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Historic Seattle’s Preservation Blog

HeartBomb for KeyArena

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On February 14, Valentine’s Day, about 30 people (and two dogs!) gathered in front of KeyArena to show their love for the modernist icon from the Seattle World’s Fair. Participants showed off their creative handmade valentines. The HeartBomb event was co-sponsored by Historic Seattle, Queen Anne Historical Society, Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, and Docomomo WEWA.

HeartBombs are a form of advocacy and a fun and creative way to bring people together and raise awareness about what’s cherished in a community–a sort of city-wide love letter to places that matter.

The groups gathered to make a statement about KeyArena’s significance. The City of Seattle has issued a Request for Proposals for the rehab and reuse of KeyArena, a world-class sports and entertainment venue. But there’s also a tear-down option. We believe the landmark-eligible historic structure from the Seattle World’s Fair should be preserved and reused. Designed by architect Paul Thiry and built in 1962 as the Washington State Pavilion for the Seattle World’s Fair, the structure became the Washington State Coliseum after the fair.

keyarena_heartbomb_valentines_blogHistoric Seattle is following the City’s RFP process and is in contact with Seattle Center and the Office of Economic Development. We’ll continue to advocate for preservation and reuse. A landmark nomination is being prepared by Artifacts Consulting, Inc. for Seattle Center. We will share news of when the nomination goes before the Landmarks Preservation Board to encourage public support for landmarking.

 

Photos: Jennifer Mortensen, Washington Trust for Historic Preservation

Mama’s Building Designated a Landmark

fohb members_mama's_011817_blogAt its January 18 meeting, the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board voted unanimously to designate Belltown’s iconic Mama’s Mexican Kitchen building (2234 Second Avenue) as a Seattle Landmark. David Peterson of NK Architects, who prepared the landmark nomination on behalf of the property owner, gave a presentation about the building’s history and design. He stated that it was “typical” of the low-scale commercial structures in the neighborhood from the early 20th century and didn’t rise to the level of landmark status. However, the Department of Neighborhood’s (DON’s) Historic Resources Survey describes the Bell Street storefront as “one of downtown’s most intact examples of an auto repair garage.”

The owner’s consultant next addressed changes to the building’s three facades and interior spaces, arguing that when taken together, the alterations have impacted the overall physical integrity. Jack McCullough, the owner’s legal counsel, argued against designation, downplaying any significance and focusing on integrity issues. McCullough made the statement that “the bar for integrity needs to be higher” for these more utilitarian buildings.

After several questions from the Board, public comments were taken. Historic Seattle joined representatives from various community groups including Friends of Historic Belltown (FOHB), Belltown Community Council, and Project Belltown. Everyone in attendance spoke in support of designation with the overall consensus that Belltown doesn’t have a lot of high-style buildings, but more humble buildings for “the common man” that embody the neighborhood’s heritage.

Steve Hall, a community organizer and spokesman for FOHB, said that Mama’s is already an unofficial landmark, “If you say, ‘Meet me at Mama’s,’ kind of like the pig at the Market, it’s just one of those places that is known in the community, and important to the community character.” He also stated that it’s “not a contest” – for example, it doesn’t have to be the best and most intact example – and the structure needs to be looked at in its entirety.

Historic Seattle’s Eugenia Woo addressed McCullough’s assertion about a higher bar for integrity, making the point that the Landmarks Ordinance does not have different levels of integrity for high-style versus vernacular buildings and that the Mama’s building should not be held to a higher standard.

The Board then deliberated for over 30 minutes before making a motion and voting 6-0 to approve the designation, based on Criterion D and F. Board Chair Jeffrey Murdock clarified that the language in the designation standards does not require a property to be “exceptional;” Criterion D states that a property needs to embody “the distinctive visible characteristics of an architectural style, or period, or a method of construction.” Steven Treffers, a newly-appointed Board member, said that the Mama’s building “tells a story about a community, period of development,” adding that it retains a “remarkable degree of integrity” to convey the qualities and characteristics of a 1920s auto building.

