Category Archives: Development

Sam Choy’s Poke to the Max Coming to Columbia/Hillman City

Eater Seattle confirmed today that Sam Choy’s popular food truck, Poke to the Max, will be taking over the former La Isla de Mojito space between Columbia and Hillman City (5300 Rainier Ave S).

As many know, this is a tricky spot for restaurants. La Isla de Mojito, Grecian Delight, Kawayan, and Kawalli grill have all made a go in the location over the last few years only to eventually close the doors. For many neighbors, the space is cursed…the location where restaurants go to die. However, Sam Choy himself may be the key to making the space work. Choy’s a celebrity chef with a slew of restaurants, trucks, cooking shows, etc. From Choy’s wikipedia page:

Sam Choy is a chef, restaurateur, and television personality known as a founding contributor of “Pacific rim cuisine“.Choy is an alumnus of the Kapiolani Community College Culinary Arts program. One of his first jobs as a chef was at The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. He would then return to Hawaii, where he eventually opened a chain of restaurants.Choy helped develop and popularize Hawaii regional cuisine. In 1991, Choy founded the Poke Festival and Recipe Contest.

In 2004, Choy was awarded the James Beard Foundation Award America’s Classics Award for Sam Choy’s Kaloko in Kailua-Kona, on the Big Island of Hawaii. The award recognizes “beloved regional restaurants” that reflect the character of their communities.

Choy has appeared in several Food TV programs, including Ready.. Set… Cook! and Iron Chef America. He is good friends with Emeril Lagasse,who has appeared on Choy’s TV show Sam Choy’s Kitchen on KHNL. Lagasse has also mentioned Choy by name several times in his TV shows; one of those times he was making Poke on his live TV show, and added peanut butter to the Poke – Choy’s “secret ingredient”. In 2015, Choy broadcast a series on YouTube, Sam Choy In The Kitchen.

Choy has designed special Hawaiian inspired dishes for American Airlines first class passengers to and from Hawaii.

In addition, Choy’s truck is very popular, often with long lines at its roving locations around the city and plenty of positive reviews on Yelp.

As many know, this stretch of Rainier between Hillman and Columbia City is about to see incredible change. There’s a major, 4-6 story, 120+ unit development planned for the auto yard directly across the street from this location. With it, the divide (if there is one) between the two neighborhoods will continue to blur.

Interestingly, with Marination’s Super Six opening last year on Hudson, Choy’s new addition will mark the neighborhood’s second Hawaiian food truck-to-brick and mortar business to move in.

Currently, there are no permits filed for the location that provide any clues as to how extensive the renovation to the site will be.

Design Review for the Proposed Alaska / Rainier Project

For better, for worse, Columbia City is changing.

One of the largest changes on the horizon is the proposal for a new mixed-use, 7 story, 241 unit, 25,000sf of retail project  planned for the current site of the Columbia City Post office (no word on what this means for a future CC post office location). The site has some unique (and steep) topography, wrapping around the Burdick Security building and stretching all the way to the corner of 38th and Alaska at the Genesee ballfields and up to Rainier directly across from the library. Library

Today, the planners posted a new design review packet which helps give a sense of the scale, style, and potentially huge impact of this proposal.

The Full Design Review packet (57 pages) can be downloaded here. I encourage everyone interested to download it and take a look. Here are some highlights:

RetailFacing Library Cross Section Facing BiblioAlaska Alaska and 38th Courtyard

As you can see, this is a big one and will drastically change the feel and offerings of Columbia City. There’s room for an impressive amount of retail (including some large-scale retailers and a mix of smaller shops, restaurants), improved pedestrian access to Genesee and the park/community center, and another 250 apartments + 245 parking spots (86 retail, 159 residential). Of course, there are pros and cons to all of that.

If you have opinions or concerns, an important Design Review meeting is scheduled for all those looking to chime in (click for info):

Review Meeting
January 26, 2016 8:00pm

Rainier Valley Cultural Center

3515 S. Alaska St.

New Vet Clinic Coming to Columbia City

There’s not a ton of info out there, but new permits indicate that the empty space next to Rookies (3810 S Ferdinand and the former Jones BBQ spot) will soon be home to a new Columbia City Veterinary clinic.

If there’s more info out there about the clinic, be sure to chime in.


First Images of Future Pagliacci

useThanks to the efforts of Scott A., we’ve got the first look at what’s in store for the Hastings Building at the corner of Ferdinand and Rainier. As reported a few weeks ago, the plan is for Pagliacci to open a restaurant in the heart of Columbia City. Here are the details from Scott’s original post on the Columbia City Facebook page:

On Tuesday afternoon the Columbia City [Historic District] Review Committee met to review the alterations planned for the Hastings Building at 4901 Rainier Ave S. The north portion of the building (including the corner) will have a Pagliacci Pizza shop where Carol Cobb salon used to be. The building was damaged on August 28, 2014 by a car running into it. The biggest change seems to be that the existing canopy will be removed and new steel and glass canopies will be installed.

