1424 11th Ave, Fourth Floor, CloudRoomSeattle.com
In 2005, the writer Charles McGrath described the decline in exclusive clubs in New York, especially the ones located many stories up, like the famous Cloud Club at the top of the Chrysler Building. Once, it meant something to belong. "It used to be a rule in New York that the higher up you were in the world, the higher up in the sky you ate your lunch," McGrath wrote.
Seattle had a Cloud Room of its own, but it was a glorious piano lounge for anybody and everybody. Very Seattle—Old Seattle. It was called the Cloud Room because it was on the rooftop of the Camlin Hotel downtown, with beautiful views. It closed in 2003 after the building was bought and turned into a luxury resort.
New Seattle has a new Cloud Room. It's located on Capitol Hill, part of a new mini-complex of specialty shops and independent businesses in a refurbished old auto-row-era building on 11th Avenue near Pike Street. This Cloud Room utterly blends business and pleasure. It's a coworking space that's also a social club, and Liz Dunn, the developer who created it and who owns the building, sees it as a creative center, too. She hired a creative director, Michael Hebb. (The Stranger has been a sponsor of events at the Cloud Room.)
If you're a member ($300 per month or $3,000 per year), you get a key fob. You use it in the elevator to access the fourth floor. Get off and you'll see an attendant at the front desk through a wall of glass doors; she's there during daytime hours, but members have access 24/7. The Cloud Room is the entire floor—6,500 square feet—arranged the way a day might be arranged, said Dunn. First there's work, with fixed workstations near the entrance (for one of those you pay $600 per month or $6,000 per year). There are meeting rooms. As you move, seating at tables and chairs gets looser and looser, until finally you arrive at the bar and lounge, with low-slung furniture and a white shag rug. Bartender Jay Kuehner will serve you. (Drinks are not complimentary.) Look out over Capitol Hill from the big rooftop deck. The Cloud Room's New Year's Eve event for members was called "Above the Fray."
The Cloud Room opened officially in September, and already it has 200 members, approaching capacity. Dunn and Hebb want it to be "philosophically ambitious," Dunn said, "to cultivate a community of creative do-ers. It's like a clubhouse. Not in any exclusive sense of the word. We're just trying to get people who do really cool shit to meet each other and know each other."
Most members are invited or recommended, but anyone can apply. The short list of questions focuses on "What are you working on?" It must be cool shit, and it must not be antisocial. Members attend events often put on by other members. Jody Hall's pot company the Goodship puts on "heady" lectures—heady in part because everybody in attendance is (supposed to be) stoned—about such topics as the nature of infinity.
For its first year, the Cloud Room extended free membership to the 60 winners of the Stranger Genius Award, which are given annually to Seattle artists in music, visual art, literature, film, and performance. Forty joined. To predict how many will re-up when membership's not free next year, consult the Cloud Room's astrologer in residence.
Dunn sees her Cloud Room as an homage to Old Seattle. She named it in tribute to the lounge that was luxuriated to death; she'd loved the old Cloud Room.
"The city was a little rougher around the edges," Dunn recalled. That was then. JEN GRAVES
2121 Sixth Ave, Via6Seattle.com
At noon on a Tuesday, the mezzanine area of Via6—a 24-story building comprising two residential towers, an indoor/outdoor pavilion, and six floors of residential and retail space—is filled with people: professional women in sleek suits and heels, tech workers with blue badges, muscular dudes in workout gear, and several groups of construction workers from nearby job sites in yellow-and-orange safety vests.
With the exception of one muscular dude, who is playing pool by himself and nodding his head to the music playing through his earbuds, everyone is eating lunch: green smoothies, rice bowls topped with teriyaki pork shoulder, Indian-style burritos stuffed with curried potatoes and yogurt, roast turkey sandwiches, and salads with quinoa and harissa-roasted carrots.
All the food is made by Tom Douglas Restaurants, which owns three businesses on the ground floor, occupying 10,000 square feet of space: Assembly Hall Juice & Coffee; TanakaSan, a full-service Asian restaurant; and Home Remedy, a deli/quick-service restaurant/drug store with made-to-order sandwiches, a salad bar, a pizza station, and a remarkable amount of stuff, including charcuterie, cheese, beer, wine, instant ramen, ibuprofen, and tampons. (Douglas owns another eight restaurants within short walking distance of Via6, and his corporate offices are just around the corner.)
The developers of Via6 describe it as a "vertical neighborhood" where "Belltown, Downtown, and South Lake Union meet up." In addition to the restaurants, the ground floor also holds a flower shop, a bike shop, and a barber shop that are open to the public, as well as screening rooms for residents. In the mezzanine/gaming area, there are shuffleboard tables, tabletop Ms. Pac-Man, and ring-toss games. Press a call button and a server from TanakaSan will come up the flight of stairs to take your food and beverage order.
Residents of Via6 also have access to a full-service concierge "to help with reservations, dry cleaning, and more," a fitness center, a dog-washing station, bike-washing and storage areas, and on-site Zipcars.
Via6 is an example of the kind of urban density Seattleites say they want, including easy access to high-quality goods, services, and transportation alternatives. Kitchens in Via6 come equipped with energy-efficient, stainless-steel appliances, though most of the food available for purchase on the first floor does not require the use of an actual appliance.
Studio apartments begin at $1,900 a month. ANGELA GARBES
314 Marion St, FolioSeattle.org
Folio is a member-based library and workspace for writers located in the heart of downtown. A "membership library," in this case, means you have to pay $125 per year to gain access, which is only a little bit more than a standard subscription to Netflix.
One thing Folio says about Seattle is that David Brewster—founder of the Seattle Weekly, Town Hall, and Crosscut—still has money he's willing to bet on this city's interest in having some civilized civic conversations. Aside from offering a few large reading rooms stuffed with contemporary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, Folio will offer programming such as debates of issues like the economic impact of a $15 minimum wage and live chamber music practice.
Brewster said he wants to amplify the voices of Seattle's artists and intellectuals (some of whom are the same people, of course), pulling not only from the lefty-radical poets but also from the libertarian techies zipping around South Lake Union on their Solowheels. With Folio, Brewster wants to create a kind of rogue academic space. It could be the cheapest university you ever attend. RICH SMITH
1225 N 45th St, SeattleMeowtropolitan.com
Seattle Meowtropolitan, the city's first cat cafe, speaks to a very particular personality trait in this town, one that's content to quantify pleasure and reduce it to a line item on a budget, as if we're all just Sims walking around and topping off our stores of emotional data, fitness data, and nature data at business centers built specifically to satisfy those needs. That's one way to live, I guess.
Lemme back up and explain. Seattle Meowtropolitan is located in Wallingford, not too far from cat-starved dorm dwellers at UW. The cafe is split into two zones: One-quarter of the space is a traditional cafe with coffee drinks, pastries, wi-fi, et cetera, and the rest of it is a spacious and very sterile cat lounge. If you pay $10 (which includes one drink), you may enter the cat lounge area and pet the sleepy kitties. There are wall-mounted scratching posts, little feathers attached to plastic sticks, those balls with janglies inside them, and more. It's great.
But for this romantic puritan, it's all a little too great. Paying for the privilege to pet a cat feels too much like paying for the privilege to flirt. I get a little queasy when affection is reduced to a transaction. Ruins the whole thing for me. Cats and flirting are bonus awesome things in life, serendipitous rewards for living in the world, not pay-to-play entertainment. The whole thing was as boring to me as a strip club.
That said, the cats are adoptable and are probably better off in a giant cat jungle designed for their comfort and enjoyment than they would be in a kennel at a facility in Kent, which is where they'd be otherwise. RICH SMITH