This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to re-visit Melrose Market, locatedon Melrose Avenue between Pike and Pine Streets (http://melrosemarketseattle.com/). It had been several months since my first visit there, and I was quite pleased to see that it has filled out rather nicely, and judging by the number of patrons and the curious, many were enjoying this latest gift to the community from Capitol Hill Developer Dunn and Hobbes (www.dunnandhobbes.com). A developer – gifting – an oxymoron? Alas, it usually is. But not in this case, for Melrose market is an enlightened development in our community. The former Packard automobile showroom and automotive repair shop was carefully restored without compromising its original character, although the typical precedent for such a project is that of a developer performing architectural taxidermy; or (in layman’s terms), saving the shell while adding another five or six stories above. At Melrose Market, the developer has opted instead to maximize values that are less financially tangible but ultimately of greater worth to the community. The approach to the physical development of the project is reflected in the tenanting: local, and at time unique, businesses purveying quality goods. Included are a cheese shop and butcher (when was the last time you saw either of those on the Hill), a florist, and several eating establishments, all housed within an open, early 20th century warehouse type space. The steel windows, masonry, and bow string trusses ground the building firmly within this typology, contributing to a space reminiscent of Pike Place Market (though with a decidedly Capitol Hill ambiance), markets on Granville Island, or those in cities such as New York and San Francisco (albeit on a smaller scale). Dare I say even European (whilst trying to avoid cliché)? The newly added finishes are suitable to the building’s existing grain, and have a pleasing, unfinished quality to them. Other Seattle businesses that are not in the warehouse type space are populating the storefronts, with more on the way. Generous sliding windows indicate these future habitants will contribute significantly to the surrounding street life, forming an important link between Pike and Pine Streets.
Happily, I can say that this development, while fresh and full of promise, is not unique on Capitol Hill. Dunn and Hobbes have shown similar inventiveness on at least one previous project, the Piston and Ring Building on the corner of Pike and 12th Avenue.. Hunters Capitol (http://www.hunterscapital.com) has been in the giving spirit as well, with its recent renovation and recruitment of Elliot Bay Books into their new home on 10th Avenue. This beauty, however, probably deserves it own post. All in all, the development bar continues to be raised on the Hill, and that is a most welcomed trend, and one we should wholeheartedly support.