The Consulate of Mexico in Seattle will close downtown on Friday, with plans to reopen in Capitol Hill on July 9.
The Mexican consulate is taking over most of the space in the historic Harvard Exit Theater, which owner Eagle Rock Ventures acquired for $2.35 million in 2015 and began renovating for Class A office space that fall.
“For me, it’s going to be more complicated than where we are right now, but for most people it will be easier,” said general consul Roberto Dondisch.
The Consulate of Mexico in Seattle serves the states of Washington, Alaska and seven counties in Idaho, and more than 850,000 people of Mexican origin, and has been doing so at its Belltown location for more than a decade. Dondisch said people often do not feel comfortable going that far into the city for services.
People living outside Seattle can reach the new consulate, 807 E. Roy St., via Interstate 5 or crossing over from Central Washington on State Route 520, Dondisch said.
“We still need to be in the center of town, which we are,” he said.
Prior to the consulate taking over most of the Harvard Exit space, the historic theater and original meeting place of the Woman’s Century Club received a seismic retrofit, new water, gas, sewer and electric infrastructure, and modern sprinkler and security systems.
Much of the exterior of the building — constructed in 1925 — in the Harvard-Belmont Landmark District was preserved, providing Eagle Rock with a historic tax credit.
The interior is now a blend of historic remnants and modern office space, the theater space to be where Mexican citizens can come for items like visas, passports, birth certificates, with a meeting room on one end of the large space. Dondisch said requests for visas for more than six months have seen an uptick of 30 percent year over year for the past several years, including for Americans going to work for Mexican companies making big investments in there.
Overlooking this space, on the second floor, is the protection department. Consulate press attaché Marco Bárcena said the consulate can’t intervene if Mexican citizens come there seeking asylum, but can help immigrant detainees by providing legal assistance and referrals to nongovernment organizations (NGOs).
“There is a steady situation,” Dondisch said. “We have seen, throughout the U.S., an increase in detention.”
Dondisch said the consulate’s legal protection team visits detainees at the Northwest Detention Center twice a week, and will continue to do so during the two-week move from Belltown to Capitol Hill. He added there is a separate and concerning issue Mexican immigrants being detained at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac.
The consulate will have a community department, where people can come for free medical exams twice a month and HIV testing, Bárcena said. A Consulate on Wheels reaches people outside Seattle who can’t make the trek.
There is also space in the Harvard Exit building for a Mexican Cultural Institute, Bárcena said, which will help people wanting to establish an event or more activities in the area.
The second floor is where the political economics department will operate, with a small space leftover for another potential tenant in the future.
The State Department has accepted the Mexican government’s request to relocate the consulate, which expects to have its seal on the building and flag of Mexico waving on the Harvard Avenue side of the historic Capitol Hill building on July 9. Dondisch said a celebration of the consulate’s move will take place sometime in the near future.
“Hopefully we’ll stay here for a long time,” he said.
Find out more about the Consulate of Mexico in Seattle at consulmex.sre.gob.mx/seattle.