Developer abandons plans for The Stranger building after preservation board objections

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(Image: CHS)

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After submitting three design proposals, developers will meet with the preservation board members about their latest design that leaves The Stranger building untouched (right).

“Our hope is that by developing the Value Village building mid block, its impact is much more acceptable to the neighborhood.”

It’s been almost a year since plans to redevelop the The Stranger and (former) Value Village buildings were stalled due to the 11th and E Pine buildings winning landmark status. Since then, developer Legacy Commercial has met twice with members of the Landmark Preservation Board to hammer out how its plans for an office and retail project can move forward while still complying with the landmark protections. It hasn’t been going so smoothly.

After two meetings with the Architectural Review Committee, preservation board members said Legacy was making little progress in addressing its concerns about the proposed preservation incentive-boosted 75-foot high office and mixed-use development incorporating the two auto row-era structures and a sunken parking lot. When Legacy submitted plans for a third meeting, they were turned away.

“The third briefing packet did not appear to contain any new information and I advised the applicant that another ARC could be scheduled when new alternatives or additional information was provided,” said Sarah Sodt, a coordinator for the Historic Preservation Program.

In Legacy’s latest proposal, the developers have entirely pulled away from building over The White Motor Company building and are focusing their efforts on developing the adjacent Kelly Springfield Motor Truck Company building Value Village called home for years.

ARC board members were most concerned with Legacy’s plans to add two stories over the White Motor at the corner of 11th and E Pine, according to informal minutes from the committee’s meetings. In order to make room for the floors above White Motor, Legacy and architects from Ankrom Moisan had proposed lowering the entire timber truss system inside the building, something ARC members also strongly opposed.

Last week developers submitted a new design packet that leaves the White Motor building untouched, which was enough to warrant a third turn before the ARC, like to be scheduled for December or January. “Our hope is that by developing the Value Village building mid block, its impact is much more acceptable to the neighborhood,” said Legacy’s Jeff Calvert.

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Citing a gush of neighborhood support for preserving the buildings, the preservations board voted 9-0 in January to designate Kelly Springfield an official Seattle landmark. An early component of Seattle’s REI history and now home to The Stranger and the Rhino Room, the prominent terra cotta-faced building at 11th and Pine has stood at the corner since it was was constructed in 1918.

Later that month, the board voted to designate the White Motor building a landmark, again citing public support for preservation, the building’s auto row-era roots, and ties to one of the nation’s most widely known outdoor retailers. Unlike the Kelly Springfield building, which was only given exterior protections, White Motor was also awarded interior protections. The board was specifically interested in preserving the building’s original timber trusses.

Unfortunately for many, the board could not preserve the Capitol Hill landmark located inside Kelly Springfield. Value Village closed its doors after one last Halloween citing “certain business conditions” and a longtime month-to-month lease. Given the way meetings have progressed with ARC, it’s possible the giant, multi-floor retail space could remain empty for another year or more before any construction begins. Calvert said he’s hoping to find a retailer to take over the space for a short term lease.

Legacy Commercial is owned by Tom Ellison who also serves as the chairman of the board for the Value Village/Savers chain and is owner of the 11th Ave buildings involved in the project.

Construction isn’t likely to start until the end of next year at the earliest.

Meanwhile, The Stranger announced it would keep its space inside the White Motor building following the landmarks board decision through at least 2020. Publisher Tim Keck previously told CHS he was ready to leave the deteriorating third-floor offices.

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28 thoughts on “Developer abandons plans for The Stranger building after preservation board objections

  1. I didn’t realize that the Landmark Preservation Board had a careful process in place to monitor what happens to a building once it attains landmark status. I’m really glad they are so vigilant in long-term protection of these buildings, and in not allowing developers to skirt the rules for what they can and cannot do to a protected property.

  2. Hopefully they can still renovate the White Motor Company building, it seems like it needs some love. Maybe in the process they can get rid of that douchebag magnet, Rhino Room.

  3. Lower the entire truss system to add two floors??? These IDIOTIC height limits! We’re trying to preserve stuff but clamp down on a developer being able to build taller in order to have the space needed to justify the construction cost and make money to stay in business.