FOHB said that the Board’s vote comes at a critical time for Belltown as it “faces stupefying change, as Amazon and other tech businesses continue their meteoric transformation of the South Lake Union area.” Hall wishes these types of advocacy efforts weren’t so adversarial: “I would like it if developers would see these iconic and historic buildings as an asset, too, which is great for their business, rather than a liability to be dealt with.”

The community group refers to this decision as the “Mama’s Superbowl” since its designation would represent the second landmarked building on the key block at the corner of Second and Bell. The Wayne Apartments, situated to the south, was recently designated a City landmark.

The property owner, Minglian Realty LLC of Vancouver, BC, acquired the site in 2015 with plans to construct an eight-story apartment building. We do not know if Minglian Realty has a “Plan B” since the building is now designated.

The next step is for the Board staff to negotiate a Controls and Incentives Agreement with the property owner that defines how historic features should be preserved, along with preservation incentives (i.e., special tax valuation and zoning/building code relief). The Board designated the building exterior; no interior spaces and/or features were included in the designation.

Even though Mama’s is designated as a landmark, it doesn’t guarantee that it won’t get altered and/or demolished. Although it’s a complicated process, the owner can still tear down a landmark if they can demonstrate that operating it within the constraints of the landmark designation does not deprive them of “reasonable economic use” of the property.

Photos: East and north facades of the Mama’s Mexican Kitchen Building; and happy members of Friends of Historic Belltown after the designation hearing (images courtesy of Friends of Historic Belltown)

Mama’s Mexican Restaurant Building Nominated

mamas_building_posterOn Wednesday, December 7, 2016, the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board voted unanimously to nominate the iconic Mama’s Mexican Kitchen building at 2234 Second Avenue (in Belltown) as a Seattle Landmark. The nomination was submitted by the property owner/developer, who has plans to redevelop the property. Preservation advocates call these types of nominations “anti-nominations,” in which the owner tries to make the case that the property does not meet the designation standards of the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance, and/or does not possess integrity or the ability to convey significance.

The developer’s attorney, Jack McCullough, started out by arguing that it was a “run-of-the-mill” structure that didn’t deserve to be protected. David Peterson from NK Architects, who prepared the landmark nomination, highlighted the building’s supposedly poor condition and physical alterations – including the 1950s aluminum storefront on the center bay, signage over the transom windows, and other infill along the north facade – that compromised the overall integrity. Referencing the neighborhood historic context statement, he stated that the Mama’s building was a “simple, utilitarian” structure and not significant enough to meet Standard D of the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance, (a property “embodies the distinctive visible characteristics of an architectural style, or period, or a method of construction.”)

Historic Seattle joined representatives from various community groups – including Friends of Historic Belltown, Belltown Community Council, and Project Belltown – to offer public comments in support of the nomination. Friends of Historic Belltown noted that “Belltown doesn’t have many fancy buildings, but rather that the community’s history is with working buildings for ‘the common man,’ and that the Mama’s building embodied that history.”

David Levinson, a Belltown Community Council member and longtime resident, described how the restaurant served as a community gathering place for decades, including Belltown’s labor union members who met there regularly.

The Board demonstrated support for moving the nomination forward to the designation phase, noting that the building may meet several standards and still remains largely intact. Deb Barker said that the portions that haven’t been altered (NE and E alley façades) make it “crystal clear” what the building was. Julianne Patterson stated that the alley facade has “almost perfect integrity,” and she mentioned the idea of “intangible heritage” and how the building is tied to its association with Mama’s Restaurant, even though the restaurant is no longer there.

Friends of Historic Belltown say they “feel a bit bad for the developers, who had been working with the community to design a proposed development that fit in with the neighborhood,” adding that they did not take into consideration the building’s historic value before purchasing the property. “It’s like buying property with a wetland and eagle’s nest on it — you can’t simply bulldoze it just because you didn’t know those features have public values that are protected by law.”

A designation hearing for the Mama’s building will be scheduled in January or February 2017. Friends of Historic Belltown are “elated that the Board saw things the same way we do” and are “looking forward to the next round — the Mama’s Superbowl – to establish our second Landmarked building on ‘the block.’” The Wayne Apartments, built in 1890 and located adjacent (south) of Mama’s, was recently designated a Seattle landmark.

