No more wrench in Crown Hill

After a century in business, Crown Hill Hardware closed down in December with plans to sell the property. A couple days ago, the wrench mural was painted over — one of Crown Hill’s most recognizable landmarks at the corner of NW 80th St. and 15th Ave. NW.

“The wrench was cool, to me, for many years,” writes My Ballard reader Kurt, who sent us the photos. “Perhaps it did its job of keeping taggers at bay, who tend to not spray over existing art. I kind of hoped it would live on somehow. Wishful thinking in a neighborhood and city where everything old gets glossed over.”

No word on what’s coming to the corner next.

Update: One person in comments says, “Drove by while the guy started doing this. There already was graffiti on it. My guess is he was just trying to cover up graffiti and will hopefully continue to cover it up as now there is a blank canvas.”

Unique microhousing development coming to 15th Ave. in Crown Hill

A proposal to build a microhousing community at 8311 15th Ave NW — where the old Restaurante Michoacan was located — has been given conditional approval by the city (.pdf).

This is a four-story building with 78 “sleeping rooms” and five “congregate residences” with retail space on the ground floor.

“This project is part of our ongoing mission to rethink the possibilities for dense livable housing in our rapidly changing city,” explained architect David Neiman in a blog post about the project back in October 2016. “(It’s) a pursuit that has led us to a unique approach to micro-housing that emphasizes small affordable housing paired with generous common amenities arranged to foster social interaction among residents.”

Those small “sleeping rooms” include private bathrooms and a kitchenette, and “congregate residences” located on each floor — which Neiman called “pajama commons” — offer full kitchens, dining area and laundry. On the main floor, there’s a larger commons area with a lounge area and a patio. (Here’s the full design proposal in a large .pdf)

Similar to the upcoming apartment development a couple blocks to the north on 15th, this project will offer no vehicle parking. The city found that there’s adequate on-street parking to handle the additional vehicles for both developments.

New Crown Hill apartments get the green light

The current home of Taki’s Mad Greek and Wild Orchid restaurants — on 15th Ave. NW just north of NW 85th St. in Crown Hill — will be torn down to make room for a new 4-story apartment complex. The city gave the project a green light today with some conditions to update the design.

The 4-story building (.pdf) will house 36 apartments and 4 small efficiency units above retail space. Because the project is located in a “frequent transit corridor,” no vehicle parking will be provided — a detail that sparked concern from some neighbors in the public comment period.

In the city’s land use decision (.pdf), a study of on-street parking in the area that found nearly half of the spots are usually empty. The developers expect the new apartments will add 28 vehicles to on-street parking, and city concluded there will plenty of empty spots to accommodate them.

No word on the demolition schedule (which usually takes several months) or future plans for Taki’s Mad Greek or Wild Orchid.

Neighbors urge measured approach to North Seattle upzoning plan

The city held a meeting on Monday night in Northgate to listen to North Seattle neighbors about proposed legislation — called the Mandatory Housing Affordability plan — to increase housing density in “urban villages, urban village expansion areas and all places with multifamily or commercial zoning.” That includes Central Ballard, the 15th Ave. corridor and parts of Crown Hill.

“I’m shocked to learn that you are proposing a zoning change which would allow as many as four homes up to 40 feet tall to be built on every 5000 square foot lot in my neighborhood,” said Christy Robertson of Ballard, according to KING 5.

Most of the testimony urged a slower, more measured approach to upzoning that preserved neighborhood character and protected on-street parking.

The Mandatory Housing Affordability plan “is coming in with a club; we need a scalpel,” testified Lee Pate of Crown Hill, according to KUOW.

The city council is expected to take up the plan later this year.

Nix Auto site will get cleaned up, child care facility planned

The longtime site of Nix Auto Wrecking, the lot at the corner of Leary Way NW and 14th Ave. NW will be getting an environmental makeover.

The city approved plans today to demolish the buildings on the site, remove contaminated soil and replace it with fresh fill.

