More than three years after the historic Harvard Exit Theatre closed its doors, its building has new life as the Seattle Consulate of Mexico. An adaptive reuse renovation by developer Eagle Rock Ventures has been underway since 2015, designed by SHW architects and Dovetail General Contractors—although the anchor tenant was just reported by Capitol Hill Seattle earlier this year. The Consulate officially opened in its brand-new location on Monday, taking up 70 percent of the building’s space.
The building first opened as a new home for the Woman’s Century Club in 1925, but people alive today largely remember the building as a beloved movie theater. It became the Harvard Exit in 1969, owned by Landmark at the end of its life and a frequent venue for the Seattle International Film Festival.
It’s that space, the theater itself, that the Consulate moved into, with the lower area transformed into a public space for processing visas, creating passport documents, and performing consultations. The loft seating above was converted into offices, and the stage up front turned into a conference room. Modern features mingle with original ceiling beams and Palladian windows, which had been covered up when the space was converted to a theater.
The remodel is heavy on glass to keep the historic features visible.
Because of the age and historic status of the building, developers and architects had to balance the building’s original character—closely tracked by the Seattle Landmark Preservation Board thanks to its location in the Harvard-Belmont Historic District—with current seismic code. Eagle Rock Ventures managing director Scott Shapiro called the renovation “constructing a new building inside an old shell.”
As a result, said SHW architect Sarah Hatfield in a statement, the firm identified the theater as the space that drove the rest of the renovation. “Early in the design phase the grand theatre was identified as a ‘jewel’ that needed to be preserved,” said Hatfield.
But the third-floor ballroom also received some attention, with some rediscovered windows of its own—altogether, more than 60 windows were rebuilt and restored—and and a similar minimalist office nestled underneath historic features. The office space is not leased by the Consulate, can seat up to 49 people, and includes a kitchenette.
The building rehabilitation also included seismic upgrades, with Dovetail securing unreinforced masonry, building a new roof, and adding seismic bracing. An elevator was added in a former service stairway and dumbwaiter.
The Capitol Hill office replaces the Consulate’s former Belltown location. The Consulate is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
- Harvard Exit Theatre [SHW]
This article has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Woman’s Century Club.