I wasn’t able to attend the meeting but I did just visit the Department of Neighborhoods office downtown and reviewed the plans. I was allowed to take photos of the plans that were presented. There are probably plenty more meetings yet to go on this prominent project but if you have comments – send them to Rebecca who oversees our historic district for the city. Contact info at this link:…/h…/historic-districts/columbia-city


Columbia City Construction and Development Roundup

The Columbia City Facebook page has been blowing up lately with reports of new condos, apartments, and mixed-use spaces planned for the neighborhood.

Thanks to Scott A. (the neighbor behind a lot of these posts), Columbia City Source has a well-maintained development map that allows readers to get a birds-eye view of what’s potentially coming to our pocket of Rainier Valley. Click here to check it out.

Although a number of these designs are certainly in the “proposal” stage, it’s important for neighbors to stay in know. While there’s certainly more to explore than what’s listed below, here’s a quick roundup of some of the latest development buzz:

37th and Hudson: Located across from the Greenhouse Apartments, next to the Super Six parking lot. 4-Story. 35 Units. Microhousing with limited live/work and possible retail. No parking. hudson

Columbia City Post Office: This could be a major change to the neighborhood.  The proposal is for 240 units (that’s on the scale of the PCC/Angeline project) and would replace the current post office building with a 7-story project that spreads from the post office location all the way up to Rainier. There’s been lots of concern about the future of the post office. Here’s one reply from the city that a neighbor received.


39th and Ferdinand Church Conversion:This project has been in the works for years, stalling out a number of times. Recent permits and proposals suggest that it’s back on. The plan is to convert the existing, empty church building into apartments and condos (looks like eight units) and to demolish a portion of the structure for single family homes. Church

Alaska and MLK: 200+ units and retail planned to fill the empty lot directly adjacent to the light rail station. MLK39th and Rainier: 120+ Units between Columbia City and Hillman City. Includes retail. Currently the home of an auto lot.39th

The Rainier/MLK Bowtie: A bit of a different kind of proposal and a bit north of Columbia City, but important to be aware of. The pic below is the proposed redesign for the complicated intersection near Franklin High School and the Mount Baker Light Rail Station. Here’s the Seattle Bike Blog’s review of the plan.Bowtie

In addition, be sure to keep an eye on the LEM’s bookstore/Busy Bee area (just south of Columbia City’s main business district). The whole block is essentially for sale–some rumors are trickling up that there are deals in the works.

What’d I miss? Be sure to use the comments to chime in and let us know…

Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce on Columbia City Changes

Seattle DJC’s Joe Nabberfield has a new reflection on Columbia City’s ever-evolving nature. To read the whole piece, click here. Here’s a preview:

Crib Notes — Columbia City: Big change, more to come

We remember when Tutta Bella pizzeria opened in (gulp) Columbia City. A Starbucks too. Pioneering businesses, taking a risk.

That was about 15 years ago. Flash to now: the diverse neighborhood in southeast Seattle is fully and officially popping. Especially the retail around Rainier Avenue!

So this means it’s time for us to talk about the G-word: gentrification.

What’s next? Two words: Hillman City. That’s the still-depressed commercial strip immediately south of Columbia City’s commercial strip. Its younger and anemic sibling.

As Columbia City keeps gentrifying — and yes, there’s a lot more to come — so will Hillman City as it catches the spillover.

Gentrification, as we all know, is a loaded word. It takes on different meanings and evokes different emotions depending on which lens we use to view it.

Rents in The Angeline range from $1,600 to $3,400 per month.

If you own property in Columbia City, the upward movement likely brings joy, or at least relief. Homes that sold three years ago in Columbia City for $350,000 now fetch $450,000 to $500,000. If you’re low-income, even lower-middle-income, the same upward movement likely brings sadness, pain and anger at seeing your eventual displacement.

It’s bittersweet for many. Displacement eventually will happen. Slowly but surely. Southward, to Hillman City, Rainier Beach, Renton, then Kent. Cities don’t stand still. They change, and then change again…

Crosscut Interview with Ron Sher of Third Place Books

Crosscut’s Valerie Easton has a new interview up with Ron Sher, the owner of Third Place Books. In the interview, Sher comments on the store’s philosophy as well as the plans to convert the soon-to-be former PCC home to Third Place’s newest location (opening in November):

Photo: Crosscut

Photo: Crosscut

Why and when did you start your first bookstore?

