Capitol Hill’s Pinevue Apartments rejected for landmarks protection

Screen shot 2013-04-03 at 4.11.43 PMFor lack of a cornice… and an architect of historical import and the relative lack of rarity of old building’s of its type… but especially that missing cornice, the Seattle Landmarks Board voted Wednesday afternoon 5 to 3 against the designation of Capitol Hill’s Pinevue Apartments building as a protected Seattle Landmark.

Presenting on behalf of the Madison Development Group, David Peterson of Nicholson Kovalchick made the case that the Pinevue was neither architecturally significant — nor historically complete.

“The loss of the cornice is very substantial,” Kovalchick argued though he admitted the rest of the building is “remarkably intact.”

CHS reported on the designation process for the building here. The vote helps clear the way for this 115,000 square-foot development planned to wrap around and rise above the preserved facades of the Melrose and Pine building that Bauhaus currently calls home and the Pinevue. A handful of apartment residents as well as businesses including Le FrockEdie’sScout ApparelVutiqueWall of Sound and Spine & Crown Books currently call the Pinevue home.

The developer presentation also dragged the Pinevue’s architect through some ghostly mud calling Harry H. James’s work “simple” but “formulaic.” Expect a James haunting at Melrose and Pine soon.

“[I'm] struggling with the missing cornice,” one board member said in voting against the designation. By the way, at least three of the board’s members said they currently live in the Capitol Hill area and walk by the building on a regular basis.

The building’s small contribution to Seattle African American and media history also wasn’t enough to win consideration. The building was reportedly home to The Seattle Republican newspaper for a time. The paper is remembered as “Seattle’s first truly successful African American newspaper.”

[mappress mapid="25"]In coming to its decision, the landmarks board weighed the building against six qualities:

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.

The developers have said they plan to preserve a portion of the building’s facades and the building’s floor ratios in exchange for incentives that will allow the project to build to seven stories. The design also includes the replacement of the Pinevue’s missing cornice. No schedule for construction has been publicly announced.

43 thoughts on “Capitol Hill’s Pinevue Apartments rejected for landmarks protection

    • I couldn’t agree more!

      Did it meet criterion a? No.
      b? No.
      c? No.
      d? No.
      e? No.
      f? No.

      Long before we were here some poor soul mourned what this building replaced. Long after we’re dead some poor soul will be mourning the demise of its replacement. My rose coloured glasses show me that replacing the building helps keep down the growth of outer city slums that are endemic to modern cities.

      • umvue.blue, while I agree we want to densify to keep growth centralized, you miss or choose to ignore a huge point: since WWII, construction quality has gradually declined to where it’s now mostly temporary garbage, built long enough to bring profit and little or nothing more, especially small to medium-sized new buildings. So, your analysis is simply wrong. Most of the garbage built over the past 30-40 years? Almost no one’s going to miss it. The same can’t be said for most buildings built 80 and 100 years ago, friggin’ cornice or not.

        • Perhaps. Or, it just may be that in 100 years people will have a different aesthetic. What the garbage buildings of today have over their quaint counterparts of 80 and 100 years ago: people in and around the premises are not going to die as readily due to fire or earthquake. Maybe they won’t last. If not, we’ll toss ‘em in the dumpster (er, recycling bin) and replace them with a revised garbage building that meets stricter codes and conforms to the aesthetic of the day.

          • Where do you come from guy? Some doughy white bread suburb in the midwest. Can you not tell when a developer wants to rape and run? Such a good little dog.

        • So you’re saying all of Vancouver is garbage? Most of the buildings in that town are younger than 50 years old.

          And you’re wrong about construction methods. Today’s buildings are much safer and more energy efficient than those old apartment buildings – and those old buildings were the cheap spec construction of their day.

          • I would argue a lot of them are, but that Vancouver long ago hung its hat on the 90s glassy Asian-influenced high rise look while allowing for Gas Town etc. exceptional oddities. Many would argue that dead areas like SLU or SoDo are ripe for that sort of thing (myself included) but that areas that have an established identity even for non-Seattlites(like Capitol Hill or Ballard) deserve “increased scrutiny” for development.
            That said, I concede the Historic Board’s point of view on this example. It was borderline at best.

        • Buildings from 80 – 100 years ago are being kept alive by extensive (and expensive) retooling. Including electrical, plumbing, structural reinforcements etc. X.G. makes it sound like they’re built to last forever with zero maintenance. While I do agree some of the buildings from recent decades are of questionable quality, some are very well built. In fact, if you study building codes, it is the structures built in the 70′s to the early 80′s that are the worst. Codes were revised in 1983 and are much more sound.

