Smith Tower observation deck will include a Speakeasy at its scheduled reopening in August; innovative Denny bike too pricey to produce, according to project’s blog; Kent firm combats manhole explosions.

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Historic Smith Tower will soon reopen its observation deck with a new addition that will be decidedly old-school: a speak-easy.

The new 35th-floor bar inspired by the Prohibition era is a nod to the origins of the building, which opened 102 years ago in Pioneer Square as Seattle’s first skyscraper.

The Chinese Room and viewing deck — which offers open-air, 360-degree views of the waterfront, mountains and skyline — has been closed since 2014. In the past year, the building’s new owners, Unico Properties, have launched a seven-figure renovation.

Unico gave an overview of the new features this week and said the work will be finished in time for a reopening in August.

There will also be a new gift shop and store on the ground floor, some redesign to the Chinese Room and revamped tours with different prices, though Unico said it’s still deciding how much.

The old-fashioned brass and copper elevators are sticking around.

Unico said more details should be released in the coming months.

In a news release, Unico said the renovated building is meant to “take visitors back in time to tell the history of Seattle through the lens of Smith Tower.”

Unico in January 2015 paid nearly $74 million for the tower. At 522 feet high, the Smith Tower was the West Coast’s tallest building for about a half century.

It opened as the fourth-tallest building in the world in 1914. The vast majority of the building, located at Second Avenue and Yesler Way, is used as office space.

— Mike Rosenberg: mrosenberg@seattletimes.com

Acclaimed bike won’t be made

The bike that went viral won’t go rolling through your neighborhood any time soon.

Seattle’s Denny bike, which won a bicycle-design contest in 2014 and received worldwide attention for its sleek design, will not be produced, according to a post on the project’s blog.

“Unfortunately, because some of the Denny features were so innovative and pushed what is possible to produce today on so many levels, manufacturing restrictions have made mass production, at this time, impossible,” said the post.

The Denny bike was designed for Seattle’s hills, wet weather and simplicity.

The bike automatically shifted through gears and had an electric assist to help riders conquer Capitol Hill or ride to Kerry Park.

Its handlebars became a locking system, its tires used rubber bristles for fenders and the bike featured a carbon-fiber belt instead of a metal gear chain.

Seattle designer Teague and bike-builder Taylor Sizemore created the Denny. Fuji was supposed to manufacture the e-bike.

The BBC called it “the bike for people who don’t ride bikes.” WIRED praised it as “smartly designed.” Engadget described it as the “e-bike of the future.”

Unfortunately, the future wasn’t so kind.

— Evan Bush: ebush@seattletimes.com

Kent firm combats manhole eruptions

A burst of smoke and flame that sends a 250-pound metal manhole cover soaring into the air — this is what the underground utility industry calls a “manhole event.”

They are increasingly common in cities with aging utility infrastructures. Smoke, fire and sometimes outright explosions occur an estimated 2,000 times a year in a year in North American manholes leading to electrical conduits or utilities.

Fortunately, the region that invented the automatic external defibrillator and the commercial jetliner has a solution for this, too.

Kent-based Novinium, which specializes in underground cable rehabilitation, has developed the PreVent Manhole Event Prevention System, a permanently installed device that pulls gases from the manhole to avoid a buildup of explosive chemicals.

Novinium CEO and President Glen Bertini, said one key is that “we just move a lot of the air out of the manhole.”

Other ventilation systems may only expel the lighter gases collecting at the top of the sewer pipe, but PreVent has a wide tube that hangs down and sucks away the sometimes-combustible gases that are heavier than air.

It also can prevent water or debris from flowing into the vent, and has a built-in smart monitoring system that monitors the manhole and can send alerts about water levels and potentially explosive gases.

Bertini conceived the idea for PreVent five or six years ago at a gathering hosted by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The discussion was about manhole explosions and Bertini’s background as a chemical engineer, unlike most at the discussion, led him to seeing a solution.

“It is like that saying, if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” Bertini said. “As a chemical engineer, I looked at it differently than an electrical engineer or mechanical engineer.”

On the return flight from the meeting, he drew five or 10 potential designs. However, at the time Novinium was only a startup and lacked the resources to pursue it. Thus the idea sat waiting in the wings until 12 months ago, Bertini said.

PreVent will be marketed to municipalities and utilities with a price that will be determined on a case-by-case basis depending on the customer’s system and needs.

— Charles Clark: cclark@seattletimes.com