There is palpable excitement in Michael Seiwerath’s voice as he’s standing in the foyer of the near-finished 12th Ave Arts building. “This is the main entrance to the building and also the main entrance to the two theaters. There will be clear signage on this wall showing you the way to both the Main Stage and the Studio Stage. Over on that wall, there will be information about upcoming shows.”
Seiwerath, the Executive Director of Capitol Hill Housing, has seen this project evolve over many years and now that the grand opening is mere months away, he and his colleagues are ecstatic about moving their offices into the new building.
This mixed-use building has two theaters, 88 apartments, ground floor retail, commercial space on the second floor, and the parking facility for Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct. Since the building will serve so many different community needs, there was concern that the theater space would not get the same attention as other stand-alone theaters in the area.
“How do we balance that and give some identity to the theaters? That’s where the idea for using the 2nd floor as a marquee came in,” Dean Kralios, project architect with SMR Architects, explains. The large, 8-foot tall, illuminated letters displaying the building’s name will be installed in the next couple of weeks.
We walk over dusty floors covered with cables and pass by several construction workers to get to the Main Stage. Tall black walls characterize this large, raw room and, looking up at the ceiling, an intricate equipment grid, including a permanent catwalk, that serves the technical needs of the theatre companies.
“What’s so exciting about it is my first time walking in here, I could already envision five different scene configurations that I could use in a really fun way,” Ali el-Gasseir, producer and director for Washington Ensemble Theater says, looking around the empty space. Linking the Studio Stage with the Main Stage is a hall with a green room, several dressing rooms, and private bathrooms and showers.
The Studio Stage, a smaller, more intimate version of the Main Stage, will be where the first show takes place. “It’s a play by Josh Conkel called Sprawl and it’s about the suburbs and why nobody should live there. Picture Mars Attacks meets Serial Mom,” el-Gasseir says with a big grin. The topic couldn’t be more appropriate for the nature of the building and the desire to create an affordable living space in the city in order to to curb urban sprawl.
Amy Allsopp, Communications Manager at Capitol Hill Housing, leads the way to the second floor where their new office will be located. “I haven’t seen the new paint yet,” she says, turning to us on the stairwell. Inside the office, huge windows offer a nice view of downtown Seattle. The newly painted walls are bright shades of blue and yellow. The office, which CHH designed, will feature an open floor plan. Facing east, the back of the office looks toward a large outdoor area that screams office parties. The break room, a far cry from the depressingly dark break rooms that I’m used to, has large windows and a full kitchen.
Leaving the CHH office space, we walk through the rest of the second floor through other commercial spaces for Three Dollar Bill Cinema, the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, and the Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences, along with an undetermined space that also features a large outdoor deck area.
We walk up to the third floor of the building, where the residential space begins. The floor resembles a hotel, with an elevator lobby area and a long hallway with apartments on either side. Peering into one of the units, the door opens to a kitchen, with a bathroom next to it, and a living room with large windows. It is a simple and open one-bedroom. Further down the hall, we step into a spacious two-bedroom that is about 1200 square feet. The big living-room windows look out onto 12th avenue.
Thinking about the future tenants of this apartment, I realize that they’ll be able to see a play and have Russian dumplings at Pel Meni Tzar without even leaving the building. Not bad at all.
The grand opening of 12th Ave Arts is slated for mid to late November.