          We have had learnings from some components which weren’t properly tested such as stucco facades from the late 90′s early 2000′s but once corrected, are sound structures. And as noted by others, will not require seismic retrofitting, need to have infrastructure replaced and are energy efficient.

          All that being said, I’ll miss the charm of this building :(

        • X.G. -
          Do you have a construction background? Because your statements regarding the quality of modern buildings could not be further from the truth. By nearly every objective measure of quality, today’s buildings are far superior to those built in decades past. You may not like how they look (and I’m not defending modern design), but to claim that they are “garbage”, “shoddily built” or “cheap” shows a profound ignorance of the advances made in construction means, methods and materials and the protections offered by today’s building and energy codes.

          Claiming that a building built in 1910 is of higher quality than a building built today is nearly as ridiculous as claiming that a car built in 1910 is of higher quality than one built today.

          Reasonable people can debate the aesthetic, cultural and historic value of preservation, but people use the supposed low quality of a replacement as a rationale are simply begging to be ignored in the conversation by those who understand the truth.

          • Cynthia,

            While you make good points regarding the “code compliance” of today’s buildings rising above the safety and energy requirements of buildings built a century ago, the issue here is about craftsmanship, sculpture, and solidity. Of course there are less risks of electrical fires, earthquake damage, and weatherproofing issues than before, but regardless of how a building “performs” nowadays, the materials and techniques accepted as baseline are way below the standards of materials used even a half century ago. Thin metal stud construction, packed full of styrofoam and drywall is a far cry from clay masonry (solid masonry mind you, not veneer), wood studs and lath, plaster (yes, troweled plaster) walls and coved ceilings, and interior details that actually remind you that workers looked at building as an artform, not a paycheck. THAT is the character and pride that is missing in today’s day-to-day buildings, and why saving some of these relics you speak of is worth the fight. From the labor alone, rebuilding the Pinevue Apartments with the same lasting quality and techniques, while making it “code compliant” today would probably quadruple its construction cost. It’s far easier for developers to build something new as cheaply as today’s code allows. We’ve simply gotten so good at doing the minimum that this is all people expect to pay for.

          • Robert -
            I agree with your points regarding the craftsmanship, sculpture and even artistry of old construction methods and materials. But those are subjective measures. And while an argument can (and should) be made on behalf of these buildings for aesthetic reasons, it is fundamentally wrong to claim that they are of a higher quality.

            Your example of the metal stud wall packed with styrofoam insulation and covered in drywall is perfect. There’s no question that a lathe and plaster wall has more “character”, but it’s wrong to claim that a wall with no insulation or fire blocking, knob and tube wiring, no vapor barrier, single pane windows, etc, etc is anywhere close to the quality of a wall that would be built today.

            As I wrote above, reasonable and intelligent people can debate the import and value of preserving these buildings for their aesthetic, cultural and historic contributions to a neighborhood. Not that it matters, but I personally believe that preserving examples of “character” should be given tremendous deference in a growing neighborhood. But to make the argument that these older buildings need to be preserved because they are of a higher quality shows a profound degree of ignorance and works against the goal of evaluating and preserving these buildings for the right reason.

          • Thanks Cynthia – it is nice to discuss the values and methods of our built environment with an open mind. I agree that we should be saving what buildings we can for the right reasons only, not just because they are old or look unique. I don’t claim that older buildings are inherantly better in quality, only that they tended to be over-designed because so little was known then regarding baseline energy codes and safety factors. Nowadays we build closer to the “minimum” code standard, while 100 years ago (thermally and structurally speaking, mind you) the scale at which we rate those buildings was far above what we consider minimum today. (Thermal mass, for instance.) Technologies have enhanced the way we seal and thermally insulate, as you make clear, but we’ve cut much of everything else down to bare necessity, or the “code minimum”. Essentially you are creating the worst allowable building permitted by code. That, to me, is a difficult obstacle for developers to overcome.

          • Cynthia-
            What is your background in construction. It sounds like you have an insight that is well researched. I do have a question. It’s a little naive but are new buildings really constructed better than old ones? It seem so counter-intuitive to me . I can put my fist through the wall of my new condo (I’m a 5’4″ female). It just seems so flimsy.
            The house I grew up in was over a hundred years old. Did it need upkeep? You bet. But it just seemed so much more solid. (my parents did pay a bundle to have the old family home insulated and added some solar)
            thanks
            tracy

  1. Once again, the #Seattle Landmark Board prove, just HOW useless they really are. They are too busy counting $$ from developers. So fucking sad, this city will someday be nothing but cardboard cutout look alikes. Why the hell do we even have the Landmark Board?

