CHS recently noted the “hard hat special” underway in the heart of Pike/Pine as a cluster of major developments start to dig in and add to area construction already underway. We’re also hearing a familiar type of feedback about the largest, most significant project of the new bunch. People passing by the demolition process for the Pike Motorworks project that will soar to seven stories in exchange for incorporating portions of the former BMW dealership at Pike and Harvard send us the same message, again and again — “I thought they were supposed to preserve the building.”
Instead, only the building’s Pike-facing southern facade — and barely that — still stand. What’s going on?
It’s a similar situation to what we reported in the giant development at 10th and Union — preservation under the terms of the Pike/Pine Conservation District includes plenty of room for interpretation.
The city code spells out very little specifics of what it means to preserve a “character structure” — though it does spell out what a character structure is:
Character structure” means a structure on a lot within the
boundaries of the Pike/Pine Conservation Overlay District that has been in existence for at least 75 years, thereby contributing to the established scale, development pattern, and architectural character of the area.
The requirements for qualifying for height and size bonuses for preserving character building elements are fuzzier.
“The portion of the structure that is retained is sufficient to give the appearance of a free-standing building,” the code says. And “all street facing facades of the character structure are retained.” That’s simple enough. It doesn’t say, however, what happens when, like in the case at 10th and Union, the developer says the character structure’s existing elements are found to be unsafe. Instead, the code says things like this:
A project that is granted an increase in floor size under
the provisions of this subsection 23.73.010.C shall maintain the character structure, or portions of the character structure, both interior and exterior, in good condition and repair and in a manner that preserves unique features and characteristics for the life of the project.
Well, there you go. What you get is a 50-foot stretch of the old brick facade — provided the bricks don’t need to be replaced.
Not everybody will be broken up by the loss. The incentives are allowing developer Wolff Company to move forward on an ambitious, 260-unit, mixed-use project that will incorporate internal passageways eventually filled with retails, food and drink ventures. Also, without gutting the block, there would be no way to build the three-level underground parking with more than 200 stalls the developer is permitted to create for the project.
Currently, there are no formal complaints against the demolition at the E Pike project on file with DPD. The next big challenge to the Pike/Pine preservation rules will come in the form of an appeal brought by developers against a push to tighten the requirements for the incentive program. That hearing is slated to continue in February.