Is Broadway Bank of America building a landmark? A surprise question before demolition

This winter, SRM Development plans to begin demolition of a stretch of buildings along a block of Broadway to make room for a 7-story structure on a combined 60,000+ square feet of land. The city’s design process has been completed. Financing is in place. There is only one question left to be answered. Does a 1967 bank building built at the height of car culture complete with a “drive thru” teller station have enough historical value to warrant preservation and throw the plans for a loop?

This is not typically the point in a project’s lifecycle a developer wants to answer a question like this about a building they hope to demolish in the next few weeks. “I’m not concerned at all,” Andy Loos of SRM tells us. “I don’t think anybody in the community or anywhere else will think that building has historic value.”

The building in question is the home of Bank of America on Broadway, 224 Broadway East. Someday, that address is planned to be the northwest corner of the 230 Broadway project. But in a twist of timing that can only be described as inconvenient, 230 Broadway’s backers SRM only recently learned that the Department of Neighborhoods has requested that a process be completed to determine if the 1967 building qualifies as a Seattle landmark. While the Landmark Preservation Board  information on the property was requested this summer, Loos said his firm only recently found out about the requirement due to a mix-up at the Department of Planning and Development. Because of the holiday, we have not yet talked to DPD about the cause of this delay but will update when we are able to learn more.

The city’s designation process doesn’t guarantee preservation even if a property is eventually determined to be a landmark. Designation invokes a rule set for owners of important historical properties for how the structures can be modified and developed. As each specific ordinance is worked out, the final rule set for each individual landmark is often shaped by the plans and needs of the property’s current owner.

Sarah Sodt, Landmarks Preservation Board coordinator, said that, even if the property was ultimately determined to be a landmark, SRM could apply to demolish the structure. Sodt said the approval process in that case would include considering many factors — including economic hardship for the developer.

What the Landmarks Board can’t do any more than they’re already trying to, Sodt says, is speed things up. They’re hoping to hold the meeting to discuss the landmark application for the Bank of America meeting in January. When we talked to Sodt before the holiday, the date for this session had not been set yet. The landmarks process include public testimony — we’ll make sure to let you know when the date is announced.

Sodt said that if the board was able to discuss the nomination in January, SRM would be able to apply for the status immediately to move the process forward as quickly as possible. If it goes that far, the next step would be applying to demolish the newly designated landmark.

In 2008, it took the board only three months after it decided a Ballard Denny’s was a landmark to decide it could be demolished.

Regardless, SRM is still looking at a possible delay in its project — and a rush to complete the process.

“The timing was poor,” Loos said. “Landmark sent it to DPD six months ago. We could have been working on this.”

Loos also disagrees with the decision to pursue the matter at all. “I am a little surprised that the Department of Neighborhood even brought it to the board,” he said.

We’ve included the designation standards used by the Department of Neighborhood’s at the bottom of this post.

The structure at the corner of Thomas and Broadway is not well loved. Here’s how the Stranger’s Dominic Holden described it in 2008:

The Bank of America building, on the corner of Broadway East and East Thomas Street, was, no doubt, quite fresh in the 1960s—the slate on the exterior walls, the little moat of rocks, the windy plaza facing a blank wall. It is, needless to say, all quite stale now.

But the notion of causing a kink in the process to build the 7-story 230 Broadway project is likely to inspire more than a little support for the building and its exhibition of “the design principles of the post-war, Modern bank style,” as it was described in a memo sent to DPD from the Department of Neighborhoods in June. The building represents a possible monkey wrench in the process to create the next giant development on Broadway.

Designed by Runberg Architecture Group, 230 Broadway will be a 7-story structure with 230+ residential units and about 23,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space. Parking capacity, which was originally set at 250 spaces, was increased to 354 spaces, a controversial issue due to its proximity to the future light rail station. In addition to the Farmers Market parking lot, the 61,000 sq ft. site includes the buildings that house Bank of America and Noah’s Bagels and once housed Pho 900, The Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, Cafe Septieme. During construction of the 230 Broadway project, B of A plans to inhabit a location on north Broadway before moving back to the mixed-use development when it is completed.

The project is a typical example of 21st century mixed-use projects in Seattle and on Capitol Hill. The facade mixes brick, cement, and metal siding, with a number of small setbacks. Similar to the Brix, the building will rise seven stories along Broadway with commercial space wrapping around on Thomas. Facing 10th Ave, the building will only rise four stories with mostly walk-up units facing the street.