It’s been about 15 years now since Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park opened. It is the first bookstore I’ve owned, although I’ve had several as tenants. I felt that locating a new and used bookstore, a coffee shop, and the restaurants and cafes along with other services and amenities would attract customers and enrich a community. I figured if I could bring all these elements together and open simultaneously, it would greatly improve the store’s chance of success.

Why the new/used books model of bookstore?

I like to see books passed on. It’s recycling, and it makes books more affordable. And I think it makes a bookstore even more interesting.

Any more Third Place Books in the works?

We are planning to open a new Third Place Books along with a restaurant at the site of the Seward Park PCC. They’re moving to Columbia City in July, and we hope to open in November.

Read the whole interview here.

Daily Journal of Commerce on the Angeline/PCC

Clair Enlow has the a new piece entitled “Design Perspectives: Angeline Apartments will Feed Columbia City” in the Daily Journal of Commerce. Click here to read the whole piece.


Photo by Clair Enlow. DJC.

Columbia City has a long history, but it has waited a long time for Angeline. Now a big package of sorely needed urban goods is being delivered, on a very tough site.

Security Properties is developing the mixed-use building between South Angeline and Edmunds Streets, just off Rainier Avenue South. It’s anchored by a PCC Natural Markets grocery store with 193 apartments above.

Luckily, the project is not going to make this reviving neighborhood a different place. But it will be even more populated day and night — and more fun to walk around. When it opens in July, Angeline will give back to Columbia City with some new, semi-public streets…

…Security Properties purchased the site in 2011 from HAL Real Estate Investments, which had bought it in 2007. After lengthy reviews with community input, the landmarks board had rejected design proposals from HAL showing a 306-unit apartment complex wrapped around an interior court. The board was more receptive to Security Properties’ proposal, which made the building very approachable from three sides.

The Angeline project was designed by Bumgardner, which also designed PCC’s first supermarket-sized store in Fremont, part of a mixed-use project there called Epicenter.

At six stories, Epicenter and Angeline are each taller than their historic neighbors. But the five-floor residential part of Angeline is stepped back from the edge, and the tall walls are not parallel to the base. They shift direction, which makes for interesting views from all sides and from the many apartment balconies, and breaks up the bulk and scale.

Unfortunately, the character of the outer walls seems to shift abruptly with each corner, which makes the much-reviewed building look like it was designed by committee — which, in a way, it was.

Looking east along South Edmunds Street in Columbia City, this view shows that Angeline sits on a difficult site. Completion is scheduled for July.

Perhaps the biggest challenge to developing the site was an existing one-story corner bank with drive-through lanes and parking. The bank carves away about a third of the Angeline block, but it now faces 20-foot-high concrete party walls on two sides.

The good news is on top, where a long, broad deck above the 20-foot base of Angeline will support an urban farm similar to one that produces food for Bastille Cafe and Bar in Ballard, according to John Marasco of Security Properties, which owns the building in Ballard, too.

The piece goes on to discuss some of the specifics of the location, the planning, and the overall design of the building. Click here to read the whole thing.

Major Development Being Planned for Alaska and Rainier

MapOver the past few weeks, I’ve had a few people ask if I know anything about the major development that’s being planned for the area around the post office and Burdick’s Security, just past the NW corner of Alaska and Rainier. Neighbor-in-the-know, Scott, recently posted this site plan to Columbia City Source’s Projects and Development Map (which is always accessible by clicking the link at the top of the page).

The description of the projects reads as follows:

“Construct 318,500 sq ft, 4-story mixed use building with 379 parking spaces.”

Taking a look at the initial site plan, this is a big project, with plans to demolish the post office building, keep the Burdick Security building, and build all the way up to Rainier with more retail and multiple stories. Johnston Architects submitted the proposal. Their work can be seen here.

Of course, at this point, nothing is finalized…but this would definitely be another enormous change to the neighborhood. If anyone has anymore information, be sure to let us know. Site Plan

Dwell Development: Columbia City Story

This was posted about a month ago on Vimeo, and I didn’t think too much about it. However, after finally watching it, I figured it was worth posting.

Columbia City-based Dwell Development, the group responsible for a number of modern homes throughout the neighborhood, including these on Edmunds (starting in the mid $900s), put together a promo video for their Rainier Development project (which has a total of 51 homes). Technically an advertisement for their micro-community, it does, however, provide an overview of this major addition to the neighborhood and highlights the elements, design, and philosophy of the project. Since so many neighbors I’ve spoken with are unaware of the specifics and scale of what Dwell’s been up to at Rainier Vista, (or even the company’s presence and impact on the neighborhood at all) the video–I decided–was worth posting here.

For more Columbia City-related Dwell videos and projects, click here.