The consulate’s move into the 93-year-old building underscores the increased demand for services for the state’s growing number of people with Mexican heritage.
When the curtain rises next month on the building that once housed the Harvard Exit Theatre, it will also mark a new chapter for Seattle’s Mexican Consulate.
The consulate is relocating to the 93-year-old Capitol Hill building, which underwent a major remodel after the Harvard Exit dimmed its lights for good in 2015. The move also underscores the increased demand for services from the consulate, which for years rented a much smaller space in Belltown.
“To be in this iconic building is something to be proud of,” Mexican Consul Roberto Dondisch said.
He said the new consulate location at 807 E. Roy St. will also hold cultural events after its opening July 9.
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“No matter the political rhetoric, we want people to come together,” said Dondisch, acknowledging that changing immigration policies have had a dramatic impact on Mexican and Mexican Americans.
The Woman’s Century Club erected the building in 1925 as a gathering space for women who wanted a sense of community as well as art and culture. In 1969, part of the building was transformed into the Harvard Exit Theatre. The Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival started there in 1996, and several famous films debuted there as part of the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) before the theater closed.
The original towering ceilings, dark interior wood and natural light from the large windows reflect the building’s history, but the renovation with glass offices and black and gray carpet add a modern feel.
Dondisch said his favorite part of the new consulate is the stage, where he envisions cultural dances and theater performances. They also will showcase Mexican and Mexican-American artists with exhibits on the first floor.
“We wanted them to come to a dignified place where they can feel proud they are Mexican,” he said.
With the growing population of Mexicans in the state and the need for more services, he said the consulate needed more space.
In 2010, there were about 110,000 people with Mexican heritage living in Washington; now there’s almost 800,000, he said.
The consulate will rent up to 11,700 square feet, larger than its old Belltown office of about 8,500 square feet, where rent had also become too expensive.
Two years ago, when Dondisch became consul, about 100 people came to the office each day. Now it’s 180, he said.
The consulate’s legal-protection team will continue to provide assistance to people detained. Twice a week the office will also provide free health clinics and once a month HIV testing.