From a plan to gut and fill in its namesake garden courtyard with microhousing apartment units to setting the groundwork for landmarks protections that will preserve its architectural features for years to come — the 94th year of existence for Capitol Hill’s Roy Vue Garden Apartments has been a big one.
In a pre-holiday vote last Wednesday, the Seattle landmarks board voted unanimously to make the Roy Vue a landmark and extend the city’s protections to the building’s exterior, central arcade, and, importantly, the site’s courtyard and elevated garden spaces.
The designation cited the Roy Vue’s embodiment of “the distinctive visible characteristics of an architectural style, or period, or a method of construction, its presence as “an outstanding work of a designer or builder” and because “of its prominence of spatial location, contrasts” of siting, age, and scale as “an easily identifiable visual feature of its neighborhood or the city.”
The designation still requires a controls and incentive agreement to be worked out between the city and the property’s owners prior to an eventual City Council vote finalizing the landmarks designation status.
The owners of the property Alliance Multifamily Investments and developers Anew Apartments had an agreement and plan in place to build over the Roy Vue’s garden and overhaul the three-story building to create 147 small efficiency dwelling units in the structure.
The Save the Royvue effort was formed to organize a way to thwart the sale and stop the project. Historic Seattle and neighborhood group the Capitol Hill Historical Society joined forces to nominate the property for landmarks protections and won an early round victory in the process in October.
Eugenia Woo of Historic Seattle has praised the building’s “high level of integrity” and said it was crucial the Roy Vue be protected in its complete “garden apartment” vision “because the garden, the courtyard, and the building were integral to the whole design.” The Roy Vue has a unique flipped “U” design with a garden courtyard sited away from the street and was built by Hans Pederson, a prolific contractor who also built Washington Hall, the Ballard Bridge, the King County Courthouse, and in Olympia, the home of the state Supreme Court – The Temple of Justice. But the argument to save the Roy Vue, for many, went beyond architecture. “Once it’s gone it’s gone forever. I don’t understand how the city would even allow this plan to be proposed,” said one three-year resident.
In a city thirsty for new housing, there is still the possibility of an adaptive reuse of the building within the framework of its eventual landmarks agreement. But any future construction at the corner of Bellevue and Roy on the western slope of Capitol Hill will need to be sensitive to the building’s protected elements and its garden courtyard.
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