All posts by Joel Lee

The Oak under construction; opening planned for Spring

This building is currently being gutted and remodeled in preparation for transformation into "The Oak." Photo by Joel Lee.
(Full disclosure: BHB contributor Joel Lee has worked with one of the owners of The Oak in the past. He asked them for a bit of information about the new project. – Ed.)

I was pleasantly surprised stepping into the building at 3019 Beacon Ave. S. to discover its large, inviting, well-lit interior. Over the years a series of businesses have passed through this space with such crowded window coverings that I always imagined the interior to be dark and tiny. Although it is still in the early stages of a major remodel, it is now easy to see the potential of this space that attracted the new owners (Tim Purtill, Kelly Staton, Lisa Jack, and Mat Brooke) to open their new restaurant/bar The Oak in our neighborhood.

This group has already launched a bar on Capitol Hill in 2006 (The Redwood) and promises to bring parts of their successful formula (and hopefully their spicy sweet potato fries) to Beacon Hill with an emphasis on local-sourced, organic American comfort foods and local breweries.

The owners are holding their cards close to their chests and are not ready to give out too many particulars, as they are finding the right balance between all-ages restaurant and grown-ups-only bar. It is, however, safe to assume a spring opening as they are working diligently on the space. Two of the owners are also moving to North Beacon and plan to bring to The Oak that local touch and community focus that comes with living on the hill.

(Editor’s note: Co-owner Lisa Jack told the BHB in an email that “We hope to have an all-ages room with our full menu that will close at 10, and the lounge will be cozied in the back operating all day with a full menu also. We haven’t decided on the hours yet.”)

Opinion: 10 alternatives to a parking lot at El Centro

I am completely sympathetic to El Centro’s need to produce income for their programs while we wait out the zoning process, and I’m excited to see what the long term development will bring to the community. However, I don’t think that a parking lot will add much of anything other than traffic, and it seems like El Centro could develop something, even temporarily, that would coincide better with their values of building the community and serving low income families. Here are just a few ideas to get the ball rolling, with hopes that we can think of more.

A mercado booth. Photo by Victor Ramiro via Creative Commons.
  1. A mercado or traditional Mexican market. Stalls are rented for low prices and merchants offer a variety of goods. Mercados in Mexico are crowded, noisy, and kind of amazing. They are full of people shopping and offer choices for low income merchants and buyers to get their foot in the door.
  2. A community garden. Although it wouldn’t be a big money maker, it could directly produce food for low-income people. There are plenty of crops that can be grown year round here with a little help, and classes could be offered. Plots could be given to low-income people and rented to others.
  3. Food carts. How much fun would it be to have a choice between a variety of food carts for any given meal? Food carts can be very minimal, sometimes just a cooler strapped to a bicycle or a lemonade stand. Again, giving low-income people a chance to get their foot in the door of our economy.
  4. Farmers’ markets tend to be seasonal, but I still love them. Even if it were only one day a week, it would leave the space open for other activities the rest of the week while bringing locally grown produce to the community and generating income.
  5. I know that we are already getting a skate park, but I would love to offer up a place for young people in the community to gather. Probably not a big money maker, but still a good idea. Bring back the basketball court?
  6. I know that mini-golf sounds like a weird idea. But think about it. A great family activity, and with a little shelter, it could be a year-round destination. Build some kind of giant Godzilla statue eating the Eiffel Tower and this could put Beacon Hill on the map and employ a lot of people.
  7. We don’t really need a bookmobile since the library is so close, but as a kid this was a highlight of my youth. What other social services or small companies could be brought to the community by truck? Flower shop? Kite shop? Toy store?
  8. Everyone loves a flea market, right? A slightly less-permanent version of the market, it offers a chance to socialize and meet neighbors while you sell your old junk and obtain new junk. Another good foot in the door of the economy.
  9. There has been a lot of talk about creating an outdoor cinema, but it’s hard to imagine a better area than next to the light rail station. It could become a destination for people all along the light rail line and could be in conjunction with many other uses.
  10. What about a mini amusement park? Many rides are designed to be portable and could be cleared out when the time comes to build more permanent structures. Lets be honest, if we had a giant Ferris wheel I would ride it every day. Wouldn’t you?

(Do you have an opinion? We welcome opinion articles on topics related to Beacon Hill. Please email us your ideas.)

Jefferson Park, the missing jewel

by Joel Lee

Workers busy last week putting some of the new features in the park. Photo by kashgroves in the Beacon Hill Blog photo pool on Flickr.
On April 30, 1903, Seattle leaders hired the prominent Olmsted Brothers, one of the first and most important landscape architecture firms in the country, to design a park and boulevard system for Seattle. On October 19, 1903, Charles Olmsted wrote of the Seattle park system that the “primary aim should be to secure and preserve for the use of the people as much as possible of these advantages of water and mountain views and of woodlands, well distributed and conveniently located.” Beacon Hill’s Jefferson Park was one of a handful of parks that the Olmsteds considered vital to the success of their plan and the health of the city, and joined a short list of important parks including Seward Park, Green Lake, the Arboretum, and Volunteer Park as key links in an “emerald necklace” of parks and boulevards connecting the city.