 

Images: Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board votes to nominate the Mama’s Mexican Kitchen Building, photo: Steve Hall; “Preserve the Mama’s Building” poster, Friends of Historic Belltown

UW Draft Campus Plan

The University of Washington (UW) recently issued its 2018 Draft Seattle Campus Master Plan (CMP) and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the plan. The CMP provides the framework for UW’s future development within the Major Institution Overlay (MIO) of the Seattle campus. The DEIS is intended to identify and assess possible impacts of development.

You can review the CMP and DEIS online: http://pm.uw.edu/cmp/about

Historic Seattle submitted comments and we encourage you to do so, too. Download a pdf of Historic Seattle’s comment letter.

As supporters of Historic Seattle, we value your advocacy efforts. Today, we are asking for your support. Contact UW and voice your support of historic preservation at the UW—not in opposition of or at the expense of additional growth, but in concert with appropriate new construction that does not erode the historic buildings and landscapes of the University’s Seattle campus. Public comment for both the CMP and the DEIS are due November 21, 2016.

Historically, the UW has had one of the most impressive and beautiful university campuses in the United States. Guided by its late 19th and early 20th century plans and executed designs, the campus’s character-defining features, spaces, and buildings reflect an evolution of development and growth through many decades. The significant historic resources on campus include not only the older buildings but also the collection of post-WWII resources.

To fully reflect its history, the UW must carefully consider the value of its historic and cultural resources from all eras, not just the older buildings related to its early roots. The draft campus plan continues the UW’s disregard of most of its post-WWII historic resources. This past summer, the UW demolished the National Register-listed Nuclear Reactor Building. The draft 2018 Plan indicates the UW’s intent to demolish more significant mid-century modern resources such as McMahon Hall and Haggett Hall dorms, designed by the prominent firm of Kirk Wallace & McKinley Associates and determined eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places by the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP).

The potential loss of more historic resources is troubling. Equally distressing is the University’s own contradictory statements that, on the one hand, tout “stewardship of historic and cultural resources” as a guiding principle, and on the other hand, give itself an “out” with its bold declaration that any structure that is more than 25 years old or historic can be demolished “if authorized by the UW Board of Regents.”

Furthermore, the CMP states that the UW is not subject to the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance, following a recent King County Superior Court ruling in its favor. However, the draft Plan does not reveal the fact that there is pending litigation in the State Court of Appeals that will rule on this very issue.

Please stand in support of historic preservation by submitting your comments by November 21 to Julie Blakeslee, Environmental and Land Use Planner, Capital Planning and Development, via email at jblakesl@uw.edu or cmpinfo@uw.edu.

Image: Illustrative Plan of Campus at Full Build-out, University of Washington Draft Campus Master Plan (85 sites for development or redevelopment)

 

Support Seattle Legacy Businesses

It seems that every day there’s news about yet another beloved local business closing and there’s nothing we can do about it. Existing historic preservation tools do not protect specific uses or businesses. What else can be done? What can you do?

There are efforts underway to try to address this issue of how to protect Seattle’s older businesses. Historic Seattle has been working with other advocates to support the notion of a Legacy Businesses program in Seattle.

Seattle Councilmember Lisa Herbold has been leading an effort to raise awareness of the importance of these legacy businesses. For the City of Seattle’s 2017-2018 Proposed Budget, she is sponsoring a proposal to add $100,000 for a study on legacy businesses with the goal of identifying places and fostering an atmosphere in which they might better thrive going forward. The funding would support a study to determine the scope and definition of a Seattle Legacy Business project.

Historic Seattle supports Councilmember’s Herbold’s budget proposal addition—we testified at a recent Select Budget Committee meeting in support of the proposal.

Today, we are asking for your support. Please contact Council Budget Committee Chair Tim Burgess at tim.burgess@seattle.gov to request that he include the funding for the Seattle Legacy Business Study in his proposed balanced budget package. He will announce his budget package next Wednesday, November 2.

Seattle Weekly discussed the issue of Legacy Businesses in a recent article. Read more here.

