A developer plans to tear down the Row House Cafe, made up of three early 1900s bungalows, and put up an eight-story, 91-unit apartment complex.

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The unstoppable development of South Lake Union continues.

Next in line to be demolished is the Row House Café, at 1170 Republican St., made up of three one-story frame bungalows that in the early 1900s were homes to Seattle’s working class:

The family of a bricklayer. A construction guy. A welder.

By one vote, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Board did not muster enough votes to designate the site a landmark. A majority of the 11-member board was needed to approve the designation, and the vote was 5 to 4.

Since September 2010, the three bungalows have been combined into a cafe that has highlighted their history. Old ropes from boats, chains, pulleys, buoys and a ship funnel, for example, are displayed to highlight the laborers who lived in the area and worked on ships in Lake Union.

Plus Investment, a Bellevue company that has an affiliate in Beijing, has plans for that location.

Not surprisingly, the plan is for an eight-story, 91-unit apartment complex. The project filed with the city also calls for “a large fitness area” and “an indoor pet relief area.”

The Row House Café, at 1170 Republican St., is set to be torn down and replaced with a 91-unit apartment complex in South Lake Union. Developer Plus Investment submitted plans to the city last week, including this schematic of the planned building. (Plus Investment/MZA Architecture via City of Seattle)
The Row House Café, at 1170 Republican St., is set to be torn down and replaced with a 91-unit apartment complex in South Lake Union. Developer Plus Investment submitted plans to the city last week, including this schematic of the planned building. (Plus Investment/MZA Architecture via City of Seattle)

For anyone driving on Republican, between Fairview and Minor avenues north, the houses stand in stark contrast to all that’s coming up around them.

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The area then was known as the Cascade Neighborhood, not the more commercial-sounding name of South Lake Union.

HistoryLink.org describes what it was like back then:

“Seattle was a ménage of migrants and immigrants who arrived from all over Europe and Scandinavia, who provided the sweat for the mills, the marine related businesses, and other commercial enterprises that served a growing city. The Cascade neighborhood was no exception. Russians, Swedes, Norwegians, and Greeks lived, worked, worshipped, and went to school in the area …”

Erin Maher, general manager of the Row House Café, says she didn’t believe the site should have been designated a landmark.

“Over the years nearly every single wall has been altered. I believe in historic preservation, but not in this case,” she says

Maher says that for some, “The gentrification of South Lake Union is shocking.”

But, she says, “Change is the one constant in the neighborhood. It was built to accommodate workers in the area. What’s happening right now is a complete repeat of what happened in the early 1900s.”

Demolition of the cafe will begin sometime in 2018, said Steve Orser, development manager for Plus Investment.

He says about the site, “There was a lot of emotional attraction to the building, especially how cute it is, and especially given all the changes in South Lake Union. Everything is different in South Lake Union.”