Belltown Scene


After Hula Hula had to relocate to Capitol Hill from its Uptown/Belltown location in March due to redevelopment, our ‘hood was going to miss its favorite tiki bar (and karaoke spot). Although its style is a bit more upscale and without the karaoke, Navy Strength is our new neighborhood tiki hotspot!

By AJ Rathbun

Anu and Chris Elford are slowly taking over Belltown. Following Anu’s venerable cocktail bar Rob Roy, the husband-and-wife team launched their James Beard-nominated beer bar/gastropub No Anchor just a few blocks down Second Avenue last fall. In late March, The Elfords introduced a third boozy sibling, dubbed Navy Strength, to the neighborhood. I recently sailed in to check out this tiki getaway neighboring No Anchor, and here are three impressions.

The Drinks: Browsing the bountiful and creative drink menu, split into three main sections, is like traveling across the Pacific Islands from past to present. The “classic tiki” section features impeccably made staples (none of that syrupy dreck that often passes for tiki drinks). The Mai Tai is lush and strong, and received hearty kudos from the man next to me at the bar who’d motorcycled up from Portland just to try it.

The “travel” section highlights drinks influenced by a particular region or country. It’s currently docked in India, and the Garam Masala Whisky Collins is not to be missed. It’s tasty and completely unique, with an under-a-palm-tree refreshing nature thanks to the addition of coconut soda.

The third “tropical” section, which features one of my favorite drinks, contains less-traditional tiki twists. Anchored with mezcal, the El Perro Grande includes butterfly pea flower, fresh lime and pineapple juices, and a little muddled jalapeno, all garnished with an orchid flower (Navy Strength’s garnishes are striking across the board). Chris worked on the drink for years before unveiling it. Its purple color, foaminess, citrus and smoke fit our Northwest spring like a grass skirt.

The Food: Chef Jeffrey Vance (also the chef for No Anchor, which earned a James Beard nomination) has developed a tight menu in keeping with Navy Strength’s island-and-ocean vibe. Our sage bartender says the rockfish ceviche is an early favorite among patrons, but the raw albacore tuna—served with cucumber yogurt and pickled red onions—has also garnered raves. A seafaring snacks menu features inspired creations like the Kumamoto oyster with passionfruit and black pepper granita. Sorry herbivores, but aside from two desserts there weren’t any veggie options during our visit.

The Space: Though they obviously revere tiki drinks and culture, the atmosphere at Navy Strength is subtly tiki, not veering anywhere near kitsch. A few paddles and masks, candles and shipboard lighting, and lots of wood (including beams from a 1940s prefab home) set the tone. The sizable U-shaped bar almost looks like a ship dry-docked on land. The space between the bar and the wood-and-subway-tiled back wall is huge (jellyfish tanks are on the way), giving the crack bar team plenty of room to mix complex cocktails quickly. I hear traditional flaming tiki drinks are coming, which will make that spacious setup even handier.

Instead of grabbing a window seat, moor yourself to one of the multicolored barstools and chat with the bartenders while they fill ceramic tiki mugs with tropical concoctions. You won’t regret it.

Syndicated from Photo source: Navy Strength’s Facebook Page.

By Stephen Cohen

Seattle real estate may be going through a sphere stage — a period of circular reasoning, if you will.

Amazon‘s Spheres workplace at Sixth Avenue and Lenora Street downtown certainly added some softer edges to the city’s landscape, but while “Bezos‘ balls” are dwarfed by the surrounding buildings, a proposed skyscraper would place its orb atop its 46 stories.

The proposed building at Third Avenue and Virginia Street is being designed by Vancouver, British Columbia firm Westbank to house 453 apartments above retail and office space in what is now a parking lot.

But the most apparent feature is a glass and steel sphere perched atop the building, roughly 500 feet above the city streets below.

The dome, at nearly 60 feet tall, will house amenities for the tower’s apartment dwellers, such as the pool, according to a GeekWire report.

And while it might look an awful lot like the spheres of Amazon’s new campus, the company said the dome was inspired by Buckminster Fuller and his work on geodesic domes.

At 499 feet tall, the tower would also include 103,480 square feet of office space spread across six floors below the 38 floors of apartments. The first two floors will be retail space, according to the report.