Learn more about Seattle Legacy Businesses!

Photo by Joe Mabel, Wikipedia Commons. Bush Garden, Seattle Chinatown-International District

Announcing 2016 Awards

On Thursday, October 13, 2016, Historic Seattle hosts its 8th Annual Preservation Awards celebration at the newly-restored Washington Hall in the Central District. Tickets are going fast, but there’s still time to register (deadline to purchase tickets: Friday, October 7). The Awards showcase and recognize exceptional public and private projects, as well as individuals and community groups, that preserve and protect Seattle’s built heritage for future generations.

Knute Berger (Mossback) will serve as emcee. The event begins at 6:00 pm with cocktail hour and tour of Washington Hall, followed by the awards presentation and dinner at 7:00 pm and dessert reception at 8:00 pm.

We also invite you to join us for the free community dance party afterwards (9:00 to 10:30 pm).

Congratulations to the 2016 award recipients!

View more information and photos on our website.

Beth Chave Historic Preservation Award for Exemplary Stewardship
Phinney Neighborhood Association

Best Rehabilitation
Union Stables

Best Adaptive Reuse
Pioneer Houses / San Fermo

Preserving Neighborhood Character ­
Gaslight Inn / Singerman House

Art + Architecture
Cascadia Art Museum

Outstanding Modern Masterpiece
Dowell Residence

Preserving Community
Washington Hall Anchor Partners: 206 Zulu, Hidmo and Voices Rising

Legacy Award
Les Tonkin

 

Wake for Nuclear Reactor Building

Nuclear Reactor Building

Celebration of Life (1961 – 2016)

nrb 2_john stamets_blogOn July 19, 2016, the Nuclear Reactor Building (NRB) was unceremoniously and quietly demolished by the University of Washington (UW). The passing of this historically and architecturally significant building ends a years-long battle between preservation advocates and the UW.

The NRB hailed from the Atomic Age of the 1960s, representing nuclear engineering technology and contributing to the University’s science and research programs. The NRB was unique. It was an architectural, engineering, and artistic marvel dreamed up by a stellar team of University professors and alumni. It set itself apart from the rest of campus with its Brutalist architectural features.

In 2014, plans for demolition of the NRB were resurrected by the UW. The building made it on the Washington Trust’s Most Endangered Properties list for a second time in 2015 (the first was in 2008) and preservation advocates rallied to Save the Reactor. In the end, the structure met its demise. Read the eulogy for this significant structure to learn more.

Although the NRB is gone, it is not forgotten.

Join Docomomo WEWA, Historic Seattle, and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation for a gathering at the NRB/More Hall Annex site to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of the Nuclear Reactor Building: 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016 at 5:30 pm

Please wear all black attire. We’ll go to a local pub afterwards. No registration or RSVP is required. In lieu of flowers, please share stories and memories at the wake, on the Save the Reactor Facebook page or by emailing info@savethereactor.org.

 

Photo: Color image – Site after demolition (Washington Trust for Historic Preservation); Nuclear Reactor Building (John Stamets for Docomomo WEWA, 2008)

Nuclear Reactor Bldg Demolished

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Nuclear Reactor Building (1961 – 2016)

Brutal ending for a building once celebrated. University of Washington erases its own history by demolishing the Nuclear Reactor Building. 

On Tuesday, July 19, 2016, the Nuclear Reactor Building was unceremoniously and quietly (as quietly as one can bulldoze a structurally sound concrete building) demolished by the University of Washington. The destruction of this historically and architecturally significant building ends a years-long effort by preservation advocates to save an important piece of UW history and architecture.

