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)