Once the new soil is stable, the plans call for the construction of a “2-story, 13,000-square-foot child care building (Kiddie Academy of Seattle at Ballard), including new 4,000-square-foot outdoor play area and 20-stall surface parking lot.”

This would make Kiddie Academy’s fifth location in the Seattle area.

Nix Auto Wrecking has quite the history in Ballard. As documented in Vintage West Woodland, original owner Edward Prestek bought the lot in 1939. Over the years, the Seattle Municipal Archives has 36 photos of Nix Auto, some documenting violations that include parking junkers around the neighborhood. Like this one from 1958:

There’s even a story about Prestek — back in the 1950s — driving a car backwards all the way from Ballard to Shoreline and back. Those were the days…

(Photo from Seattle Municipal Archives. Top photo is from Google Maps in August.)

Briefs: Banned from the gym, Night Out, no parking, Gather Kitchen and more

A few quick news updates from Ballard and Fremont…

BANNED FROM THE GYM – The NW Fitness Project (pictured above at the corner of N 36th St. and Greenwood Ave. in Fremont) has banned a known white nationalist leader from attending the gym. The owner says he’s received some threatening messages — as well as lots of 5-star reviews — after the Stranger ran the story.

BALLARD NIGHT OUT – The monthly neighborhood art event is tonight (Thursday) from 6-9 p.m. Here’s a list of participating venues and artists.

DROP-IN TOWN HALL – Rep. Noel Frame and Rep. Gael Tarleton will hold a “drop-in town hall” this Sunday at Flying Bike Coop (8570 Greenwood Ave N) from 4 to 7 p.m. “We’ll keep it informal and in small-group conversation,” Frame said. “Drop by anytime in the 3 hour window that works for you! We look forward to hearing from you!”

PHINNEY NO PARKING – A new 57-unit development on Greenwood Ave. N does not plan to offer parking, which prompted an appeal from Phinney residents who said it doesn’t meet the “frequent transit” rule because buses didn’t arrive as often as scheduled. The city does not agree.

HOP IDOL – Attention homebrewers: the deadline to enter Reuben’s Brews’ annual “Hop Idol” contest is tomorrow (Friday). Good luck!

GATHER KITCHEN – The Seattle Times reviews Gather Kitchen in Ballard and gives it “hits and misses” — after the reviewer visited three times.

BALLARD HIGH MUSIC – The choral director of Ballard High, Courtney Rowley, will receive the prestigious “Outstanding Educator” award from the Elliott Bay Music Educator Association at the Washington Music Educators Association conference on Saturday. Congrats Courtney!

BALLARD CIVIC ORCHESTRASeattle Weekly profiles Paula Madrigal, who leads the Ballard Civic Orchestra and the Young String Project.

See news? Let us know at If you have a community event, submit it here.

Neighbors fight back against high-density Fremont development

A proposal to build a high-density apartment building across from B.F. Day Elementary School in Fremont has sparked a particularly loud outcry from neighbors.

How loud? A petition with 155 signatures. 115 public comment letters. And an editorial with the headline, “Even as a newbie, I know tiny apartments don’t belong in Fremont,” that was linked on the home page of the Seattle Times.

The subject of the outcry is a proposal (.pdf) for a 3-story apartment building at 3959 Fremont Ave. N. with 29 units — 26 of those “small efficiency dwelling units” — in the space of two lots. It’s located on the northern edge of the Fremont Urban Village, which allows higher-density zoning.

“On Fremont Avenue, profits can still be made reasonably with a handful of high-density homes like my own instead of a maximum-density sardine can with six times the population on the same amount of land,” writes neighbor Angela Elson in the Times editorial. “(The project) sets a precedent for other venerable neighborhoods facing hatchet jobs to accommodate more and more people.”

Neighbors point out the building has no parking and the entrance is situated on a narrow alleyway, not on Fremont Ave. Complicating matters is all the kids from B.F. Day Elementary who frequent the area, and neighbors are worried that it’s unsafe.