What would you do if, at the age of 55, someone told you that you are going to be executed because you are no longer useful and do not contribute to society? That you are taking up space and will be replaced by something shinier and newer. Sure, you had your day in the sun during the Atomic Age. You were the latest thing in nuclear engineering technology and appreciated for your contributions to science and research. You were also unique because unlike similar structures at other university campuses, you didn’t hide underground or behind windowless walls. You stood proud and strong and seemed indestructible. You were an architectural, engineering, and artistic marvel designed by a stellar team of talented University professors and alumni. On a campus defined by its Gothic Revival style architecture and Olmsted Brothers legacy of campus planning and landscape design, you set yourself apart with your Brutalist features. But then things changed…

By the 1970s and 1980s, nuclear energy was not valued, but feared. You were decommissioned in 1988, and by 1992, your owner, the University of Washington, closed the Nuclear Engineering Program. You sat vacant and unused, but your land became valuable. Then in 2008, the attention was back on you. Your head was on the chopping block. The University applied for a demolition permit from the City of Seattle. One of those big white land use notification signs was placed in an inconspicuous spot in the back, not very visible to passersby. Except one student noticed it. An advocacy movement began. Students and some faculty and staff believed you were significant and could be adaptively reused. The University had no immediate plans for your site other than to get rid of you and replace with a landscaped plaza. This would clear the way for future development.

nrb 2_john stamets_blogPreservation advocates around the state were alerted. Docomomo WEWA, Historic Seattle, and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation teamed up to support the efforts of the students. You were even listed on the Trust’s Most Endangered Properties list in 2008. That same student successfully got you listed on the Washington Heritage Register in 2008 and on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. The UW objected to the listing of course. You made the press—local and national media covered your story and plight to be appreciated and used again. You welcomed adaptive reuse with open arms. And you believed there was room for a new building if it was sited and designed well. But you continued to be ignored by the very same entity that created you. You became a polarizing figure. Like some of your Brutalist siblings you were called “ugly” and “cold.” Some called for your destruction saying you were “getting in the way of progress.” Social media has made it too easy to hide behind anonymous comments. But you persevered. The vitriol directed at you was hurtful but you had thick concrete skin. These insults emboldened you and your supporters.

The recession bought you some time, an eight-year stay of execution. The University backed off on its plans for demolition in 2011 but we knew those plans were just on the backburner until the economy improved and the desire for your site trumped all other factors. Sure enough, in 2014, plans for your demolition and use of your site came back in full force. You would be replaced by the technology darling of today, computer science and engineering.

Advocates galvanized again. You were once again listed on the Washington Trust’s Most Endangered Properties list in 2015. This time around, the advocacy efforts stepped up. The Save the Reactor effort was born. Knowing full well that the University’s own environmental review process would only yield conclusions supporting your demolition, Docomomo WEWA submitted a Seattle Landmark nomination application and the University promptly filed a lawsuit against the City and Docomomo WEWA in late 2015. Historic Seattle and the Trust joined in the lawsuit.

Unfortunately, an April 2016 decision by a King County Superior Court judge ruled in the UW’s favor, clearing the way for your demise. Although you are now gone, you will not be forgotten. Your death will not be in vain. Advocacy efforts continue, focusing on the long game as we look to protect the integrity of the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance. This advocacy effort is bigger than you. There are broader implications and impacts related to the entire campus and to any property the University owns—the ultimate question to be decided is whether the University of Washington (and potentially other state institutions of higher learning) is subject to local regulations. Docomomo WEWA, Historic Seattle, and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation have joined the City of Seattle in an appeal of the trial court’s decision to the State Court of Appeals.

And that student who sounded the alarm about your endangered status back in 2008? She graduated from the University of Washington with a Master in Architecture degree. Her master’s thesis topic was on your adaptive reuse potential. When asked for her thoughts about the demolition, Abby Inpanbutr had this to say:

To me the Nuclear Reactor Building was a special case. It was not just an important example of Northwest Modernism, an elegantly designed building by important architects from this place, but it also represented an idealistic point of view we are no longer familiar with today. The building was designed and built with such optimism for the future of the world and the potential of design and engineering. This shined through even when the building sat empty. The Nuclear Reactor Building could have been reinstated as a crown jewel on the campus, there was so much potential. I am very sorry this opportunity has been lost.

A “wake” to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of the Nuclear Reactor Building (aka More Hall Annex) will be held at the site at the University of Washington on Tuesday, August 9, 2016, at 5:30 pm. Please wear all black attire. We’ll go to a local pub afterwards. Save the Reactor advocates Docomomo WEWA, Historic Seattle, and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation hope you join us!