    Five-story buildings are being constructed all over the former “out backs” called Ballard and West Seattle. North Seattle is started to get in on it too. Capitol Hill should have double that height going on while we preserve the essential elements of these historic structures.

    • You could look at that another way….density isn’t something that should only be encouraged on Capitol Hill. The city keeps hyping the “urban village concept”– let’s have more of that in other parts of town instead of continually stuffing 15lbs of **** into a 10lb Capitol Hill bag. How dense is dense enough on Capitol Hill? I hope we’re almost there.

    • I don’t know about how artificial it was. Maybe it was just that people changed their minds about living in the suburb and exurb to “escape” the bad inner-city.

    • Capitol Hill was mostly a shithole when it was cheap, but even then, its location–perfectly placed relative to downtown, the 520 and 90 bridges, etc.–should’ve kept it highly desirable.

      So yes, I would argue that it was artificially low by any normal measure of desirability.

    • One of the reasons that most people like Seattle is because it doesn’t look like some of the other huge, concrete metropolises. If you want a place to change into a high-rise, concrete jungle, then do it somewhere that doesn’t have the smaller city charm embodied by Capitol Hill.

    • Yes!
      Let’s close the ramp to I-5, build a wall to separate us from downtown, let’s flood the subway and make sure nobody ever comes here to change out tolerant, welcoming neighborhood.

      Bring Taco Bell back!

    • The current height limits are causing the wall to wall concreting. Developers already are maxing out on the lots putting in boxes. We should require setbacks, living walls, tree protection, green space, historic structure protection, AND allow taller buildings.

    • One of the reasons people like Seattle is that it is one of the few actual urban cities in the US, like with people, buildings and commerce. Not vacant boarded up buildings, freeways and parking lots.

  4. Density is part of what we’re aiming for. Affordability is another part and that comes with increasing the number of units. In addition to affordability, we’re interested in reducing our environmental footprint. That leads us to build more units closer to the existing built-up environment. More units and residents help to support local businesses.

    • Then you want higher rents for yourself if you rent and your renting friends. We know that artificially capping supply of housing increases rents for sure.

    • Yes, criminals sit at home and thank god that liberals love them. Wait, what? That’s dumb.

      In absolute numbers, an increase in population will likely result in an increase in crime, even if the crime per capita decreases. It’s probabilities and math, not Republican talking points like “viewing criminals as victims.”

  5. The benefit of density is a myth sold to us by developers; they are the ones that promote it and they profit. Its not that great for everyone else, because rents rarely go down, they almost always continue to climb in lieu of some economic disaster ala 2008. And will the developer be required to replace the missing decorative cornices that they removed for so-called ‘restoration’. I mean so they could avoid the landmark status?

    • You’re right. Making money is their main objective, and if they default with the bank, no biggie. It’s a corporate failure, not a personal one. They’ll just reform as something else and do it all over again.
      What they don’t give a shit about is the impact it has on the services and aesthetics of the community. It’s just their pockets.
      Glad you’re out there rooting for them.

    • No, no its not. Density is needed to protect sprawl. Make mass transit viable. Its not always about lowering rents – although when you build above a certain height scale of economy comes into play.

      Density, yes. Sprawl, congestion and lack of mass transit = no thank you.

    • Regardless of density, there is still sprawl. One good thing that is happening is that Seattle is finally implemented better public transit. It only took decades to get that done. Of course there is still a level of idiocy involved with this, like the light rail shutting down at 1AM when the U District, the Hill, and Pioneer Square have vibrant night lifes that go on until 2AM.

    • The sprawl ship went out to sea generations ago.

      There is no escaping that Capitol Hill has good transit connection to downtown and the University District and buses serving other urban villages. West Capitol Hill is within walking distance of downtown and First Hill. Capitol Hill already has buildings with as many as 10 and 11 floors that were built decades ago.

      Capitol Hill will continue to be in demand as a desirable place to live. Eventually the height limits will need to increase. How many of the remaining historic buildings and significant trees will be demolished or destroyed before we increase the height limit to save them?

    • Check out rents in DC over the last view years. The Metro Area is down 2% over the last year after a concerted effort to increase supply. Big surprise! Laws of economics are real.