Preservation in Progress

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Archive for the ‘Advocacy’ Category

Giving Thanks to our Supporters’ Circle

Support for Historic Seattle comes in many different forms. Advocates and program attendees are critical to our mission, but donors go beyond, allowing us to take our work to new heights. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we want to give you ALL our thanks.

Below we’ve featured a few individuals to highlight some of the ways people in our Supporters’ Circle make our work possible.

Thank you, from all of us at Historic Seattle.

Membership Support:
Longtime | Mollie Tremaine

Not only does Mollie Tremaine hold the esteem of being one of Historic Seattle’s first members, she was also a Historic Seattle staff member in the 80s and 90s when our office was in Pioneer Square and we had a staff of just three! Mollie continued to volunteer for Historic Seattle in many capacities after her retirement and served six years as a Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board member.

Why do you think it is as important to support Historic Seattle today as it was at the time of our founding in 1974?

Mollie Tremaine: If you believe in preservation, you have to support it! If you want to have preservation, you must wave the flag.

While preservation has always been my advocational interest, I think it’s really important to continue to recruit new support for preservation by educating people about places. To do this you have to keep a pulse on where people go, what places matter, and what people want to protect.

A woman with short, blonde hair and glass smiles

Mollie Tremaine.

New Member | Nancy Paine

What prompted you to join our organization?

Nancy Paine: I was raised in Seattle; it’s been my home since 1962. I believe we need to work on preserving places that embody our history. When I heard about the potential sale and possible  threat to the Hofius House on First Hill, I knew I needed to act. You guys are the mechanism for preserving our history.

Four white columns frame the entrance to the Hofius House, made of brick. Four windows sit above the entrance

The Hofius House on First Hill.

Monthly Donor:
Dale Dvorak

Monthly donors help sustain our work. Some employers, like Dale’s, match gifts which can significantly boost your contributions.

Why do you enjoy giving to Historic Seattle?

Dale Dvorak: This organization first got my attention when I purchased a 1918 craftsman (bungalow) house in 1998. I stumbled across an article in the Seattle Times spotlighting an upcoming Bungalow Fair sponsored by none other than Historic Seattle. After attending the event, I was hooked; there was so much to learn about styles, colors, and history through workshops, lectures, and tours.

Since then, I have expanded my interest to more than just craftsman homes; Historic Seattle provides a range of activities that keeps me engaged and satisfies my curiosity. I have been on walking tours, enjoyed food and drinks, listened to lectures, and I’ve also been challenged to not only enjoy Seattle’s rich history, but also to be part of keeping it for future generations to embrace instead of razing those beautiful windows into the past to build another glass and steel structure. I’m proud to be a member of Historic Seattle and glad that I can financially support such a vital organization doing so much good for the community.


Dale Dvorak stands in the middle of a group of people and laughs during a tour of Georgetown. Brick and industrial buildings are seen in the background

Dale Dvorak (center) at Plates, Pours, and Preservation: A Georgetown Food, Drink, and History tour.

Corporate Sponsor:
Bassetti Architects

Generous sponsors help Historic Seattle bring you a variety of education and advocacy programs, as well as special events, that enable you to explore our historic built environment.

What value is there for Bassetti in aligning with Historic Seattle
as a program sponsor?

Lorne McConachie | Bassetti Architects:
We value the rich texture of historic buildings within our urban fabric.
We value the cultural continuum of our evolving history.
We value the embodied energy of our landmark structures as we confront climate change.
We value the opportunity to preserve and restore our cultural and architectural legacy.
We value the educational opportunities embedded in our history.
We value the beauty of our landmarks.
We value the stories.
We value our community.

Save The Showbox Contributor:
James Keblas

Contributions to our advocacy fund were essential in securing landmark status for The Showbox. This support also enables us to continue to fight to protect other cultural spaces in Seattle.

Why did you decide to make a gift to Historic Seattle to help save The Showbox?

James Keblas: I was so relieved to hear that Historic Seattle was taking the lead to save The Showbox. I remember the moment well because it was the first time I had hope that saving The Showbox was actually possible. It meant so much to have an organization from outside the music community understand the cultural value The Showbox has for Seattle. I immediately went online and made a donation to support the cause.

The Showbox is a pillar of our music and creative identity. It’s beautiful and unique. It has hosted incredible events over generations and created memories that have come to define a significant piece of Seattle’s identity.