Westbank has two other active projects in Seattle, and was involved in an earlier project in Bellevue in years past.

The project is set for a design review meeting later this month, but details on when the project might break ground weren’t immediately available.

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By Kate Calamusa

Get the family out and enjoy a movie and snacks in Belltown at…

2100 4th Ave.
AGES 1014

Originally built in 1963, the Cinerama is a Seattle institution. Now owned by tech billionaire Paul Allen, it emerged from an extensive 2014 renovation with a state-of-the-art digital laser projector system, epic surround sound, and seats with more legroom. In keeping with its Seattle-centric focus, the concession stand is fully stocked with locally crafted treats, such as Full Tilt ice cream and Brave Horse Tavern’s warm soft pretzels.

Macrina Bakery
2408 1st Ave.

Owned by master bread-maker Leslie Mackie, Macrina Bakery offers an impressive selection of hand-formed loaves at each of its three outposts, from apricot-nut sourdough bread to chewy, salty pretzel rolls.


*(c)2017 by Kate Calamusa. All rights reserved. Excerpted from Seattle Family Adventures by permission of Sasquatch Books.

By Ryan Takeo

A Washington State Department of Labor and Industries crane expert began an investigation Wednesday, one day after a crane cable snapped and sent a metal piece of debris flying.

No one was injured, but the debris almost hit a bicyclist.

Compass General Construction runs the site at Western Avenue and Blanchard Street. Its vice president, Bob Strum, said workers were parking the crane Tuesday when part of the cable failed.

“They were parking the crane for the night and running the cable up at the end of the day, and a part of it failed and (the debris) fell,” he said.

He added the company is also conducting its own investigation to find out what exactly happened.

The metal debris, called a block, was attached to the cable. The block fell near workers below and then to the nearby street, where it almost hit bicyclist Chris Behrens.

“I was riding my bike up the hill and I heard a loud snap,” recalled Behrens after the incident.

Compass’ L&I inspections over the last four years showed 16 of the 19 inspections had no violations. One 2016 inspection showed two ‘severe’ violations. An L&I spokesperson added context that Compass’ violations were fairly common and the resulting fines were only about $5,000 combined. One inspection is under appeal and another had a “general” violation, which is the most minor type, according to the spokesperson.

Strum said Compass has no open cases he knows of and stood by his company’s safety record.

“It’s a big part of what we do. It’s a part of everyday conversation,” he said. “There are rigorous protocols to maintain safe hoisting practices. Cranes are regularly inspected and maintained by people who that’s all they do. “

Strum added the crane was inspected the day before the incident. He declined to name the inspection company. He said the crane will stay parked for the time being.

“We’re going to have the manufacturer come out to inspect it,” he said. “We have a lot of people who are going to go through it very carefully and we’ll just leave it parked until all of that’s been done.”

A carpenters union recently picketed the construction site, claiming safety concerns.

Compass says it believes the union was and is trying to recruit new members. Several workers did not have the same safety concerns the union described.

The L&I investigation is expected to take about six months.

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By Daniel Beekman

Seattle leaders say a proposed upzone of downtown and South Lake Union would help make the city more affordable and diverse.

But some Belltown residents are worried it would fail to stop their downtown neighborhood from becoming more expensive and exclusive.

The upzone would enable new buildings to climb one or several stories higher than is now allowed.

Though it would trigger a new Mayor Ed Murray program requiring developers to create rent-restricted housing, the developers would be allowed to pay fees to the city rather than include the affordable units in their own buildings.

And downtown, officials have said, they expect developers of high-rise buildings to choose to pay those fees.

The fees would serve a worthy purpose: The city would use them to help nonprofit organizations develop rent-restricted housing.

But Murray’s program wouldn’t require that housing to be located in the downtown neighborhoods generating the fees.

The Belltown residents say the affordable units funded by the fees would most likely end up in neighborhoods far from downtown, where land is cheaper.

“This legislation would treat our neighborhood like an ATM,” Evan Clifthorne, of the new community group Project Belltown, wrote in a letter to the City Council last month.

Downtown and South Lake Union are among more than two dozen parts of the city that Murray wants to upzone this year and next, each in tandem with the requirements of his Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program.

The mayor has said the MHA program can produce 6,000 units of rent-restricted housing in a decade, and he’s counting on downtown and South Lake Union development to generate about 2,100 of those units.