All of that comes in the future. For now, the Landmarks Board will focus on the old bank. Loos said he hopes the board looks toward the future, not the past. “It would be a travesty to keep a building like that with its catering to automobiles and [drive through] bank tellers,” Loos said. “This is a transit oriented, density focused project.”

 Designation Standards
In order to be designated, the building, object, or site must be at least 25 years old and must meet at least one of the six criteria for designation outlined in the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance (SMC 25.12.350):

a) It is the location of, or is associated in a significant way with, a historic event with a significant effect upon the community, City, state, or nation; or

b) It is associated in a significant way with the life of a person important in the history of the City, state, or nation; or

c) It is associated in a significant way with a significant aspect of the cultural, political, or economic heritage of the community, City, state or nation; or

d) It embodies the distinctive visible characteristics of an architectural style, or period, or a method of construction; or

e) It is an outstanding work of a designer or builder; or

f) Because of its prominence of spatial location, contrasts of siting, age, or scale, it is an easily identifiable visual feature of its neighborhood or the city and contributes to the distinctive quality or identity of such neighborhood or the City.

In addition to meeting at least one of the above standards, the object, site, or improvement must also possess integrity or the ability to convey its significance.

At the public meeting on designation, the Board will receive evidence and hear arguments as to whether the site, building or object meets the standards for designation. If the Board does not designate the property, the proceedings terminate and the property cannot be considered for designation for five years, except at the request of the owner.

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59 thoughts on “Is Broadway Bank of America building a landmark? A surprise question before demolition

  1. I am appalled that anyone, especially the city’s Dept. of Neighborhoods, would pursue landmark designation for this incredibly ugly and cold building. To do so is a desecration of the preservation process. The only thing this will do is to delay the re-development project, which is already years in the making and needs to go forward as soon as possible.

    The Bank of America has already remodeled another space (in the 600 block of Broadway) and is poised to occupy it. Let’s just get on with it!

  2. There is a certain architectural quality and thoughtfulness to the design of the existing Bank of America building. It does represent an area and history of Broadway that is being lost to, in my opinion, new, big ugly boxes from space that replace it and others. The landmarks designation is an interesting and important conversation, albeit perhaps a bit late, but I doubt it will ultimately prevail. I would have rather seen the old U.S. Bank building at John/Olive and Broadway be kept rather than the Bank of America but there too, in my opinion, we have another big, ugly box from space. Sigh. Time to move from Seattle me thinks.

  3. I suspect the financial shenanigans of Bank of America will one day be seen to have qualified it under clause (a). Indeed, all Bank of America branch buildings will need to be preserved as a cautionary reminder. But not many rocks have been turned over yet.

    Mostly joking here… In the building’s favor, it does provide a very nice covered bike rack in view of the security guard. How about nice bike parking at the new 7-story building too?

  4. Aa, I have to agree with Calhoun. There are SO MANY buildings that are truly historic that get destroyed in Seattle EVERY YEAR. That we’d waste time debating this piece of car-culture sh- is a joke. It’s only worthy of the horrible banking institution that now occupies it ;-)

  5. Newsflash: This IS AN UGLY BIG BOX.

    Are you kidding?

    Have you ever been INSIDE this stain on architecture and our beloved Broadway?

    It’s funny how it makes me wonder, where was everyone when they bulldozed some seriously historic buildings on the edge of the new LINK tunnel?!

    Reminds me of the attempt to save the Denny’s in Ballard. We all know how that turned out, right? Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. The worst stuff we make deserves to die quickly. The truly historic, beautiful and significant, we preserve.

    I’m not swayed by the idea that we need to preserve a building that exists in spades in almost every suburban town in the USA (unfortunately).

  6. I can’t get really excited by another large, soulless condo/apartment like the Joule looming over Broadway. The BoA (formerly SeaFirst) building had a charming, low-key, mid-century feel that I’ll miss when I have to see the giant apartment ads in the first floor windows of this new place advertising the ‘hip cosmopolitan living’ and $1300 studios.

  7. Regardless of anyone’s opinions of what consititutes “good” architecture, it looks to me like Runberg and the developer dropped the ball in this project’s due dilligence.
    The rush to turn the shovel on any project can not be at the sacrifice of any existing architectural consideration. That’s what defines what we are as a community – our “benchmark”. And if we do “blow and go” on every project in this manner, we run the real risk of seeing a neighborhood of bland and boring cookie cutter high density housing in the architectural flavor du jour.