Most importantly, live music venues are the vital ingredient to creating a healthy music community. It’s where artists hone their craft and begin collaborations with other artists. It’s where audiences and community get developed over a shared love of music. There are many things that contribute to a healthy music scene, but I believe nothing is as critical as live music venues. If we have live music venues, all the other pieces fall into line. If we lose them, this community will lose its musical identity. I am grateful Historic Seattle is fighting to prevent this from happening. Seattle is a great music city. Let’s make sure that legacy is there for the next generation.

James Keblas, wearing a shirt that says "Save The Showbox," stands to the right of Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney.

James Keblas pictured backstage at a show in Washington, DC with Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney. Corin told James she was “heartbroken” when she heard about the threat to The Showbox.

Volunteer Leadership:
Council Member Valerie Tran

Valerie Tran joined Historic Seattle’s Council in 2017 and now serves as secretary, as well as on our education, advocacy, and benefit committees. As current board president of Friends of Little Saigon and a former International Special Review District board member, Valerie brings a deep understanding of the value of preservation to community — particularly to communities of underserved immigrants, refugees, and people of color.

Why does our cause matter to you?

Valerie Tran: It matters because it’s important to have a voice for historic preservation. There need to be resources and a network to prevent the loss of not just physical assets, but cultural assets. Historic Seattle understands the value of preservation of not just physical places but the preservation of community and use. When you preserve, you’re helping to prevent displacement and protect the physical representation of cultural groups. You ensure that physical places are here for the people who have historically used them and want and need to continue to use them.

Valerie Tran stands to the left of a board that says "2019 Preservation Awards - Community Advocacy - Friends of Little Saigon." She smiles while she holds a the 2019 Preservation Celebration Benefit journal.

Valerie Tran (left) at Historic Seattle’s 2019 Preservation Celebration Benefit.

Thank you to all of you who support Historic Seattle! Together we are shaping a city that values and protects its collective history.

Beyond Nostalgia & the Spirit of Service to the People

An interview with Shannon Welles and Earnie Ashwood, Showbox employees and founding members of Friends of The Showbox.

What is Friends of The Showbox (FOTS) and how were you inspired to organize this group?

SW: I describe Friends of The Showbox as a grassroots community coalition of people dedicated to saving The Showbox. For me, establishing the group came from wanting to get the employees of The Showbox connected to a greater community of people working to save the venue. It also came from wanting to unite individuals and connect them with groups like Friends of the Market and Historic Seattle to get all parties working together.

Also, I was in grad school when the news about the threat to The Showbox broke. I was taking a public policy class, and I felt like I could help organize people who had energy but didn’t know where to put it. Like the employees, many people wanted to help but didn’t know how.

EA: FOTS is a coalition of people who love The Showbox and have gathered for the sole interest of preserving both the use and the cultural heritage of the building.

Tell us about yourself, your connection to Seattle, and how you came to be a part of The Showbox.

SW: Music has been the driving force in my life since I was a kid. I started working at a music store when I was 16, and I moved to Seattle because of the music scene. Seattle was my music mecca. I would not have come here were it not for the music.

EA: I moved to Seattle to pursue music as a full-time career. I started working at The Showbox, and it quickly became a second home for me. My relationship with The Showbox has dramatically evolved because of the culture of community that exists there.

What is your earliest memory of The Showbox?

SW: I went to my first concert at The Showbox (Gillian Welch) about two weeks after I moved here in 2001. Not long after that, I started working there. I’ve now worked at The Showbox for 17 years and I can’t imagine my life, or Seattle, without it.

EA: One of my earliest memories was meeting the security manager of The Showbox for a job interview at Pike Place Market. It was very simple, he asked me, “Are you compassionate? Do you have the ability to listen? And can you make this more than being about yourself, and flexing power?”

He proceeded to explain that the culture of The Showbox is about more than standard security. It’s about providing a safe space for people to connect and enjoy music. The interview introduced me to the spirit of service to the people that IS The Showbox.

“At the heart of the community’s love for The Showbox is our relationship to music, to memory, and to each other through music. These relationships should not be dismissed as nostalgia. It’s so much deeper than that.”

The above quote is from Friends of The Showbox’s website. Explain how love of The Showbox is about more than people’s nostalgia for a bygone time in their lives.

