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Brian Miller
Real Estate Editor

December 31, 2020

On the Block Shuttered, landmarked, burned. What's next for the Seven Gables?

A dramatic Christmas Eve fire destroyed the vacant, derelict Seven Gables, at 911 N.E. 50th St., where generations of moviegoers once saw movies on Christmas Day. The 1925 building was converted to a theater in 1976.

The favorite little arthouse cinema, which began life as an American Legion Hall, abruptly closed in June 2017. The documentary Angkor Awakens: A Portrait of Cambodia was the last title to play there, after the chandelier retracted into the ceiling and the medieval-style mural rolled up to reveal the screen.

Also in 2017, NKF put the building on the market for corporate owner Landmark Theatres, which had acquired the corner property though a subsidiary in 2001 for $2.8 million. The corner, at Roosevelt Way Northeast, isn't now publicly listed by any brokerage. That's likely to change.

Photo from Seattle Municipal Archives [enlarge]
The Seven Gables building in 1937. The 1925 building was converted to a theater in 1976.

Landmarking of the Tudor-style building, also in 2017, capped the site's development potential and hindered its prospects for sale. No prospective buyers ever filed any redevelopment plans. The remaining tenants left, and the fenced property was last month cited by the city's Department of Construction and Inspections for hazardous conditions. That followed summer complaints about squatters on the vacant property.

Seattle Fire Department blog said the Dec. 24 daytime blaze was three-alarm fire that required 130 firefighters, 14 fire engines, six ladder trucks and additional support. (By coincidence Fire Station 17 is almost directly across the street.)

A recent site visit found workers doing some cleanup. On behalf of the owner, architect Clark Barnes just filed a demolition plan; no contractor is attached yet.

Once cleared, the 18,000-square-foot property corner is still somewhat awkward — with 65-foot zoning on its larger east side, on Roosevelt, and LR2 zoning to the west, on Ninth Avenue Northeast.

So who, behind various LLCs, actually owns the Seven Gables?

2929 Productions LLC is controlled by billionaire Mark Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks, Shark Tank and Dancing with the Stars guy. For him, the King County Assessor's valuation of about $5.2 million for the corner is loose change in the sofa cushions — or a generous Uber tip.

But now, thanks to that fire, cause still unknown, the land value has likely increased. And apartments and/or townhouses would be the most probable development scenario. The corner is about a 10-minute walk south to U District Station, where light rail service will begin next fall. And there's a Trader Joe just a few steps south on Roosevelt.

On behalf of the owner, architect Clark Barnes just filed a demolition plan; no contractor is attached yet. Photo by Brian Miller

One thing is sadly certain: If there's any commercial space in a future replacement building, it won't be for screening movies. The pandemic has changed the movie exhibition biz forever. Future tenants will have Netflix, Amazon Prime and other streaming services. But maybe a prospective apartment developer will revive the old Seven Gables name.

And a related footnote: The two Guild 45th cinema properties in Wallingford, also closed in 2017, also owned by the Cuban LLC, remain vacant and unsold. Not landmarked, they were briefly offered by NKF. There's no indication of any sales effort today. They, too, are gathering graffiti and signs of neglect.

Got a tip? Contact DJC real estate editor Brian Miller at brian.miller@djc.com or call him at (206) 219-6517.

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