  8. I must agree with many of those who have posted that the truly great architecture we have lost and there wasn’t a peep. This building does not represent anything of value to the neighborhood or to architecture. If we lost this building, it would be the crim to architecture, as say the demolition of a Frank Lloyd Wright home. I don’t know how the Dept. of Neighborhoods can put up a fuss over this building, and yet let the Pande Cameron Rugs building on 9th and Pine St. be destroyed. That building had some Terra Cotta, and not a peep was made when it was destroyed. And now, it is a vacant lot.

    Many people up here on the hill lament the ‘soulless buildings’ that are going up, such as the Brix and Joule. I don’t get it. Were they happy with the blank wall of QFC facing Broadway? The vacant Bartell Drugs? Yes, the Joule still has vacant retail. This building finished right during the worst economic contraction the nation has experienced since the Depression.

    If you lament the size and scale of these buildings, we must remember that we are an urban center, and these projects are near rapid transit. As a neighborhood we should want this density. I would rather walk down Broadway filled with the Brix and Joule than be forced to drive through suburban hell.

    If you want better design in these projects, then why don’t you lobby the city council, the mayor’s office, and the design board? Try and get design elements codified into law. Griping on a board does not necessarily affect change.

  9. I am in favor of keeping it around.

    People seem to be concerned with the appearance of an individual building instead of considering the appearance of the entire neighborhood. Architectural variety, like the BoA building currently contributes, helps to make Broadway more attractive as a whole.

  10. on my facebook I shot a pic of a Bank near Bank of America.
    Ist is near Noahs Bagels. The Question is the Block an the Bank

  11. Agreed. Here, here!

    Still, the BofA building sucks like most car-oriented Gulagish architecture and I’d like to think proper due diligence would result in that conclusion. :-)

  12. When the bank building was built, it was a glaring clash and in no way reflected the character of the neighborhood. It still doesn’t. Will the replacement project be better? No. The glass and steel utilitarian architecture of today (necessitated by turning the investment dollar quickly) forbids architecture of a humane aesthetic and a long term vision as exampled in, say, the Loveless Building.

  13. I agree with others- several actual , beautiful historic buildings- Craftsman homes and brick apartments among others -were destroyed for Broadway light rail construction. A great deal of that land will not actually be used for that- & compared to the Beacon Hill LR station seems a real land grab. This ’67 building is nothing special by comparison. The ugliness of these modern condos is remarkable though. Broadway used to have a real flavor, but just as elsewhere- creating with money as the ultimate principle creates ugliness and a continued degradation of our environment. I lived for many years on Capitol Hill, so I speak from a sense of history and place. There is truly no there there in modern condo construction.

  14. XG,

    There is a second building slightly south of of the current BofA that used to house Seafirst Bank (or First Security Bank) until they moved to the current location. That building is zero lot line and is just south of Noah’s Bagels.

    In ’67, when the building in question was built and the bank moved, the ’67 vintage building replaced a bunch of older storefronts that would had the same development style and been more integrated with the rest of the block. If those existed, I believe this would be a different question entirely.

  15. Oh shit. I live in / bought a soulless condo! Is this soulless state something that the developer was required to disclose to me during the sales process? Do I have any recourse?

  16. “Spare us your drama. What you find ugly, someone else doesn’t. “

    What the crap? It’s a meaningless, ahistorical, ill-designed piece of mediocrity. If it was interestingly ugly, you’d have something. It’s average, dull, a nothing.

    Do you have something to add, other than community-college liberal arts 101 generalities?

  17. “It does represent an area and history of Broadway that is being lost to, in my opinion, new, big ugly boxes from space that replace it and others.”

    Crappy buildings from the boring period of the late sixties aren’t going to preserve the culture, you know.

  18. I don’t understand from where you are speaking but it isn’t from this neighborhood. You don’t sound as dumb as Maus though.

  19. this apartment project has 354 parking spaces, for 250 units. it’ll literally be across the street from light rail, a new streetcar, and 5 popular bus lines. it should be stopped. the bank drive thru is extraordinary enough to stop this suburban blight.

