The story is as old as the recent development boom on Capitol Hill. A small, quirky building gets torn down. A new one goes up (often these days, the new one is four or five stories, often with ground floor retail). Longer-time residents bemoan the lack of architectural flourish in the new place as it quickly fills with people eager to live here. Those people, in turn, bemoan the lack of architectural flourish in the next lot that undergoes the process, and the cycle of life continues.
UPDATE: OK. OK. Ugliness is arbitrary. We’ve updated the post to reflect a cold, hard truth — the editor thinks The Weatherford is ugly. In true CHS style, we now risk throwing more wood on the ugly/not ugly fire with a brief survey featuring some of the most recently completed developments around the Hill. We’ve tried to be fair with imagery by using marketing photos or pictures from the CHS Flickr Pool. Please let us know your arbitrary ugly/not ugly thoughts.
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One of the newest cases is The Weatherford building at 14th Ave East and E John. The building had been the site of a Victorian-era home, albeit one which had been much modified over the years, which housed an antique shop. Before that it was the home of Ella McBride, a photographer, mountain-climber and all-around super-interesting person.
Back in 2012, the Seattle Landmarks Board decided the home straddled a line between being neither true enough to its original form nor modified enough to be considered a landmark, paving the way for Developer Murray Franklyn with an assist from architects Weber Thompson to level the place and put up the new 42-unit Weatherford Apartments.
Now that it’s been up and running for a few months, neighbors have compared it (unfavorably) to a cinder block orthodontist’s office — and worse.
The building went through the city’s typical design review process. The first meeting, December 7, 2011, drew four members of the community, according to city documents, though at least one of those four noted there was insufficient notice of the meeting. Some of their comments, such as calling for a rooftop deck, were incorporated into the final design. Others such as calling the design too timid didn’t seem to be reflected in later versions.
There was a second meeting September 19, 2012 after the design was modified. At that meeting, again there were only a handful of comments about the re-vamped design. Of those, only one suggested that the building’s design should be altered to better respond to the residential character of 14th Ave E. The others talked about landscaping and setbacks.
In the public record, there’s no mention of residents speaking out about things like color schemes or surfaces. Or cinder blocks, for that matter.
On the kind-of upside, the property has skyrocketed from an appraised value last year of $1.24 million to $5.74 million this year, so that should mean a very, very tiny reduction in property taxes for the rest of the Hill.
Representatives from Weber Thompson declined to comment. Representatives from Murray Franklyn also declined to comment.