In lieu of flowers, we encourage you to share stories and memories of the Nuclear Reactor Building at the wake, on the Save the Reactor Facebook page or email us at info@savethereactor.org.

Read Knute Berger’s obituary of the Nuclear Reactor Building in Crosscut.com.

Nuclear Reactor Building (AKA More Hall Annex)
University of Washington, Seattle
Built: 1961
Demolished: 2016

Designed by The Architect Artist Group (TAAG):
Wendell Lovett, architect
Daniel Streissguth, architect
Gene Zema, architect
Gerard Torrence, structural engineer
Spencer Moseley, artist

Photo credits: Demolition (Docomomo WEWA); “It’s Brutal” graphic (Save the Reactor); the Nuclear Reactor Building in 2008 (John Stamets for Docomomo WEWA)

Demo Permit Issued: UW to Destroy Historic Building

Update (July 19, 2016): The University of Washington has demolished the Nuclear Reactor Building. We’ll post the full story and images soon. 

Original blog post:

Yesterday, July 12, the City of Seattle issued a demolition permit for the National Register-listed Nuclear Reactor Building.

Here’s what has been happening before the permit was issued:

The historic and architecturally significant structure has not been looking too good recently. The University of Washington (UW) erected a chain link fence around the site in May to prepare for demolition. On June 20, the University began deconstructing the building—WITHOUT a demolition permit. The UW submitted a demolition application in early May but evidently just could not wait to start destroying this significant structure.

Complaints were filed and the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections issued a stop work order and notice of violation. The UW claimed that it was abating the lead in the caulking of the windows (original character-defining features). We do not doubt there will be hazardous materials abatement that will need to be performed in preparation for the demolition, but the building has sat vacant for years and posed no threat. Windows on the two primary facades were removed, leaving massive openings into the building. It took the University almost a week to board up the openings, a requirement of the City.

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What’s Really Going On?

Save the Reactor (Docomomo WEWA, Historic Seattle, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation and supporters) has been monitoring the process and has been communicating with the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) about the process and code requirements for the University’s demolition application and master use permit application for the new construction. What we discovered was a failure in the City’s own system of review including not following its own Land Use Code correctly. Here’s what we heard from a senior level planner when asked to explain its process and code requirements: “It is certainly true that SDCI has not always correctly applied the Land Use Code Section I cited in my earlier email to you. With this current demolition project we have had the chance to carefully examine how the code applies. I can only reconfirm we are confident the exercise of our substantive SEPA authority in a case like this (another agency has completed procedural SEPA and the application to us does not include a Land Use Code – identified Type II MUP) is not a decision subject to public notice or appeal to the Hearing Examiner. Even though this departs from our practice in the past, we feel we have no option but to proceed in a code compliant way.”

We are not making this up. We asked SDCI if it has a complete accounting of every case in which the Land Use Code section has been incorrectly applied. We are waiting for a response. We believe citizens of Seattle expect the City to correctly apply its own codes.

Adding to the confusion is we believe SDCI may have directed the University to place a large white notice of proposed land use action sign last week but that will be taken down soon as well because evidently that was also a mistake. Essentially, the City is not requiring the University of Washington to post public notice of the proposed new construction project, demolition of the Nuclear Reactor Building, and removal of at least 44 trees. No public comment will be taken.

While the City may be following the Land Use Code, it doesn’t mean it makes any sense or should not be reformed.

It’s always been clear that the University wanted to scrape the Nuclear Reactor Building site for its new Computer Science and Engineering II project and all the information in the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) supports that conclusion and not the other alternatives. Yes, the University did everything it needed to do to comply with SEPA but it’s more about checking boxes than an objective review of alternatives that are feasible.

There were many comments submitted for the draft SEIS (including those from Historic Seattle, Docomomo WEWA and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation), but like any EIS process the comments were just noted or we got referred to a page in the SEIS that the lead agency (UW) felt it had adequately addressed the issue.

How Did We Get Here?