    • Michael, I couldn’t agree more. Question is, are the board members part of the stacked developer/politician deck -or are they just morons? Such BS.

    • omg, an old brick building!! that’s all the landmark value

      There’s nothing special about that building. if they were to build something like that on Broaday, NIMBYs would be complaining about such a ugly, non relevant building

    • So, you are honestly stating that members of the design board are taking bribes from developers?

      Go ahead and disagree with their decisions, but slandering someone doesn’t seem like a wise decision.

      • Didn’t preserve it? why should they? They can have a nice shiny piece of Gulag that warehouses people like laying hens and makes a bubba developer from Spanaway rich. I know . . . it can be mixed use . . . .maybe a Jamba Juice or a Shakee’s Pizza on the ground floor. Now THAT’S progress.

          • You have to admit, KM is kinda’ right
            What they’re building is sterile and a lot
            of the retail spaces are empty(affordability?)
            and a lot of people are concerned this will bring in a flood of chain stores or restaurants because they can pay the rent. Capitol Hill is becoming (mentioned above) a suburb.

          • Sorry cd, km isn’t even close to being kinda right. Unless you consider:
            Bario
            Rex
            High 5 Pie
            Skillet
            Local Vine (RIP)
            Marjories
            Mode Fitness
            Cupcake Royale
            Anchovies and Olives
            Seattle Yoga Arts
            Healo
            Bar Cotto
            Eltana
            D’Ambrosio Gelato
            Barre 3
            Dillitante
            Vivace
            Bleu Bistro
            Chico Madrid
            Regent Bakery
            Poco
            ‘Zaw
            etc, etc in the same league as Shakee’s and Jamba Juice.

            These are businesses that have found a home on the hill because of the type of development that km despises.

            Mindless malcontents like km can whine all they want about the hill being transformed into a gulag, but anyone who spends any time on the hill knows how very wrong he is.

          • Capital Hill was already a suburb, filled with corporate chains. As recently as 15 years ago we had Burger King, Taco Bell, Taco Time, Jack in the Box, KFC and Godfathers Pizza. None of those exist today.

            Broadway had a Payless Shoe store and a GAP!!

            We’ve never had more local “funky” offerings than we do today. Folks can mourn the loss of some old buildings but it’s not turning into Tukwila.

          • Some of the businesses you mentioned were here far before the sterile development I abhor began. But, I hear more venom in you opinions, more immature “know it all” than true knowledge of Capitol Hill. I have spent most of my life on the Hill(and NO, I’m not old OR set in my ways OR in some million dollar home, or any other of the dismissive mantras being proclaimed . . your assumption that we have the funkiest businesses here that we’ve ever had is just plain incorrect AND what scares me. IF you knew the history of the hill – you would know it has always embraced change (from long ago . .the hippies(before my time) . . .the Gay scene . . . grunge , and a lot of others, etc . . .I’m trying to make the point that the change going on now is being imported by , excuse me, a lot of white bread suburban kids whose sense of what is urban or cosmopolitan, quite frankly, makes me intermittently laugh and shudder.
            Can’t help it. Wish they would move to suburbs. I think they would be more comfortable and those people that want an urban existence won’t have to deal with the market they create . . .and the (again!) sterile businesses that will cater to them.

          • Vivace? Found a home because of the development? Do some fact checking. It’s hard but I know you can do it! Good Luck.

            I have to agree we had retail/food chains on the hill . . .but I also agree that some of the businesses on the extensive list above are pretty . . .well, white bread . . . or at least, I’ve seen them or very similar . . in malls all over the midwest, southeast and southwest.

          • Thank you oldie – when I made the reference to NOT being old myself (32). I was trying to make the statement that the usual put downs, assumptions or dismissals would not apply. I know people in your age group(and older) made the hill what it is. If you felt I meant any disrespect, I did not express myself well.
            cd

          • I don’t think that someone is a mindless malcontent because they’re not on the same page as you about the nature of development occurring on the hill. I spend practically all my time on the hill and while I don’t agree 100% with km – there is an element of truth in his/her words.

            The list you provided – while good businesses – do not make your point. They make km’s point for him/her.
            I agree with km that Vivace predates all this mess ; it did indeed move to a “developed” building .. It does not, however, find a home on the hill due to developed buildings. Nor did Dillitantes.
            As far as uniqueness or funkiness(whatever!?) Your list of business that, in your opinion, can not be compared to Shakee’s shows the division in thought. To a degree, I disagree with your list.
            Cupcake Royale. Always glad for a local owner but which one is unique? The one in Ballard, or the one in West Seattle, the one in Madrona, the one by Pike Place Market or the one in Bellevue. Or just the one on the hill?

