Meet Ballard’s highest-tech commuter

We’ve all seen Segways here and there, even at the Ballard Farmer’s Market. But we watched this gentleman, clad in a suit and tie, effortlessly cruise along the side of Phinney Ave. and drop down into Ballard like he does this every day.

And he does. The man told us, through our open window, that he commutes every day between his home near Swanson’s Nursery to Pioneer Square.

Update: The high-tech commuter has added more details in comments below. “It takes me about 40-50 minutes for my 8-10 mile commute (depends on which streets I take). I have been commuting this way for about 8 months and have clocked about 1400 miles on the Segway,” he writes. “It really is great fun!!!”

Makeover planned for Old Ballard building

For nearly 80 years, the Kolstrand Marine Supply Company worked out of this building just south of Ballard Hardware at 4743 Ballard Ave NW.

Last summer, the building sold, and workers have been busy stripping the inside, but they’ve been careful to leave many original touches: exposed hand-painted brick, masonry block walls and exposed old growth re-sawn lumber.

Developers are planning to adapt the early 1900’s structure to include a retail and restaurant space, as well as offices and work/loft units. The plan includes adding another floor. Here’s a look at a preliminary sketch:

The developers are still waiting for approval on city permits, but this Friday they’re inviting the public to attend an open house. “They’d love to get feedback from locals and suggestions about what they’d like to see in the building, which is why they’re holding the open house so early in the process,” said Abby Calvo, who sent us a press release on the event. Graham Baba Architects and developers evo Properties and CD-Dev will be on hand to discuss the project. That’s this Friday, 3 to 9 p.m., at 4743 Ballard Ave. Refreshments will be provided.

You can see a lot more photos and details on The Kolstrand Building’s website.

All-star cast at new French restaurant

We’ve been covering the transformation of the old Obermaier Machine Works building on Ballard Ave. into Bastille Cafe & Bar, a new French restaurant.

Seattle Times food writer Nancy Leson has the scoop on some of the big names behind the project. The owners are Deming Maclise of Caffe Fiore and James Weimann, who started El Camino and Peso’s, among others. And the executive chef, Shannon Galusha, has worked at Veil, Campagne, French Laundry and Rue Balzac. And that’s not all: Peter Lewis, the founder of Campagne, will help with day-to-day operations. It’s enough to Leson write that Bastille is “set to be this year’s Major Restaurant Opening.” Bastille will feature seating for 165 people in the restaurant and bar, a takeout window, authentic French furnishings and a huge rooftop garden. Lots more on Leson’s blog post right here.

Greener Lifestyles is saying goodbye

After nearly six years on Ballard Ave, Greener Lifestyles is closing.

We spoke with the owner today who says that she’s been living a schizophrenic life, jostling between the retail store and her manufacturing business. With the economic downturn she’s been motivated to choose one or the other. She chose to keep manufacturing the sustainable furniture that her shop sells. “What I’ll miss the most is the community. The people. It’s almost like Cheers,” as she breaks into song, “Where everybody knows your name…” Tomorrow night from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. she’s throwing a “gratitude gathering” to say thank you.

She doesn’t know what will replace her, but she wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a restaurant since that’s the trend these days. The space also comes with a good-size backyard that has been unused for years.

Whittier Elementary to get new principal

Whittier Elementary is getting a new principal starting the 2009-2010 school year. Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson and Chief Academic Officer Carla Santorno have confirmed Linda Robinson to the post. Ms. Robinson has served six years as principal at Bryant Elementary and as assistant principal and head teacher at Kimball Elementary. She received her BA in English Literature from the University of Oregon, her K-12 certification from the University of Hawaii, her reading endorsement from Seattle Pacific University and her principal certification and a Masters of Education from UW.

New outdoor seating in Ballard

Just in time for the sun, several Ballard eateries have opened outdoor seating areas. The deck to the right is at La Carta de Oaxaca on Ballard Ave. We’re told it has a peek-a-boo view of the Ship Canal and heating for those cooler days and evenings we’ve been having. The long communal table can be reserved.

Honore, the French bakery at 14th & 70th, is taking advantage of the sunshine. They opened this small patio in back a few weeks ago.

Given Honore’s limited seating inside and their popularity, people we talked to are excited about this. And as we’ve reported, Hamburger Harry’s on Market has applied for sidewalk seating, so stay tuned for that.

Building replacing Sunset Bowl gets green light

After a two hour meeting, the Design Review Board unanimously approved the design (.pdf) for Avalon Ballard, the 233-unit apartment building replacing Sunset Bowl at Market St. and 14th Ave. NW.

Board members praised AvalonBay Communities and Ankrom Moisan Associated Architects for incorporating many changes from the last Design Review meeting. But the board set four conditions on approval.

“To me, the biggest issue is the west facade,” said board member Mark Brands of the patterns on the west side facing 15th Ave. The same sentiment was reflected in public comments. “It looked like the project is due tomorrow,” said Cynthia, a neighbor who lives nearby. She asked for “something a little more subtle,” suggesting the architects commission a mural or bring in a graphic artist. The board set a condition requiring that AvalonBay tone down the pattern using a warmer, more subtle texture. Other conditions included adding a stoop on the north side, enhancing the northeast corner and softening the parapet.

As part of the project, AvalonBay will bring a bike lane, landscaped median and wider sidewalk area along 14th Ave. in front of the building. They said they’ve been working with SDOT and the 14th Ave. NW Visioning Project.

This is the entrance to the courtyard, off Market St. across from Safeway. After the meeting, we spoke with AvalonBay Development Director Derek Bottles about financing for the project given the economy. “It’s a little different because we’re a public company,” he said, declining to estimate when the building may be built. “We’re at the mercy of the economy like everyone else.” About 20 people attending the meeting, and Bottles said he has been reading the comments here on My Ballard for feedback about the development.

Students clean up St. Alphonsus school

A group of students spent their Saturday sprucing up St. Alphonsus School.

As part of the the Spring Rebuilding 2009 day for Rebuilding Together Seattle, local high school students worked on several big projects at the school. Margie Thirlby at RTS says the students painted the 1st floor cafeteria area, tore down an unused loft, did a big kitchen cleaning project, and removed clutter from the school. In total, there were 800 volunteers and 23 projects completed throughout the city. (Thanks for the picture Tricia!)

Police looking for strong-arm robbery suspects

While we were covering Friday night’s carjacking, we heard the police talking about a string of strong-arm robberies. Today, we have the details of three robberies that happened in the 11 p.m. hour on Friday. The first incident happened on the 5600 block of Phinney Ave N at 11:12 p.m. Police say a woman was accosted by two men who stole her cell phone. Twenty minutes later, in the 3200 block of NW Market, a man was attacked by three young men. Police say the suspects hit the victim, knocked him to the ground and stole his cash. The third was an attempted robbery at the 2400 block of NW 58th. Four young men confronted a man and implied that they had a weapon. The man ran into his house, armed himself with a shotgun and chased the suspects away.

Police searched the area of 17th and 61st, after a homeowner called police about suspicious activity outside. Police questioned one suspect around 24th and 59th who matched the description of the earlier robberies. He was later released pending further investigation. Detectives are following up on these robberies.