SW: Well, those are my words so that’s a lot of it! But I also think music is often just dismissed solely as entertainment, without consideration of any other role it has in society. I’ve done some reading about music as a social force, so I see it differently.  It’s old, old function in human relationships is in ceremony, and bringing people together. We build relationships through music.

EA: To me, The Showbox is a shining example of diversity, both in music and in demographic. And as a musician in this city, when small shows pop up at The Showbox you pay attention because that’s where Seattle music really gets to shine. You see so much pride among the musicians performing and within the people who work there. People take this in as a beautiful Seattle event, and a sense of power of connection comes through that space.

Do you personally feel connected to The Showbox’s history? If so, how?

SW: If you’re speaking about the legacy of bands that have played there, I got to be part of many of them, so I feel really connected to that space. Then 5 years ago, for The Showbox’s 75th anniversary, I worked with the GM at the time to put together a celebration of The Showbox. I helped by digging through archives to gather old photographs, I did research, and I read the HistoryLink article. As a result, I became very familiar with The Showbox’s history. 

EA: I feel connected to the history in two distinct ways, as a musician and as an employee. As an employee, finding a new family through work makes me feel like a part of its history as a place where people connect. As a musician, it’s always been a dream to play at The Showbox and I got that opportunity in January of 2017. The opportunity to share my music on that stage changed my perspective about what was possible within myself. This venue represents opportunity for musicians like me.

Assuming this is the first time you’ve been involved in the landmarking process, what are some of the big takeaways you’ve learned thus far?

SW: I’ve read a lot to figure out what it is and how you explain it to someone else. One disappointing thing that I’ve discovered is that landmarking doesn’t necessarily save a place, that it doesn’t protect use. I also learned that the landmarking criteria heavily focuses on the things that you can see and touch, and not necessarily what it means to a community. When you’re trying to make the case for cultural significance, it’s hard if many of the ideas that they have about landmarks are about material space. I know that there have been articles written about equity, and who gets to save what spaces, and what do we value in terms of landmarks process. I think there’s room for improvement and change, to strengthen the rules so that we can save spaces with cultural significance when an owner might have an offer of millions of dollars that involves demolition.

EA: One of the biggest things I’ve come away with is that you can’t assume that other people have the same knowledge you have about a place you care about. And perhaps more importantly, the way you approach educating someone really determines how effectively you can accomplish the goals you’re trying to get across. For example, one of the landmark board members didn’t have a good understanding of the accessibility of The Showbox and the wide demographic that we serve. At first, I got almost angry, “How could they not know this!?” Then I realized I could share my knowledge and use that information as a positive point for why this place should be preserved. It’s not all about being prepared with what you have to say, but also to show up and listen, and address concerns to be effective for the movement.

Shannon, Earnie, and other Showbox employees testify in support of nominating The Showbox for landmark status.

What is one of the more significant ways you’ve seen The Showbox foster community? How would you describe its role in the context of Seattle as a whole?

SW: I see it most among the employees because that’s how I am in the space. The employee base is a unit. But I also see relationships forming there, people make friends there, romances form. In the context of Seattle as a whole, it provides space for people to gather. If you’re in a place where there are 1,000 other people who love that band that you also love, and you’re all singing the songs together and jumping up and down together on that floor, there’s a sense of belonging. If you go someplace like a bar you may be talking together with your friends, but you don’t feel like you’re having some sort of communal experience.

EA: Live music tends to break down barriers, it allows people from different backgrounds and different beliefs to come together. It gives them a space to let that go and just enjoy what’s in front of them, in the moment, with fellow human beings. For example, one of my favorite bands came to play at The Showbox, about a year ago. I was working security and noticed someone wearing a Trump t-shirt and another in a Black Lives Matter shirt. In our political climate that can lead to some very uncomfortable feelings. As security we must be mindful of situations like that. The moment the band started to play, those two got next to each other in the same area and it felt like some type of showdown could go down. Instead we saw the two of them wrap their arms around each other and start belting out the songs together. That is representative of the way this place allows for community to set aside differences and come together.

How would Seattle’s music scene change if The Showbox were to be torn down?