  20. Aa, maybe wind down your immature pissing match with Maus now ;-)

    PW Melody, I see your point and agree, mostly. Many of the new condos could be better. However, They could be much, much worse. We really have to go back to the 1940s to find much better architecture. Most of the car-oriented, Brady-Bunch-y and box architecture that dominated from the 50s through 1990s was even worse.

    Let’s be honest, it’s been a long time since crap WASN’T king. As long as our politicians and so-called planners are unwilling to challenge long held notions about “private” property rights, we’ll keep getting more of the same. Money rules and we, the community, lose out big time.

  21. I think it’s an inaccurate generalization to say that all recently-built condo/retail buildings are so horrible…some are, some aren’t. For example, the Brix building is very well-done…I would even say beautiful…and please remember what it replaced (an ugly Safeway and large parking lot). It also has a great mix of locally-owned, non-chain retail at its base.

    I am hopeful the upcoming project (230 Broadway) will be similar to Brix. If so, it will be a great addition to my (immediate) neighborhood.

  22. Ha-Ha, Brixer! You are lucky to live in a building as beautiful as Brix. Probably most of the people who criticize it are just jealous that they can’t live there too.

  23. I think there’s more behind this little “historical” BS. I think somebody who’s against the project is trying to find a last straw to grasp and they’re going to end up delaying a project and potentially cost a hell of a lot more

  24. misha put down the bong, you ignorant waste of oxygen. 354 parking spaces for 250 units means there’s someplace to PUT the cars your toking moron of a mayor wants us to park.

    The B of A building is a blight and frankly, I hope there’s an ‘accidental’ fire the minute B of A moves out.

  25. Couldn’t agree with you more, calhoun. Anybody who thinks otherwise is anti-build. If they were truly worried about preserving historic buildings, they would preserve the building to the south that actually HAS some redeeming qualities.

    Aa: you should be careful what you type out to people. Especially since you couldn’t get into anything other than a community college.

  26. put down the syringe or bong or whatever you’re using and go back to design school. There’s NOTHING worth saving about that building.

  27. ….I don’t know if a 1967 representation of architecture merits physical preservation…not every structural idea is as awesome as the Egyptian pyramids or Frank Lloyd Wright’s creations….some things could be preserved with photographs or scaled models…what I do know is Capitol Hill is losing its character and is getting over-crowded…the seven-storied box that is to be added to the landscape is an eye-sore….it has no class and has no potential for being considered for preservation 50 years from now….and has anyone considered the added burden to water, sewage and other urban factors…there are many reasons for Capitol Hill to pause and evaluate the proposal of SRM Development’s plans for this site.

  28. Is whether this huge new building will be rented or owned, and by whom.

    If any of this becomes Section-8 or low-income, we will probably be faced with another Walgreens building fiasco — meth dealers taking up residence on an entire floor.

    The true cost to Broadway is the way the city is turning it into another Belltown, replete with low-income subsidized residents who will not contribute to anything but substance abuse.

  29. Unless this bank was the very first drive through bank in the world, then I say no way. Capital hill needs big, new projects like the one proposed, but they certainly don’t need this old bank building.

  30. Nothing BOA deserves to remain – the bank, rescued by us, including massive bonuses for destroying the economy, should be blown up.

    I’m more worried about the trees and the ambiance of the neighborhood, but land developers always win out for $ome odd rea$son.

  31. Intelligent Maus comments:

    Because that “something” is none of his fucking business, you creep

    Rule of law” is for cowards, and so are obscenity laws.

  32. Please if anything Seattle seriously lacks density. The only thing it’s over crowded with is cars, bums and fake gangsters that only scare old white people.

  33. This should be called the “Old Seafirst Bank” building. Not the BofA building. BofA had zero input into the design or construction of this building.

    I had my first checking account with Seafirst in the seventies.

    But, I do agree that the building is not deserving of an historic preservation. Take it down! Time to move forward.

  34. …and my grandparents moved to Capitol Hill as WWII was ending…. I’ve spent time on the hill too PW Melody and have some perspective just like you. And sure it’s no utopian, collectivist wet dream but I’m here ’cause I like it, so don’t piss on my doorstep.

  35. Only in Seattle, where we tear down buildings that should be preserved do we try to save an eye sore like this building. Yet, right around the corner, the little Cap Hill Chamber of Commerce building will be bulldozed and its a great example of a building that should be saved, but it wont be. Sad day in Seattle, again. Some day Seattle will no longer have nothing left in this city that holds any history. SAD, cap hill is the big box store haven. Seattle = Progressive? HA, not even close. More like New Jersey with a lot of tress.