            Zaw? The one on Pine, or the South Lake Union, or the Mercer Island location, maybe the Redmond site, it could be the one on Queen Anne, Wallingford or the Wedgwood store. From what I understand, there about to franchise. This may not mean anything to you but is factually what (I think) km is referring to. Many of the other businesses you named look antiseptic to some ie. Pocos, D’Ambrosio Gelato(the one on the hill and the one in Ballard), Regent Bakery. People will agree or disagree but to many they are “sterile”, “suburban” banal, looks like “everywhere” USA blah, blah.

            KM, you need to learn some manners. People aren’t massive hunks of wonder bread because they happen to like something you don’t. So maybe some of the design(s) an antiseptic quality – People might actually like it and guess what? They may think their opinions are as viable as yours.

            Grow up guys . . .how about less mud slinging, being well behaved children, and talk about some real issues, like how to compromise and where.

          • I just want to set the record straight about Vivace. Their beautiful space on Denny/Broadway was demolished for the light rail station….unfortunately, because that was a really nice, old brick building. So Vivace had no choice but to find another home, and they did find it in the Brix building, which is one of the best of the new developments.

            Of course Vivace has an even-older space in the 300 block of Broadway…it has been there a long time and will likely remain for the forseeable future.

        • km, I just have to say I love your description of some new apartment buildings (especially apodments) “warehousing people like laying hens.” That is a very funny image, and very accurate.

          • I am tired of the presumption by some respondents on these development discussions that to be old and live on Capitol Hill means my opinion has no value. I have lived on Capitol Hill for 50 years. I have depended on the buses and have never had a drivers license. I can tell you that arguing that buses and light rail that drop you in downtown or the airport justify density makes no sense.
            I do not oppose good design or replacement of eyesore buildings, my own daughter is an architect at a CapitolHill firm that does many of the buildings, I do think L3 limits in border residential neighborhoods is right. And I am not a nimby, we older residents helped make the Hill what it is. We fought redlining, fought for good schools, welcomed the many group homes, mental health and half way houses. We also gave our gay community a nice neighborhood. Continue to voice your opinions, but please don’t insult. BTW Justin thank you for your excellent blog.

          • cd
            I was not offended by your comments, I understood you were referring to, as you said so well, “the usual put downs”.

  2. It would be nice if the landmark committee also considered public safety issues, like earthquake and fire standards, in determining Landmark Status. I love beautiful, old, historic brick buildings but earthquake standards were much weaker 100 years ago and old brick buildings are very bad in an earthquake.

  3. The preservation of the facade and restoration of the cornice make this project just fine with me. They could have just razed the building.

  4. I’m a bit late to the party, but given all the hand-wringing about this decision I’m curious what impact it actually has? The developer is already committed to keeping the façade of the building to gain the extra story permitted under the Pike/Pine Overlay. Had the building gained historical designation would anything have been different (ie. would more of the interior of the Pinevue be required to stay intact)?

  5. No – I dont know or think the board is taking $$ from developers. However it does seem they have more interest in the most $$ making option, instead of stepping in and saying ” this is a building that has some historical importance, why dont you present us something that helps to incorporate the building.” Instead on Cap Hill, we see old building torn down – or “saved” ie: the facade of the building. Look around, all other great cities have alot of older buildings still in use, upgraded and improved up. They add something to the cityscape. But hey, if you’re ok with cookie cutter, all the same – what the hell. I really dont care anymore.

    • I haven’t heard anyone talk about the limit on how many stories you can build . . .the low-rise issue. Any thoughts?

  6. “…arguing that buses and light rail that drop you in downtown or the airport justify density makes no sense”

    Truer words were never spoken. In fact, now we learn that Metro is likely further cutting service to Capitol Hill and elsewhere.

    It’s amazing to me that mass transit capacity is actually decreasing, while at the same time the light rail station is widely accepted as adequate justification for an unprecedented explosion in density in what is already the densest, most walkable, etc. neighborhood in the city. It is truly mystifying.

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  8. Old buildings, whether they have historical significance or not, add character to a neighborhood. Once torn down, they are gone. The thing that enhances a community is all the different styles from different eras that help to define and tell the history of the area, that will not be possible if all that is older is razed. There is an opportunity to save a lovely old brick building and the Seattle Landmark Board has failed to do so, the loss of such buildings will diminish Seattle as a whole and Capitol Hill. It is a sad day. There is no turning back if later we decide we have made a horrible mistake. I am ashamed of my beloved city.

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