After the disappointing Superior Court decision was issued in favor of the University (because of a ridiculous technicality), Save the Reactor reviewed options. We encouraged the City of Seattle to appeal the decision to the State Court of Appeals and asked the City to seek a stay of demolition. The City chose to appeal but did not seek a stay. We assume this was for political reasons mostly. And the City is more focused on the larger jurisdictional issues of City and University. But for Save the Reactor and other supporters, this advocacy has been about BOTH the Nuclear Reactor Building and the larger issues. We joined the City of Seattle in its appeal to the State Court of Appeals. We also looked into seeking a stay of demolition but after much discussion with our attorney, we decided not to pursue a stay because of the possibility of having to post an appeal bond backed up by collateral. Docomomo WEWA has no real property to use as collateral but Historic Seattle and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation both own significant historic properties. If the stay was granted and we lose the appeal, then we could be liable to the University who could claim damages from delay of demolition and construction of its new project. This is a risk that Save the Reactor could not take. The UW has an annual operating budget of almost $6 billion. Save the Reactor has a combined operating budget of less than $3.5 million. We’re somewhat outmatched when it comes to resources.

As a public institution the University of Washington needs to be a good neighbor within the city. For years, we have maintained that there are alternatives to demolishing the National Register-listed Nuclear Reactor Building and there is at least one alternative site for its proposed Computer Science and Engineering II building. Of course, this case is not just about the Nuclear Reactor Building. There are broader implications and impacts related to the entire campus and to any property the University owns. The University need not be so afraid of external efforts to recognize and honor its history and legacy. We have always advocated for a creative design solution that presents a win-win for the UW and advocates, but this position has been consistently ignored by the University.

What’s Next?

We anticipate going before the State Court of Appeals this fall, with a decision in early 2017. This appeal is about the long game–protecting other University owned historic resources through landmark designation. It’s too late now for the Nuclear Reactor Building. The University’s plans are to demolish the Nuclear Reactor Building after completing SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) mitigation and obtaining a demolition permit. The UW’s self-imposed “mitigation” for demolition is documenting the exterior to HABS Level 1 standards and producing a 3-D virtual tour of the interior. That’s it. In our view, there’s no mitigation for demolition because once a resource is destroyed, it’s gone forever. The University intends to clear the site—the building and over forty trees—as soon as possible. We do know the University would like to start construction in January 2017 if it obtains the required permits in time for that start date. We do know there is no administrative appeal to the City Hearing Examiner for the demolition permit and master use permit, but the City’s decisions on whether to grant or deny the permits can be appealed to King County Superior Court through a land use petition. All three Save the Reactor organizations have standing in this situation and can appeal. However, we would still need to seek a stay or injunction to stop the demolition. And we would be back where we were before.

Save the Reactor plans to gather together to say goodbye to the Nuclear Reactor Building. Stay tuned for details…

Photos: Docomomo WEWA

An earlier version of this article appeared in the Docomomo US e-news (June 27, 2016) and in the Save the Reactor blog (July 8, 2016).

InterUrban – Belltown Visioning Recap

project_belltown_03 On May 19 Historic Seattle held its InterUrban event, “Project Belltown: Imagining Possibilities,” at Union Stables with nearly 60 people gathering for a visioning exercise around a real-life project site in the neighborhood. The event, hosted by Lease Crutcher Lewis in its beautifully rehabilitated space and co-sponsored by Friends of Historic Belltown, brought people together to think creatively about the possibilities of developing a site that includes a designated landmark and adjacent infill.

Thanks to those who helped make this happen: Marcia Wagoner, our lead moderator; our five lead facilitators, Matt Aalfs, BuildingWork LLC; Adam Alsobrook, Clark Design Group; Rick Sever, residential contractor; Vernon Abelsen, architect; and Hannah Allender, SHKS Architects; and presenters Dave Rauma, Lease Crutcher Lewis; Tiffany Jorgensen, Friends of Historic Belltown; Tom Graff, Ewing & Clark; and Brittany Shulman, Seneca Ventures.

Following the introductions, Historic Seattle’s Eugenia Woo presented the project site: the landmarked Franklin Apartments (NE corner of Fourth and Bell) and the adjacent parcels along Fourth Avenue—these north lots contain two, lower-scale commercial structures that have been altered extensively.

