July 18

Inside The Collective

South Lake Union is home to the city’s newest members-only social club. With multilevel lounging hammocks, a campfire circle, and a boutique bouldering gym, this exclusive spot is anything but stuffy.

On the ground floor of the Juno Building at 400 Dexter, sits The Collective, an “urban basecamp for the mind, body, and soul.” (If street addresses are too pedestrian for you, try the coordinates listed at the top of its website: 47˚ 36’ 28.8468 N 122˚ 20’ 6.6012” W.)

Backed by the owners of the ultra-posh Columbia Tower Club, The Collective is the passion project of Olympia natives Tommy Trause and Alex Mondau. The club is a prototype of sorts—a “third space” aimed at creatives with slightly lower membership fees than CTC and sans dress code. Putting down roots in rapidly evolving South Lake Union made sense. “It’s where new and old Seattle meet, and we knew we wanted to be at that intersection,” says Mondau, who is The Collective’s community ambassador.

Social clubs for the young professional set are on the rise (think ultra-trendy women’s club The Wing in New York City). While most members-only clubs cater to a subtype, The Collective’s self-described “urban basecamp” aims to intentionally avoid filling a specific niche. “We hope you’ll meet someone that isn’t like you,” Mondau says.

About three quarters of The Collective’s members live and work in the area, while the remaining fourth travel into the city for work. For example, on a recent visit, there was an environmental consultant from West Seattle who comes in a few times a week to meet with clients downtown as well as an executive coach from Bainbridge Island.

Unlike shared coworking spaces around town, there are no dual monitors or private meeting rooms in the space, just Wi-Fi. But even then, Mondau says the hope is that members will set down their phones and engage with each other. (The hammocks are specifically device free.)

The lobby, housing open-to-the-public Crest Coffee Bar, straddles two distinct spaces. To the right is High Tide—an allusion to the Salish Sea—where dowels hanging from the ceiling represent a depth chart of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The open-air space houses curtained alcoves for working or socializing, a ping-pong table, not-yet-broken-in leather couches, and a raised platform for concerts. It’s intended to be an extension of your living room, and the feel is surprisingly approachable (perhaps a summer thaw of the Seattle Freeze?).

The space opens up into the bar (several big screens show sports and The Food Network alike) and restaurant, with both formal tables and larger booths for client meetings and larger gatherings. As for the food, High Tide is upscale but unfussy. The recently launched summer menu spans a Base Camp Burger with Beecher’s Flagship cheese to summer pasta with fresh burrata and lemon, plus plenty of smaller bites like heirloom tomato and watermelon salad. Executive chef, Juan Garcia, is actually from the Columbia Tower Club. The drink program is also extensive, with a notable library of mezcal, a host of local beer, and seasonal cocktails like the Ginger Rose garnished with house-made apple tart.

On the other side of the lobby is Alpenglow, named for the light you see around Mount Rainier at sunset. Complete with cornhole and a chairlift straight from Crystal Mountain, the space is quiet just before 5pm on a Thursday afternoon. A lone climber makes his way up a route on the bouldering wall, and a woman gets comfortable in one of the alcoves, her kicked-off flats beside her in the cluster of suspended egg-shaped chairs. There’s a “campfire circle” in the space as well; members can order a cooler of craft beer or Rainier to enjoy here, if they feel so inclined. Alpenglow also holds a glass-walled studio for an artist in residence.

But while the aesthetic skews outdoorsy (industrial and wood, with accents of Pendleton), the founding interest is to create a missing connection from the city to the outdoors. Outdoor-centric events ranging from Backpacking 101 to Glacier Travel make up a 10th of the programming. Recently The Collective hosted young poet laureates, and the Washington State Wine commission is slated for a chat about vino. And if this seems like a kid-free zone to you, think again. The Collective has put on kid-climbing clinics and hosted baby showers. “We’re good with Goldfish on the floor,” Mondau says.

But The Collective is more than just a name, its founders stress—it’s an ethos. From hiring to membership, The Collective has made it a point to reach out to the arts community, Amazon’s Black Employees Network, and other communities that exclusive clubs have not always included. “You have to invite people who haven’t been invited before, and it’s a genuine invitation,” Mondau says. He’s pleasantly surprised at how well the strategy has worked so far. “The goal was for everyone to feel welcome and invited,” he says, “and that’s been the experience.”

After about two months, The Collective is nearing the 1,000-member mark (largely through social media and word of mouth), and will cap the number “when you can’t get a seat for lunch.” In Seattle, where the concept of authenticity has lost a bit of its luster, The Collective seems to have hit a genuine sweet spot.

Charter membership is $100 per month, with a one-time $100 joining fee (going up to $150 later in the summer). Check out collectiveseattle.com for more details.

Story by Karin Vandraiss and photography by Amelia Vaughn.

At The Center

SLU is the geographical center of Seattle