While many proposed developments spark an outcry — we’ve witnessed many of them — these neighbors are particularly well organized. It will be interesting to see how the city responds.

2 apartment buildings planned for 15th Ave. across from Ballard High

The developer behind the Keelson and Soren apartments in Ballard has plans for two more.

Pryde + Johnson has proposed a 6-story apartment, called Blue Birch, for the lot right across from Ballard High School at the corner of 15th Ave. NW and NW 65 St.

That property is currently home to the El Camion restaurant.

The development will have retail space on the first floor and parking for 34 vehicles below.

Right next door to the south, Pryde + Johnson just bought the Corry’s dry cleaning site, according to DJC. The developer has proposed a 4-story apartment building on the parcel. It will also feature retail on the ground level, and the building will have 18 parking spots underground.

The current building on the lot also includes Fuzzy Wuzzy Carpet Cleaning and the Platine Salon.

In the design proposal (.pdf) for Blue Birch, the applicants note its potential proximity to light rail. “Transit expansion studies have identified two stops in Ballard to be located at Market Street and NW 65th Street,” the deck explains. “The commercial corner at the intersection of NW 65th Street and 15th Ave NW needs to target future densities and establish human scale elements, interest and activity along the street frontage.”

In total, both apartments will offer 101 residential units.

5-story apartment planned for Nickerson St. lot near Fremont Bridge

If you’ve driven by the Nickerson Street Saloon just to the south of the Fremont Bridge recently, you may have noticed the land use signs displayed in the parking lot.

That’s a proposal to demolish the restaurant/saloon and build a 5-story apartment building and a single-story retail building on the prominent corner property.

We contacted Nickerson’s GM Chris Martino to see what will happen with the saloon, and he said it will be coming back in the new building. There are also plans for a coffee shop, but it’s too soon to know if it will be Electric Cloud Coffee, which operates the drive-through in the parking lot.

The development is also slated to have a fitness studio and on-site parking for 37 vehicles.

Martino said the project is still in its early phases and is still a couple years away. “We’re not going away anytime soon,” he said. “We’ll be here one way or another.”

Remainder of Ballard Blocks II clears hurdle, 85C Bakery Cafe signs as tenant

A month ago, we reported that PCC was coming to the west end of the Ballard Blocks II project, at the base of the Ballard Bridge (across from Edith Macefield’s old house.)

Today the city has given the go-ahead for work to begin on east end of the project as well, ruling it “has been determined to not have a significant adverse impact upon the environment.”

Sometimes called “Lake Ballard,” much of the land is covered with water (this is the view from the eastern side looking west.) Workers will excavate 50,000 cubic yards of material from Ballard Blocks II to make room for underground parking, and “some localized structural fill may be placed under the building foundation” in areas with “unsuitable soils,” according to the land use ruling (.pdf).

So what’s going into the east side of Ballard Blocks II?

We’ve already reported that Bright Horizons child care and West Marine are tenants in the new space, and now we’ve learned that 85C Bakery Cafe is coming, too. With over 1,000 locations around the world, 85C prides itself on “premium coffee, bread, and cake at affordable prices.”

In a posting by the architectural firm Weber Thompson, there’s a lot of retail and office space still available. Here’s the first floor, and there’s more on the second floor:

The plans refer to a “restaurant space,” which looks like “G” above in the SE corner. The sketches for the project show outside seating in a courtyard area:

Bright Horizons takes up the third floor, and an elevated walkway leads to the roof the other building, where there’s an outdoor play area planned:

The project includes parking for 166 vehicles underground in addition to the ground-level parking lot next to the PCC in the middle. The plans also call for 12 dedicated parking spots for parents and care-givers to drop off and pick up their children from Bright Horizons.

The timeline for the project has slipped over the years, and we’ve reached out to Ballard Blocks for more information. We’ve also asked about any future plans for the Edith Macefield house, which remains untouched behind chain-link fence. We’ll update as we learn more.