The council got started in February, approving an upzone of the University District. A final vote on the downtown and South Lake Union upzone is happened for Monday.

In certain neighborhoods, debates about Murray’s plan are following a familiar script.

Some homeowners are accusing the city of acquiescing to overdevelopment, while some urbanists are slamming the mayor’s critics as “not in my backyard” obstructionists.

Belltown’s narrative is somewhat different, says Merlée Sherman, a 24-year-old food educator raising two children with her partner in a 250-square-foot studio apartment.

Sherman and her neighbors aren’t afraid of density. Belltown already is very urban. And they aren’t particularly upset about what the upzone would do. They’re more upset about what it might not do — help people of all incomes remain in their neighborhood.

“I want other families to be able to live downtown,” Sherman said earlier this month. “We walk everywhere. Everything is accessible. You’d think 250 square feet would be hell, but when we walk outside we have everything.”

Sherman discussed the upzone with Clifthorne after taking part in a Project Belltown “visioning event” last month. They and some of their neighbors say the legislation should ensure the construction of affordable housing in Belltown. They say it should also consider the needs of people struggling to climb into and stay in the middle class.

The MHA program is set up to create housing for families making no more than 60 percent of the area’s median income. For a single person, 60 percent of the median is about $40,000 per year, and for a family of four, 60 percent is about $55,000 per year.

By giving Belltown developers the option of paying fees and by helping households making below 60 percent, “you say no” to some middle-class workers, Sherman said.

“You say no to the insurance broker, to the mechanic, the list goes on,” she said.

Terique Scott, who moved to Belltown from Cleveland four years ago, shares Sherman’s perspective. The 30-year-old Belltown Community Council board member says a neighborhood “where you still have black, white, rich, poor, homeless” has become less diverse as rents have soared.

“There should be more workforce housing,” Scott said, sitting around a meeting with Clifthorne and Sherman in the Makers co-working space on Lenora Street. “They’re just making it low-income and high-income. They’re killing the middle class.”

Fees option

Clifthorne, who was an aide to former City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, says council members are well-meaning and says the MHA program is a good idea, overall.

But some details of the plan bother him. Clifthorne says the fees option exists partly because developers believe low-income tenants make their buildings less marketable.

And he says the upzone could exacerbate segregation between neighborhoods by using luxury buildings downtown to fund affordable housing in less-wealthy areas.

“The perception that we can’t have poor people living close to rich people is a driving factor,” Clifthorne said.

For a better Belltown, the city could let downtown developers include units for households making up to 80 percent of the median, he says.

The council also could boost incentives for developers who buy existing buildings near their luxury buildings and then keep the rents affordable, Clifthorne says.

Finally, the MHA program could allow developers to spend less on the rent-restricted units they include in their luxury buildings. The program now requires a building’s rent-restricted and market-rate units to have similar dimensions and amenities.

“We’re not being creative enough,” Clifthorne said.

Councilmember Rob Johnson, who ushered the upzone through the council’s land-use committee, says he understands the anxiety in Belltown but stands by the plan.

The fees option is valuable because construction dollars go further in neighborhoods such as Rainier Beach and Lake City, Johnson says. In other words, a downtown developer paying fees rather than including units means more affordable housing.

“There’s a natural tension around this throughout the city,” Johnson said.

Though the MHA program doesn’t require the city to use the fees in the same neighborhoods where they were generated, the program makes proximity a consideration, the council member says. The city has a track record of funding low-income housing in all sorts of neighborhoods, including Belltown, Johnson notes.

By targeting families making no more than 60 percent of the median, Johnson says, the program is meant to help people making up to just above the minimum wage.

That’s different from most of Belltown’s existing affordable buildings, which are reserved for people making no more than 30 percent of the median, he says.

Another angle

Clifthorne doesn’t expect the council to make any drastic changes Monday in response to Belltown concerns, he says.

But another angle on the upzone could lead to heated debate. Councilmember Lisa Herbold plans to propose an amendment that would increase the requirements on downtown developers, who are being asked to do less than developers elsewhere.

She says the upzone, as proposed, could yield fewer affordable units in some cases than Seattle’s existing Incentive Zoning program, which is voluntary for developers.

Syndicated from The Seattle Times.