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March 30, 2012

Malone pays $3.9M for 1916 building on East Pine Street

Journal Staff Reporter

Guy Allen drawing [enlarge]
Hunters Capital CEO Michael Malone will restore the 19,000-square-foot former auto showroom, but has no plans to redevelop the site in the future: “We saved another one.”

For proof that persistence pays look to Seattle's auto row, where Michael Malone's firm Hunters Capital bought another building.

Hunters will restore the building at 401 E. Pine St. that houses a home furnishings company called Area 51.

Malone has had his eye on the two-story, 1916 building for a long time, attracted by the floor-to-ceiling windows and intricately detailed facade. Twenty-five years ago he looked up the owner and learned it was the family of Gordy Legg, a fraternity brother of Malone's, but they didn't want to sell.

Malone kept at it, calling every couple of years.

“He would always laugh,” Malone said, “and say he'd call if they decided to sell.”

About a year ago, Legg's brother, Steve, called to say that Gordy had died so he and his siblings might sell it. This week Hunters Capital paid $3.85 million for the 19,000-square-foot building.

“We saved another one,” said Malone, whose company has restored four buildings in the Pike/Pine corridor, changing their use to attract tech firms and other creative companies.

These restorations often require a lot of work, but not this one.

“This is truly a diamond in the rough, and with just some elbow grease we are going to restore the tin and mullions,” Malone said. Plaster board on the exterior also will be removed.

Hunters Capital will do the work. Malone expects it to cost $200,000 and take six months.

Hunters Capital is not working with a designer, but Malone said he might hire a consultant to make sure the color scheme suits the building's early-20th century character.

Malone retained Historic Seattle to research the building. Pioneer J.M. Colman, who operated Yesler's Mill and built Colman Dock and the Colman Building on First Avenue, built it as a showroom for Stanley Motor Carriage Co. Over the years, the building housed a variety of auto-related businesses.

Area 51 will stay in the building. Malone plans to keep the building intact even though he could retain the facade and build something taller.

“That certainly is not our interest,” said Malone.

Restoring old buildings is Malone's passion. He says someone has to do it.

“The simple reason is these old buildings tell stories about the history of Seattle, about neighborhoods [and] about how trade and commerce was carried out.”

When it is restored, the East Pine building will be “a beacon to the historical reference of auto row on Pike/Pine.”

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