SW: We’re one of just two venues of that capacity here and in terms of how bands move through the Pacific Northwest we’re an important small-to-midsized venue. There are bands that are too big for the Crocodile but too small to fill places like the Moore or the Paramount. You need the venues that are in between and without them I think a lot of bands will just skip Seattle. It would be terrible for Seattle because of what the place means for people in Seattle. Artists who are young and coming up dream of playing there and want to see their name on the marquee. There would be this hole where that used to be. The place is an icon. If you destroy this icon, it’s going to crush the spirit of the musicians in Seattle. The greater touring musicians in this country know The Showbox and want to play there. It will destroy one of the best places to play in the Pacific Northwest and will have effects that people aren’t thinking about now. I think it will affect the greater ecosystem of music in the PNW.

EA: The Showbox is unique not only because of its culture of community but also in terms of its capacity. The average bar here has a capacity from 100-150, then you have places like the Crocodile around 300, and places like Nuemo’s with a capacity of 600-700. This is where The Showbox is really special, it’s a very approachable space that fits 1,100 to 1,200. From there it jumps up from 1,800 to 1,900 at places like Showbox SODO. If you were to lose The Showbox, you’re looking at a jump from about 600 to 1,800. That gap leaves musicians in a very tough spot and limits options for how you can present your music. The unique size of The Showbox is one of the reasons it draws musicians from around the world to Seattle.

I mention the Neptune is the only other place of its size in Seattle.

EA: And I love the Neptune, but it’s different. To me, The Showbox represents a home-grown identity and a home-grown goal. It is unique because of its location in the heart of Seattle, and because of its rich history with artists like Duke Ellington, Soundgarden, and Lady Gaga having played there.

Please share some specifics on how The Showbox impacts Pike Place Market and the local neighborhood.

SW: We’re connected. The bands that come through get off their buses and ask, “Where can I go eat in the Market?” They go over and explore, The Showbox employees go over there, people who work at the Market come to shows. Many of the businesses in the Market already consider us part of the Market because they give us discounts that employees at the Market get! We get a lot of people coming in from the Market during the day asking, “What is this place?” or, “We want to see the show, do you have tickets?”

EA: There’s a strong relationship between The Showbox and the Market, a natural, symbiotic, heartwarming connection between both the people who visit the Market and The Showbox, and the people who work in both places. The Pike Place Market itself is about human connection. It’s about face to face interaction, and service to the people. That same spirit is very much what The Showbox is about.

How has The Showbox influenced your other life pursuits?

SW: I have a good understanding of what it’s like to live in Seattle and have no money and to do something for years because you love it. From being part of that community for so long, and having that be my lived experience, I can advocate for people who have that experience also.

Whether you work as a tattoo artist, or a photographer, or audio tech — you’re part of the creative community. There has to be a place for the creative community. Seattle is not going to be a great place to be if you don’t have any artists or musicians. And we’re supposed to be “The City of Music,” it’s ridiculous that we’re being driven out!  I see my path forward supporting the arts, we need all the support we can get and that’s where I’m going to focus my energies next.

EA: The fight to save The Showbox has changed my perspective about what a community of people coming together can do. I’m not just talking about the Showbox community, or the people of Seattle, I’m talking about the countless people around the world who have shown support for what this fight is really about, which to me, is the concept of profit vs. culture.

The Showbox has provided me with a lot of direction in life. Not only direction, but also the support behind the direction to execute. It has broadened my perspective of what I’m capable of and caused me to question what’s really important to me. These are the reasons I’m fighting so hard to save this place. 

The italicized text above is paraphrased, not directly quoted. The meaning has been preserved.

People in Preservation: A Look Behind a Landmark Nomination

If you’re reading this, you’re probably somewhat familiar with the City Landmarks Preservation Ordinance. You may know that landmarking is generally a two-part process —  the first step is a nomination; then, if the nomination meets certain criteria and receives enough votes, it goes on to designation consideration. (Psst… if you want to know more about Landmarking, join our March 9 Advocacy Workshop 2: Landmark Nomination).

But, do you know how nominations are initiated in the first place?
Nominations come from a range of sources. They can be a requirement triggered by a permit application or submitted by property owners, consultants, or organizations like Historic Seattle (to name a few examples). Perhaps most inspiring of all are those that come from citizen advocates.Meet Dr. Ruth Fruland and Cynthia Mejia-Giudici, the team who recently presented a nomination for the Shearwater Community School/Decatur Annex (7725 43rd Ave NE) in the Wedgwood neighborhood. What inspired these two women to nominate this place?

