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Driver of new Pike/Pine development zone weighs in on project that will put rules to test

It is unclear exactly how the project to transform the old Sunset Electric building at 11th and Pine will play out. Will the development be the first inspired toward greater preservation by the newly installed Pike/Pine Conservation District or will it be one of the last in the area to use permits filed long before the new legislation was put into place? Or, worse, will it represent preservation in name only and reveal the conservation district zoning as ‘toothless’ as its critics contend it is? Here’s neighborhood activist Dennis Saxman’s thoughts on that from last fall as the new rules were being discussed. (It was Saxman’s research, by the way, that provided the explanation for what the letters on the building stand for.)

The Early Design Guidance meeting with the Capitol Hill Design Review Board is slated for August 19th but in the meantime, CHS will bring you more information about the project — including the proper design proposal document that DPD says they are working to get in place after accidentally posting the wrong one when the meeting announcement first went up — and more voices from the community. You’ve already read thoughts from Capitol Hill developer Lizz Dunn.

We asked Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, the driver behind the new conservation district legislation, for his thoughts on the Sunset Electric building project:

I know the building well and I had heard that it was going to be demolished, which I do not want to happen.  Here is what I know:

According to DPD the lot does have an active application since 2005 that includes demolition of the building.  Now, the developer is proposing to gain ten feet in additional height in return for saving the existing character structure on the site. The fact that the owner is now proposing to save the building implies that the new height incentive under the Pike/Pine Conservation District legislation recently passed has made a difference.

Whether the project will just save a small portion of the facade as decoration-only, which some people decry, is difficult to know at this point because the project is in the early stages of design review and plans are not yet available.  However, to qualify for the height incentive, the Code requires that the new structure be set back at least 15 feet from the street-facing facades of the existing building.

The set-back should help address the concerns I read about in some of the comments you received.    A waiver from the 15 foot requirement is possible, though, if the design provides that the existing building still gives the appearance of a free-standing structure, or does a better job of integrating the old and new structures.  These code provisions that address setbacks and design should make it more difficult to just patch on portions of the old building as decoration.

I hope this answers your questions.  I  would love to see as much of the building saved and reused as possible.

It appears that the new Pike/Pine Conservation District regulations are influencing this project and may prevent the demolition of the building.  But, as I said they are at the early stages at this point in designing the project.

EDG–Early Design Guidance–
Project: 1530 11th Ave

Date: August 19th, 2009
Time: 6:30pm
Location: Seattle Vocational Institute, 2120 S. Jackson St. Rm 102/103 [map]

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