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Hugo House Announces Plans to Accommodate Long-Term Growth, New Programs at Existing Capitol Hill Location

Local Hugo House Ownership Team to Re-Invest in New Facility Within Pike/Pine Neighborhood

Currently in Design Phase, New Project to Accommodate Hugo House’s Significant Growth and Provide Much-Needed Additional Program, Event, and Classroom Space

Seattle, Wash., Sept. 30, 2014 – Hugo House (www.hugohouse.org), a nationally acclaimed nonprofit that provides a “place for writers” through its classes, programs and services, today announced long-term re-investment plans that will help the organization continue to serve local writers and the arts community for decades to come.

Hugo House was founded in 1996 by arts supporters Linda Breneman, Frances McCue and Andrea Lewis, and is now led by a board and staff of literature-loving writers and readers from a cross-section of industries. Located at 1634 11th Ave. along Capitol Hill’s Pike/Pine corridor and adjacent to Cal Anderson Park, the nonprofit’s current building and property belong to a local ownership team, which has generously supported all facility costs, including rent for Hugo House, since its inception.

Beginning in 2016, the property ownership team, which consists of long-term Hugo House benefactors, will re-invest and redevelop the current aging property, providing Hugo House a modern, flexible space that can better accommodate current and future growth. During the transition, Hugo House will remain open, holding classes, readings, events and programs at locations in Seattle-area neighborhoods. Hugo House also plans to keep all existing staff during the transition.

“Hugo House was established 20 years ago with the idea of creating a place for writers,” said property owner and co-founder Linda Breneman. “Richard Hugo said ‘writing is hard and writers need help’ – for anyone who takes on that challenge, Hugo House is a writer’s greatest ally. This has been the vision from day one and we trust this re-investment ensures Hugo House will continue serving local writers for many, many years to come.”

“What’s great about this new project is that Hugo House can operate as usual during the design phase and we will still be able to stay where we are after construction is completed—but in a new, more functional, efficient and community-friendly space,” said Tree Swenson, Hugo House Executive Director. “Our board and staff members will be involved in planning the new space, and we’re committed to making it even more welcoming and suited to the busy, multi-faceted programming that Hugo House presents.”

Named after poet Richard Hugo, who came from blue-collar, Seattle roots, Hugo House serves thousands of writers each year. Class offerings have grown by 77 percent over the last two years. In addition, the number of seats filled increased from 1,261 (2012-13 academic year) to 2,084 (2013-14).

“While we love the quirky spaces and well-worn feel of Hugo House, the building’s configuration constrains how we are able to serve our growing base of writers,” said Swenson. “In addition, the amount of energy and time it takes to maintain an aging facility detracts from our ability to serve our mission.”

She added, “As demand for our offerings continues to grow, this is a natural next step for our organization. We’re incredibly excited about having a more versatile space that is better suited to Hugo House’s vibrant present, and even more vibrant future.”

Hugo House’s Exciting New Chapter
The property owners have selected Seattle real estate investment firm Meriwether Partners as project developer. They will determine the exact mix of uses as part of the design and permitting process. Bids for the project team, including an architect and contractor, will be issued in the next few months. The new development will include 10,000–15,000 sq. ft. of ground-level commercial/retail space, as well as up to five stories of multi-family housing.

Before the current location closes, Hugo House plans to hold a community celebration for the years of accomplishment and thousands of people whose lives have been changed during Hugo House’s 17 years in its current space.

Lending Support for an ‘Arts and Cultural District’ on Capitol Hill
The redeveloped property is anticipated to add momentum to the neighborhood’s recent effort to spur an ‘arts and cultural district’ on Capitol Hill, which is currently represented by the new 12th Avenue Arts Building, Northwest Film Forum, Velocity, Annex Theater, Photographic Center Northwest and several other nearby arts organizations.

“Our hope is that this new project will help advance a strong ‘arts and cultural district’ on Capitol Hill and it’s one of the main reasons we decided to re-invest at our current location,” added Breneman. “All of the surrounding amenities, including proximity to the new light rail system and First Hill streetcar, further support that decision.”
For more information about Hugo House, visit www.hugohouse.org or call (206) 322-7030.

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