A white one-story building with green windows sits back from a tree-lined street

The Shearwater Community School/Decatur Annex

If you think this building lacks the beauty you might envision in a landmark, you are not alone. However, a place does not necessarily need to possess remarkable architecture to qualify as a city landmark. What it does require is to: 1) be over 25 years old, 2) possess integrity or the ability to convey its significance, and 3) meet at least one of the six criteria for designation outlined in the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance. Ruth and Cynthia’s Decatur Annex nomination focused on the cultural and historic significance of the place, which is too rich and complex to do justice in this short piece. To get a better idea of the scope of that significance, read their landmark nomination and explore related blog posts in Wedgwood in Seattle History.

To summarize, the Shearwater Community Center, now called Decatur Annex, is the last remaining building from the Navy’s Shearwater Housing Project, which was built in 1945-46. The Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) was contracted by the Navy to build the housing project (which included the community center) for military families at Sand Point NAS. The Shearwater Housing Project was unique in that it strategically and successfully implemented racially-integrated housing during a time when discriminatory housing policies were systemically enforced both at the federal level as well as in Seattle in the form of neighborhood covenants, exclusionary redlining, and “sundown” laws. The onset of WWII prompted the Navy to establish a policy of racial and gender integration of its service. The Shearwater Housing Project was the Navy’s first integrated housing project under this new policy, which happened to coincide with the equalitarian vision of Seattleite Jesse Epstein, a lawyer who created the SHA to qualify for federal funds for low-income housing under the Wagner-Seagull Act of 1937.

According to Dr. Fruland’s nomination, “The Shearwater Administration and Community Center embodies a fascinating, but under-reported history, not only of the Navy’s new policy of racial integration, but also of how it leveraged Seattle Housing Authority’s integration policies under Jesse Epstein (and vice versa). One might say his appointment as the first Executive Director of the SHA in 1939 was ‘just in time.'”

There is much more to the Shearwater story, but the question still begs: how did these citizen advocates come to spotlight this significant piece of history? The answer is history, education, and – in part – geology!

With a PhD in Education Science and Technology and a background in geology, Wedgwood neighborhood resident Dr. Fruland’ s interests lie both in education and in “the passage of time and its effects on things.” Her inclination to preserve the Decatur Annex was initially sparked by a postcard she received in the mail from the Seattle Public Schools (SPS) regarding demolition of the annex. SPS, which now owns the property, redeveloped most of the former housing lot into a large new public elementary school and is seeking approval to demolish the annex for “outdoor education use.”

That same postcard landed in the mailbox of another Wedgwood resident, Cynthia Mejia-Giudici, an oral historian and special education teacher at nearby Roosevelt High School. Cynthia lived in Shearwater housing as a child, and her Filipino family has lived in Wedgwood since 1956. She was driven to preserve the Decatur Annex not only because she remembers it vividly from personal experience, but also to honor and represent its broader meaning in a larger cultural context, and to raise awareness about the historic ties the Wedgwood neighborhood has to the former Navy base, now Magnuson Park. Cynthia is “passionate about honoring the multi-cultural community that Sand Point created with the Housing Project, and about paying tribute to the US Navy.” To quote Ruth’s words in their nomination, “It is Cynthia who knows the feeling and meaning of racial discrimination, and the true significance of Decatur Annex in Seattle’s history.” Again, Cynthia’s family’s story and the significance of the community that formed at Shearwater warrants much more space than this piece allows. Read more about Cynthia’s story here.

On January 2, 2019 the Shearwater Community Center/ Decatur Annex came before the Landmarks Preservation Board (LPB) for designation determination. Landmark designation requires a majority vote among the 10 seated LPB members. So, although 4 of the 6 LPB members present voted in favor of landmarking, the annex failed to receive the requisite 6 votes required for designation and The Decatur Annex will likely be demolished in the coming months. Ruth and Cynthia are now working to hold SPS accountable to promises made for a plaque or statue to honor the significance of Shearwater – a significance many SPS representatives denied in their public comments opposing designation.

Cynthia and Ruth at the Landmarks Preservation Board meeting at Seattle City Hall, January 2, 2019. Courtesy of Wedgwood in Seattle History

Despite this outcome, Ruth and Cynthia’s passion and important work on this nomination calls attention to significant and perhaps lesser known pieces of Seattle’s collective history. Their work also closely relates to Beyond Integrity, an emerging local movement in preservation that seeks to shift emphasis from architectural integrity toward cultural significance to ensure the places we honor as historic landmarks tell a complete and inclusive story. We commend Dr. Fruland and Cynthia Mejia-Giudici for their outstanding grassroots advocacy and for furthering the conversation about whose history we preserve.

