By Meghan Hall
The Eitel Building on the corner of Second Ave. and Pike St. has come a long way since its days as a medical office building. Originally constructed by David and Fred Eitel in 1904, the building is now known as the State Hotel, and it officially reopened this spring. After decades of vacancy, the site was purchased by Seattle-based Lake Union Partners for $5.35 million in November 2015.
Lake Union Properties purchased the Eitel Building from Richard Nimmer, who had sought to build a 20-plus story tower on top of the building in the early 2000s. However, opposition from local preservationist groups and residents of the area — who feared the tower would block their views — prevented the proposal from receiving approval. In 2011, Nimmer put the property up for sale.
When Lake Union Partners announced its immediate intention to reposition the property into a boutique hotel. However, bringing the property back to its original glory would be no easy task. Most of the ground-level retail tenants had moved out in the 1950s, and the Eitel’s office tenants followed suit in the 1970s. The building sat largely vacant and unused for decades. When the Nisqually Earthquake hit in 2001, the structure of the building was damaged even further, making the task of preservation and redevelopment even tougher. The property was in such bad shape after the earthquake, City officials briefly considered condemning the building.
“The Eitel Building was one of the first medical office buildings in Seattle, and it has a wonderful location and has a very interesting history anchoring the corner of 2nd and Pike,” explained Ed Weinstein, founder and principal at Weinstein A+U, the architecture firm hired to work on the project. “When we were first asked to look at [the property] by Lake Union Partners, we were certainly impressed with the architectural legacy, but as you may know the building was in an incredible state of disrepair.”
Today, the seven-story, 43,000 square foot building is a flourishing boutique hotel, which anchors the entrance to one of Seattle’s most visited attractions, Pike Place Market. According to Weinstein, the decision to repurpose the property into a hotel — as opposed to an office or retail building — was a clear decision for the project team.
“It needed very significant structural enhancements and seismic upgrades,” explained Weinstein. “So we analyzed all of the different potential uses for the building and determined that the hotel use was the only legitimate reuse of the building that could justify the expense of the upgrades and the system retrofits. So very quickly, we realized that the only use that would work economically was making it into a hotel.”
“Most everyone who looked at it was discouraged by the magnitude of the enhancements,” added Weinstein. “It needed everything: structural, mechanical, electrical.”
Upgrades to the exterior of the property had to adhere to guidance provided by the Seattle Landmarks and Preservation Board and included refinishing the brick façade, re-construction of the original street-level storefronts and the addition of an entry canopy. An eighth floor, which included additional guest rooms, a season bar and event space facing Pike Place and Elliot Bay, were also added.
According to Weinstein, while the goal was to remain respectful of the property’s history, the project team effectively had a blank slate to work with.
“The property had been updated many times through the years, so there was really nothing left of its original legacy,” said Weinstein. “We were basically dealing with the bones of the building and trying to fit in contemporary elements and all of the necessary parts of a hotel.”
The building footprint is just over 5,000 square feet, and configuring the property into a hotel was a challenge, admitted Weinstein. Today, the State Hotel features 91 contemporary guest rooms. Materials such as marble, wood, brass and leather were used throughout the interior, and other highlights include a wall of vintage knobs, Turkish rugs, hand-drawn wall coverings by local artist Kate Blairstone and the Ben Paris restaurant, a popular watering hole, on the ground floor of the property.
Today, the State Hotel is an attraction in and of itself, finally finding a home amidst its surroundings in one of the city’s most iconic neighborhoods. While Lake Union Partners still owns the building, the property is managed by Columbia Hospitality.
As of this writing, Lake Union Partners had not yet returned The Registry’s request for comment.