  36. “See you in class Maus. You know community college from experience. “
    Nice that you can’t respond to anything else but a throwaway line.

    “Because that “something” is none of his fucking business, you creep

    Rule of law” is for cowards, and so are obscenity laws.”

    Oh, you’re simply insane. Nothing of what I said had anything to do with rule of law or obscenity laws.

  37. “Your other posts don’t give you any license to tell someone what they should and should not do.”

    Nobody’s telling anyone what to do, nutter.

  38. “Please if anything Seattle seriously lacks density. The only thing it’s over crowded with is cars, bums and fake gangsters that only scare old white people. “

    Lack of diversity, maybe. But Seattle is a actually a population-dense city if you look at the numbers.

  39. I agree that the small house at the SW corner of E Thomas and 10th Ave E is charming, and I wish it could be saved, but that is totally unrealistic given the economics of such a large re-development project. It has to be “sacrificed for the greater good” that the new building will bring to the neighborhood.

    Please keep in mind that at least 50% of the project will replace what is now an ugly, poorly-maintained parking lot.

  40. In the 30’s and even again in the 70’s many realtors/homeowners thought Victorian style houses were ugly and needed to be dozed. Every era can cast their aesthetics backward in time and see *something* as unfavorable… or favorable. Anyone with any wisdom whatsoever should be able to recognize & respect: Tastes Change.
    As a related example: the beautiful old GreenLake School Building vs the ‘new’ Green Lake Elementary.

    The BoA is an *relative* eyesore to some now, but some of those alive during the moon landing might see it -perhaps with some nostalgia- as speaking to that simple, blocky ‘pioneering into space’ era, with a nod, however minute, to the lines of Frank Lloyd Wright – you can’t tell me that the architect for that bank building hadn’t seen and loved ‘Falling Water’.

  41. Sure, Brix is better than safeway. Joule is better than a QFC backwall. So what?
    But, Calhoun:

    is using the old safeway as the Design Bar by which we should compare REALLY the best we can do??

    Is it such a terrible thing to aim higher yet?

    The issue some have with the new development isn’t the building as a standalone, but more that Broadway as a whole will be transformed FURTHER into a circa 2008condomixeduse-ONLY design aestethic: The broadway building, joule, brix, even the keystone building (though less so) and this all have the SAME BORING lines/silhouette/mass/color/texture. Having all of broadway be the same = full of suck. Broadway, and capitol hill in general, has built a reputation for diversity over the last 4 decades. The buildings pre-2000 don’t just speak to this, they SING to it.
    Welcoming the same design aesthetics on 4 or more full blocks, BETRAYS, design-wise, that community and work that was done by prior boradway activists.

  42. hasaclue = abusive.
    If you have to resort to abuse, you must have some serious insecurities, ….and your argument must have holes that logic & facts aren’t strong enough to plug…
    Sad little DAREbrainwashed e-thug.

  43. Dear developer: please reconcile these two things:

    “It would be a travesty to keep a building like that with its catering to automobiles and [drive through] bank tellers,” Loos said. “This is a transit oriented, density focused project.”


    “Parking capacity, which was originally set at 250 spaces, was increased to 354 spaces”

  44. Umm it has a couple small pockets of density. The core neighborhoods and the u district. Anyways to be on topic this building is not special.

  45. The fact that cars inhabit cities and transit riders can own cars? Not the point:
    You still haven’t addressed the unneeded increase from 250 to 354 and how it’s a painfully hypocritical Action to the developers Words of criticizing the Seafirst bank bldg for being automobile-catering (as well as claiming the new bldg will be TOD).

    With 230 residences, that’s 1.5 parking spots for each home, or 2 full parking spots for all but 53 of the units. I’m sympathetic to the carpenter, the string bass player, et al, and not at all anti-car, but it’s hells of dishonest to try and play both sides the way SRM is doing. It’s also foolish to invite car-focused retail traffic into a neighborhood with a) no room to provide more road and b) a community desire to see more pedestrian-oriented development.
    The only truth from Andy Loos was that it’s density focused (though truly proactive TODs are even moreso a benefit, in short and long term, to real urban density).

  46. I don’t see the contradiction. The bank is a drive-thru and your issue with the new development is about parking spaces for people who live there.