HeartBomb for KeyArena

KeyArena Heartbomb 2_blog_b

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

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


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

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)

Springing Into Action!

The past few weeks have been great for Historic Seattle’s 2016 advocacy efforts, with our generous supporters helping us exceed our $12,000 goal to fund this work. This campaign had many parts, including our spring mailing, GiveBIG, and a matching challenge from our Executive Director Kji Kelly, who was inspired by our donors’ resilience when technology failed us all on GiveBIG day. With the Seattle Foundation’s stretch funds, we’re thrilled to announce we will reach $21,000!

Nearly 120 of you came together to make this possible, and we are grateful for your support and belief in the importance of advocacy. Preservation is a team effort, one that is only possible when we all work together to protect our city’s built heritage.

Our three-pronged mission is an expression of that belief. We educate the public to promote a deeper understanding of the built environment and appreciation for preservation. We preserve our sense of community by acquiring, restoring, and reusing historic properties. And finally, we advocate for protecting buildings all around our region by connecting people and policy.

Advocacy efforts often occur behind the scenes, radiating far beyond our office to impact all of Seattle. Thank you for embracing this important work. Our loyal supporters have enabled us to do even more this year to fight for places that matter. We look forward to sharing our progress and successes on the preservation challenges ahead.


Photo: I Heart This Place chalkboard project

Preservation in the News

January and February have been filled with news in the preservation world. The following articles look at some controversial projects and issues–the good, the bad and the ugly.

Save Our Square – Pioneer Square

The big news from yesterday was the City Hearing Examiner’s ruling that overturns the Department of Neighborhoods Director’s decision to issue a Certificate of Approval for the proposed 11-story project at 316 Alaskan Way S in Pioneer Square. Save Our Square, advocates from the neighborhood, appealed the Director’s decision last fall, asserting that the project was out-of-scale with its surroundings and not in character with the historic district. Historic Seattle has been supporting SOS’s efforts and provided expert testimony at the hearing. The City Hearing Examiner ruled that the DON Director’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious and must be reversed.”

Seattle’s approval of 12-story Pioneer Square building overturned,” Seattle Times, February 24, 2016.

An earlier article covered the hearing in January. “‘Miami Beach on Elliott Bay?’ Opponents decry proposed 12-story Pioneer Square building,” Seattle Times, January 21, 2016.

The City Hearing Examiner’s decision can be appealed to King County Superior Court. An appeal must be filed within 21 days of the decision.

Note the project is actually 11 stories, not 12 stories as reported in the media.

Save the Reactor – Nuclear Reactor Building, University of Washington

In December 2015, Docomomo WEWA filed a Seattle Landmark nomination application for the Nuclear Reactor Building (aka More Hall Annex), and shortly thereafter the university filed a lawsuit against Docomomo WEWA and the City of Seattle in King County Superior Court. With approval from the Council of Historic Seattle and the Board of Directors of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, both those organizations officially signed on as co-nominators with Docomomo WEWA when the final, revised landmark nomination was submitted just last week. Historic Seattle and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation will also be added as intervenors in the lawsuit soon. The UW Board of Regents voted to demolish Nuclear Reactor Building on February 11. The preservation organizations have retained Dave Bricklin of Bricklin & Newman as their attorney.

Read Knute Berger’s article about the the lawsuit and its broader implications beyond this one building. “UW launches attack on city’s historic preservation powers,”, February 14, 2016.

Here’s Save the Reactor’s latest update on the issue.

Another SOS – Save Our Seminary, Saint Edward Seminary Building, Kenmore

State Parks held a public meeting on February 9 to gather comments on the proposal by Daniels Real Estate to rehabilitate the historic Saint Edward Seminary building at Saint Edward State Park in Kenmore. Plans are to convert the building into a hotel, modeled after the great lodges in national parks. Historic Seattle supports this proposal and offered public testimony in support at the February 9th meeting. Opponents at the public meeting voiced concern about turning over public property to private hands. They don’t feel a hotel/spa is appropriate for the park. Some would actually prefer to see the historic building deteriorate to the point of becoming a “ruin.”

