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Originally published January 17, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified January 17, 2008 at 8:48 AM

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Arts tenants worried about rents

When the iconic arts building on Capitol Hill known as the Odd Fellows Hall was sold in December, tenants were not sure what to make of...

Seattle Times staff reporter

When the iconic arts building on Capitol Hill known as the Odd Fellows Hall was sold in December, tenants were not sure what to make of the deal. The tenants — mimes, filmmakers, dancers and theaters — were worried but still hopeful. Now that the deal has closed and negotiations have started, they say things are more bleak.

"The facts are that rent is raising, and people are leaving because of the raised rent," said Hallie Kuperman, whose Century Ballroom is one of the building's tenants. She estimates that only the ballroom and Beyond Running will stay after the negotiations. If she's right, that would mean longtime tenants Velocity Dance Center and Freehold Theater would be looking to move on.

Angela Luechtefeld, managing director of Freehold, said that they had been "naive going into a negative thing, thinking they had a chance." She said the theater is currently in negotiations with new building owner Ted Schroth.

Schroth recently met with the tenants, asking for market-rate rents. Market rate would be 2 to 2-½ times the current rate, rising to $20 to $30 per square foot.

Craig Swanson, of Schroth's management company, said he was not prepared to make a statement.

At a meeting Wednesday night about dwindling arts space on Capitol Hill, held by the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, the first question posed was, "Has the battle for arts in Capitol Hill already been lost?"

Bret Fetzer, artistic director of the Annex Theatre, has done hundreds of shows, including his first at Odd Fellows. He said of the 100 or so people who showed up at Wednesday night's meeting to rally for the hall: "It was an admirable thought, but it's a bit too late."

Schroth was at the meeting but didn't speak.

The hall, at 915 E. Pine St., has been host to arts events for longer than most of its current tenants can remember. It is home to many niche art collectives and organizations, such as Reel Grrls, which holds filmmaking workshops for young girls, and Beyond Running, which offers sport clinics and massages.

On any given night, one can find East Coast swing classes, modern dance set to beatboxing, mime tutorials or a ballet class accompanied by a cellist.

Schroth, who started his career remodeling older houses on Queen Anne Hill, recently bought an old warehouse at 12th Avenue and East Madison Street and developed it into a condominium-and-retail complex called Trace Lofts.

Schroth refurbished the building, retaining many of its original elements. At the time, he said, it would have been cheaper to tear it down, but "saving the building was the right thing to do."

This report includes information from The Seattle Times archive. Marian Liu: 206-464-3825 or mliu@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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