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.”
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.