Read more about the issue and the controversy surrounding the proposal. “Struggle over Saint Edward: Renovate it or tear it down?” Seattle Times, January 31, 2016.

Added 2/27/16: Blame the Victim – Landmark Seattle Times Block to be Mostly Demolished

The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (DCI) is allowing the owner of the old Seattle Times Block in South Lake Union (1120 John St) to demolish most of the building (there are actually three buildings). The owner, Onni Group of Vancouver, BC, purchased the property in 2013 and has not managed to properly secure the buildings, making it a target for vandals and squatters. The building’s condition has deteriorated since the Seattle Times vacated the property. DCI is invoking a part of the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance that is rarely used–the Director of DCI can approve the demolition of a Seattle landmark for public safety reasons. The Landmarks Preservation Board (LPB) has no say in the decision. Part of the main facades will probably be “saved” and incorporated into the new development (tall apartment towers). Approval for the preservation of the facades and the design for the new project will go through the LPB. Read more about this issue in this Seattle Times article.

All these advocacy efforts are ongoing. We’ll keep you up to date on the latest. Look for future calls to action for advocacy.

Photo: Rendering of proposed project at 316 Alaskan Way S, Pioneer Square / Gerding Edlen (from Department of Neighborhoods files)

InterUrban Series Launched

John Bennett

John Bennett at the Friends of Georgetown History Museum / Credit: Eugenia Woo

Last evening at the Friends of Georgetown History Museum, Historic Seattle hosted a happy hour to launch our InterUrban series of events. About 65 attendees explored the museum to find the answers to trivia questions, learned about neighborhood history, and enjoyed libations provided by sponsor (and neighborhood business) Machine House Brewery.

One highlight of the evening was hearing from John Bennett, a past Historic Seattle award recipient, on why he invests and believes in the adaptive reuse of historic buildings. We also received a visit and heard stories from a ghost of Georgetown’s past – a saloon owner, naturally.

Historic Seattle looks forward to hosting more InterUrban events in the coming months. We’ll be offering informal, advocacy-focused, issues-based event opportunities presented in a variety of formats including small group discussions, happy hour gatherings, behind-the-scenes tours, and social media engagement.

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. One outcome is to build collaborative partnerships that broaden our impact and to shape the discussion about the future development of our communities and historic places that matter.

Taco Time Landmark Eligible?

taco time_blog2The local grassroots advocacy group, Save Our Fast Food Icons (SOFFI), announced today, April 1, that they are preparing a landmark nomination form for the Taco Time building at 2212 N 45th Street in Wallingford. The City of Seattle’s threshold age criterion for landmarking is only twenty-five years and the building retains high physical integrity.

Built in 1990, the Taco Time building sets itself apart from the usual corporate fast food restaurant chain architecture. Its style is more akin to late 1980s to 1990s small, commercial, suburban design characterized by its cube-like form, grid of glass walls, drive-thru window, and the tall, cactus-shape sign that calls out to drivers traveling along a major arterial.

Many recall the Taco Time nostalgically, “I was a frequent patron of Dick’s Drive-in in Wallingford during my years as an Art student at the UW,” says Seattle native and designer Alex Faker, “I watched the building being erected and thought it was another dental office. Then I saw the drive-thru and wondered if it would be a place to get tacos and dental work done!”

Founded in 1962, the same year of the Seattle World’s Fair, Taco Time is a Northwest institution. The company’s full impact on the region’s built environment is explored in the landmark nomination. SOFFI hopes to raise awareness and appreciation of our fast food heritage—many of these small one-story buildings on large urban lots are fast disappearing, a victim of Seattle’s density-at-all-costs mentality and development pressure.

One detractor (who wishes to remain anonymous) asks, “Really? Seriously? Is this an April fool’s joke? If the Taco Time building is a landmark then I can’t wait to get my Magnolia McMansion landmarked in a few years. I think Taco Time should fight this nomination. I know some good land use lawyers in town who will charge a lot of money to argue for their property rights. What if the building gets designated? Can Taco Time change out the windows and replace with vinyl? What’s next? Pizza Hut?”

SOFFI realizes they’ve got an uphill battle and will be seeking support for landmark status and hopes all you Taco Time fans out there come out to support this fast food icon. It’s about time!

Photos: Joe Mabel (GNU Free Document License granted by photographer)

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