A new viewpoint shows the autumn foliage from Jefferson Park. Photo by Joel Lee.
Unfortunately Jefferson Park’s history has been more convoluted than these other parks, and the Park has gone through many changes over the years since the land was first purchased by the city in 1898. Named after President Thomas Jefferson, the area was used for everything from a “pesthouse” isolating smallpox patients, to military use, housing anti-aircraft guns and a G.I. recreation center when the land was requisitioned during World War II.

A large northwest section of the park was turned over to the water department where, until recently, it housed the two above-ground water reservoirs built a hundred years ago. This had the unfortunate side effect of taking what had been a key open green space and community gathering spot on Beacon Hill and converting it to a fenced-off barbed wire government compound which served as a physical barrier dividing the neighborhood.

Soon, however, the fences are coming down and once again Beacon Hill will be united. At 52.4 acres, Jefferson Park and its accompanying golf course are one of Seattle’s largest parks. Although some of the key components to the park such as the skate park and the Beacon Mountain Playground are not yet complete, it is already easily one of the nicest parks in the city. With its well-planned walkways and playfields taking advantage of the stunning views of downtown and Elliott Bay, it is easy to imagine how this area is going to become Beacon Hill’s new outdoor living room and one of the best green spaces in the Seattle park system. Perhaps more importantly, it will finally complete the plan that the Olmsted Brothers put into place over 100 years ago to unite Seattle with an “emerald necklace” of parks and boulevards, and bring Beacon Hill together with the rest of the city.

Joel Lee maintains the Beacon Hill Public Art website.

Got something to say? We welcome articles on topics related to Beacon Hill. Please email us your ideas.

A celebration in the Army Recreation Center, Jefferson Park, 1943. Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives via Joel Lee.

Opinion: Impromptu farmers’ market shows what could be

Photo by Joel Lee.
by Joel Lee

On Beacon Hill we are blessed with a wide variety of produce. From the overflowing displays at McPherson’s, to the tidy convenience of Red Apple Market, we have several opportunities close by. But I’m a firm believer that a healthy economy needs a wide variety of participants and part of that formula needs to be a way for individuals with little or no money to get their foot in the door. I do my best to shop locally but I also have an extra soft spot in my heart for micro-businesses. I have a strict personal rule to never pass a child’s lemonade stand without buying something.

It is with this spirit that I was happy to see an impromptu farmers’ market popped up on Beacon Hill this last Friday in the parking lot along Beacon near the VA hospital. I’m not sure how it got organized or if it will even happen again, but if you happen to see the tents set up there, it’s worth a stop to check it out. We bought a variety of locally grown vegetables from the half dozen stands that were set up including eggplant, corn, and green peppers, but they also had many foods that I was less familiar with, such as bitter melon.

Clearly, from the amount of foot traffic that was at this unadvertised event there is a sustainable demand for this type of service on Beacon Hill, but I would love to see a more permanent and accessible area created somewhere for such a market. Imagine a mini Pike Place Market where not only seasonal foods but handmade arts and crafts could be found. An area like this could become the heart of our neighborhood—and a boost for all of the businesses in our area if we are able to attract shoppers from other regions.

Joel Lee maintains the Beacon Hill Public Art website.

Do you have an opinion? We welcome opinion articles on topics related to Beacon Hill. Please email us your ideas.

Photo by Joel Lee.

Street Treats: the beginning of a food revolution on the Hill?

A customer at the Street Treats van. Photo by Joel Lee.
I have long been arguing that Beacon Hill needs more street food vendors, so I am especially happy to have Street Treats answer my call. Not only do they provide a revolving variety of pies and cookies, but most importantly in this hot weather, they sell Bluebird homemade ice cream.

We rolled into Beacon Hill this last Friday after a grueling 13 hour drive through eastern Washington heat, and went immediately in search of the Street Treats truck which was parked this last Friday right across from the light rail station. We had to try more than one thing, so we had a homemade ice cream sandwich with double chocolate cookies and mixed berry ice cream and an equally amazing full-flavored espresso ice cream made with Stumptown coffee—both of which were amazing.

It’s hard not to notice the large increase in pedestrians near the light rail station in the last year, and since development has stalled, portable food vendors are in a perfect position to take advantage of this foot traffic. It pains me to see fences around gravel lots in areas that could so easily accommodate and attract more food trucks. How awesome would it be to have a revolving variety of food vendors in our neighborhood on any given night? There is no reason that neighborhood restaurants and businesses couldn’t capitalize on a regular mini food festival. More locals could develop small businesses and we all could use a multi-ethnic gathering area.

In the meantime, Street Treats desserts are not only delicious but they are served in an eco-friendly manner. Their truck uses biodiesel and serving materials are all biodegradable and compostable, so skip dinner and watch for the Street Treats truck parked near the light rail station on Friday nights between 6:00-8:00 pm.

Joel Lee maintains the Beacon Hill Public Art website and has posted previously on this blog about street food.

Could these fences be replaced by food carts? Photo by Joel Lee.