After laying out the three development alternatives, participants moved into smaller facilitated group discussions and considered the pros and cons of each scenario. Key questions included: What are the project goals and strengths of site? What are the potential uses for the Franklin and/or adjacent site? What are the guiding principles (i.e., fitting in, standing out, sustainability, affordability, preservation, density, etc)?

project_belltown_blog_02The group discussions were energetic and engaging. Participants appreciated the opportunity to have open and frank conversations about what’s going on in Belltown. The groups then reconvened for brief presentations by the facilitators which were revealing in their shared commonalities.

Group 1 felt that the alternative that retained the Franklin’s integrity while accommodating context-sensitive development could be “altruistic visually.” At the same time, they agreed that density was an important consideration for addressing affordable housing. This group looked at rehabilitating the Franklin for affordable units and designing new residential towers on the adjacent parcels for market rate housing. Design considerations included building setbacks, delineation between historic and new buildings, and active alley/interior courtyard with retail shops.

The other groups came up with variations of a theme. Group 2 tried to “strike a balance” between infill development that was sensitive to its context and also visually distinctive. They grappled with big questions to help inform their approach, such as how do you fit without matching? If the roof is part of the landmark designation, how can you put something on it?

They came up with a manifesto that said “NO” to the “facadectomy approach” and rejected “that option for this project and all others of its ilk in Seattle.” Visioning concepts included street activation, as well as preserving light and air.

Group 3 distilled the defining characteristics of the site and came up with three primary goals:

  • Encouraging community as a gathering place, event space, artist space, and shared production pace.
  • Supporting residential use including a mix of market-rate and affordable housing, as well accessible ground floor for public gathering combined with small commercial (i.e., retail, restaurant).
  • Maintaining scale to retain lively and pedestrian-friendly neighborhood experience. They proposed setting back from the building perimeter to decrease overall mass, modulating materials to harmonize with existing qualities, and articulating detailing to contribute to human-scaled streetscape.

Group 4 drew inspiration from the Franklin’s light well on the north side, incorporating it into the new design to create an interior courtyard space. The last report out from Group 5 reinforced this design concept with their proposal to take the Franklin’s footprint, rotate it 180 degrees and place it on the two lots, forming a courtyard “between and into each building.” The pedestrian alley between the buildings allowed them to preserve the entirety of the Franklin’s exterior. The new building was setback along Fourth Avenue “so that the fire station and the apartment remain proud.” Their proposed seven-story tower would contain a mix of studio to three-bedroom units, with both buildings providing mixed low-income and market rate housing.

franklin apts_historic_1937_blogHistoric Seattle wrapped things up by looking at the bigger picture and how attendees can be more effective preservation advocates. The most stunning element of our workshop was the “big reveal” of the actual developer’s preferred proposal for this site: a facadism project that retained the two primary facades (Fourth and Bell) and “punched through” new street-level door openings. The rear alley façade was sacrificed to accommodate underground parking, even though parking is not required.

The overwhelming consensus of our audience – including architects, developers, real estate professionals, Belltown residents, and interested/concerned neighbors and citizens – was that more consideration should be made to respect the landmarked apartment building.

Dana Phelan from 4Culture had this takeaway: “It was really engaging, and such a clear demonstration of the huge discrepancy between what people want to see in their neighborhoods and what is getting approved and built.” Steve Hall from Friends of Historic Belltown added, “People really dug into the work. And they had fun. And most importantly, they learned the value of historic preservation – and the value of their own voice.”

View more images of the event on our Facebook page!

Historic Seattle’s InterUrban series seeks to inspire conversations about achieving more livable communities through historic preservation. The series connects historic preservation to urban planning and policy discussions impacting our region such as affordability, equitable development, social justice, sustainability, and neighborhood density.

Photos: View of participants in the penthouse level of Union Stables (Steve Hall); group discussions (Sticks and Stones Photography); historic view of the Franklin Apartments, 1937 (Washington State Archives, Puget Sound Region Branch)