a use the old auto row proportions of the Kelly Springfield building is likely perfectly suited for — to its roster of features in Seattle. The idea, the company spokesperson said, is to offer a “campus” of spaces and services across the city.

As for Capitol Hill and Pike/Pine, the densely and youthfully populated neighborhood well stocked with restaurants and bars has reportedly been a WeWork target for nearly five years but the company was sensitive about being part of any new construction in the neighborhood and existing office stock wasn’t quite up to snuff. The Kelly Springfield project’s preservation-focused development presents WeWork with a rare opportunity to be part of the resources available in a new era office building while also enjoying street level remnants of Pike/Pine’s auto row past.

The Kelly Springfield development remains under construction along 11th Ave after passing out of design review in January 2017.

The project from developer Legacy Commercial and architects at Ankrom Moisan has created three stories of new offices over the old Kelly Springfield Motor Truck Company and Value Village building connected on the south side to a narrow five story office building that has filled-in the block’s sunken parking lot. The project was planned to include 32 parking spots in an underground garage.

Thanks to its landmarks designation, the expansive open floor plan in the building’s street level space will be maintained. However, the creosote-soaked floors you might remember from the Value Village and REI days were removed.

CHS previously reported on developers exploring the possibility of transforming the 12,000-square-foot former Value Village space into a food and retail “marketplace,” a vision that seems unlikely given the hook-up with WeWork.

The 1917-built building was “preserved” in the redevelopment thanks to the neighborhood’s conservation district incentives. Critics call it facadism. Progressive architects — and others — point to the preservation of character and volume. While, indeed, not much is preserved when the preservation projects dig in, the neighborhood’s Conservation Overlay District’s incentive program has produced a handful of very large, more interesting than average developments across Pike/Pine.

In return for agreeing to preserve the facade and street level dimensions of Pike/Pine’s buildings 75-years-old or older, developers can design their projects with an extra 10 feet of height to help offset costs of the preservation. City code spells out the facade requirements. “The portion of the structure that is retained is sufficient to give the appearance of a free-standing building,” the code says. And “all street facing facades of the character structure are retained.”

Legacy, the longtime owner of the block’s buildings, abandoned plans for a larger project in 2015 after the neighboring White Motor Company building attained full landmark protection. WeWork is now set to have cool neighbors on the block where media company The Stranger and The Rhino Room continue to call the White Motor Company building home.

The arrival of WeWork is a surprise spin on a longtime desire for many in the development and business communities around Pike/Pine to encourage more daytime commercial activity in the neighborhood. They point to businesses like Oddfellows — we looked at its early decision to emphasize daytime service, here — and Elliott Bay Book Co. as models for diversifying the neighborhood beyond bars and clubs.

Capitol Hill developer Liz Dunn said the unmet demand for office space in Pike/Pine prompted her to make office — not housing — a key component of her Chophouse Row project. “We’re not getting any office because the national market hasn’t caught up,” Dunn said at the time, explaining that large, nationally-focused developers now building in the neighborhood aren’t yet focused on the area’s daytime potential. “It’s going to be folks like me and Legacy, local owners, who are going to be able to build office space.” Now Dunn’s own neighborhood coworking project The Cloud Room will face new competition.

Coworking and desk rental ventures aren’t new on Capitol Hill, of course. Boylston’s Office Nomads debuted more than a decade ago, doubled in size five years later, and has now focused back down to its original footprint as the number of available desks in other buildings in the neighborhood has increased. Even the overhaul of the Harvard Exit to create a new home for the Consulate of Mexico in Seattle included coworking space in the building.

We don’t have a date, yet, for the planned opening of the new Capitol Hill WeWork. The Kelly Springfield construction is expected to wrap up in early 2019.

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