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Pike/Pine auto row-era home of Value Village makes it over first bump toward landmark protection

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 12.24.22 PMWith a boost from a neighborhood community group dedicated to Pike/Pine preservation and development issues, the auto row-era building home to Capitol Hill’s Value Village was deemed worthy of consideration for Seattle landmark protection.

The Seattle Landmarks Board voted last week to move the 1917-built Kelly-Springfield Motor Truck Company building to the next phase in the process. The members of the Ellison family behind Value Village and real estate developer Legacy Commercial are planning a 75-foot tall office building above street-level commercial space that would incorporate elements of the old structure and the neighboring White Motor Company building at the corner in exchange for development incentives in the Pike/Pine Conservation Overlay District. “We are hoping that the site is not determined to be a landmark to provide us the opportunity to realize our vision and the neighborhood’s vision for the block,” a spokesperson for the developer told CHS before last week’s vote.

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You can read our full report on the nomination and history of the building here.

Next on the landmarks docket: White Motor Company, home of The Stranger (Image: CHS)

Next on the landmarks docket: White Motor Company, home of The Stranger (Image: CHS)

The board’s decision means a busy next month for Legacy and the two old buildings home to the second-hand chain, the Rhino Room club and The Stranger alternative weekly newspaper. In December, the board was already slated to hear the preliminary discussion of landmarks eligibility for the White Motor Company component of the project. Now the board will also be considering granting full landmarks protection to the Kelly-Springfield building, a move that could force significant changes to any planned redevelopment.

In its decision, the landmarks board also considered public statements including a letter in support of protections for the property sent by the Pike Pine Urban Neighborhood Council, an influential community group made up mostly of area architects, designers, and developers. “It is an excellent and in-tact example of Pike Pine’s renowned Auto-row architecture,” the group wrote. “The interior is well preserved and the exterior condition and design is among the finest of any historic building in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.”

The White Motor Company building will take its turn in front of the board on December 17th (PDF). If you can’t appear in person, you can also provide comments by email.

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13 thoughts on “Pike/Pine auto row-era home of Value Village makes it over first bump toward landmark protection

  1. Good news for the neighborhood! Glad to see a group standing up for keeping our past intact and not turning it into taxidermy.

  2. This is exciting news and hopefully a turning point for the trajectory of future redevelopment of Pike/Pine’s auto row district. It is a shame that this unique neighborhood of Seattle was not designated as a Historic Landmark District like Columbia City, Ballard, and Pioneer Square prior to the current redevelopment gold rush on Capitol Hill. Instead we have ended up with historic preservation incentives that are hastening the destruction of the neighborhood’s history by granting developers lucrative incentives in exchange for preserving building facades. Without community engagement to demand a higher preservation standard, this neighborhood will look like a movie set comprised of false storefronts backed by cheap, characterless construction in a few short years. These historic buildings are special and uniquely Seattle, not just because of the ornate facades, but also because of the vast interior spaces constructed of giant, old-growth timber.

    The Kelly-Springfield Motor Truck Company and the White Motor Company are outstanding examples of auto row area architecture and among the best remaining historic buildings left in the neighborhood. The buildings were designed by Julian Everett, a notable Seattle architect best known for being the designer of the Pioneer Square pergola. It was also home to two prominent long-term tenants that were both strongly associated with the economic heritage of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. Kelly-Springfield, the primary supplier of early logging trucks in the Pacific Northwest, used the site as their main showroom in the Pacific Northwest. Both buildings were home to REI for over three decades as it transformed from a community coop for climbing gear to an iconic Seattle business with a global reach under the leadership of Jim Whittaker, the first American to climb Mount Everest. Lastly, the buildings have largely retained their architectural character both inside and out. Notable design details include the original wood brick floor, old-growth timber roof, and freight elevator in the Kelly-Springfield Motor Truck Company Building and the old-growth timber interior, windows and ornate ceramic tile exterior of the White Motor Company Building. They are irreplaceable pieces of the neighborhood’s economic, cultural and architectural history.

    One-by-one, the historic auto row buildings have gone before the Landmark Preservation Board and been denied landmark preservation status. Last week’s unanimous decision by the Board to recommend historic preservation of the Kelly-Springfield Motor Truck Company building is heartening. In addition to recognizing that the building meets multiple criteria for preservation as outlined in the City’s Landmark Preservation Ordinance, the board cited community comment in their decision.

    The December 17th meeting, which includes both a final decision regarding the status of the Kelly-Springfield Motor Truck Building and the first phase of landmark consideration for the White Motor Company Building, is the neighborhood’s best opportunity to change the trajectory of neighborhood redevelopment toward a higher standard. If we make our voices heard, these buildings could be protected and restored along the lines of Melrose Market, Elliott Bay Book Company and Oddfellows Hall. The vast interior spaces would make exceptional performance spaces, artist studios and marketplaces. Otherwise, we are headed toward “historic preservation” along the lines of the Mercedes dealership and the Bauhaus building.

    The owner and developer have already prepared designs for a giant redevelopment of the site capitalizing on the “historic preservation” incentives. The Landmark Preservation Board is the last hurdle before they can proceed with the project. Last year they removed ornate, ceramic rosettes from the White Motor Building façade. I strongly suspect this action was taken prior to going before the Landmark Preservation Board because it is well known that the Board is less likely to recommend preservation for buildings that have been substantially altered. The missing cornice of the Pineview Apartment Building (part of the Bauhaus redevelopment), for example, was the Board’s primary justification for not recommending Landmark status. If this was the motivation, it is a clear abuse of the landmark preservation process. Regardless, it seems like the developer has gotten the cart before the horse.

    Let’s demand better Seattle. My neighborhood vision is to form a Pike/Pine Auto Row Landmark Preservation District to retain the remaining auto row era buildings intact along with the neighborhood character. Once a preservation overlay is in place, vacant and under-developed properties can be up-zoned to 10 stories to meet the housing demands of a growing city. It is possible to have both character and density if the community becomes involved in the process. The December Landmark Preservation Board Meeting is the best opportunity we have to shift the trajectory of redevelopment in the neighborhood. Please make your voices heard by submitting comments or attending the public meeting.

    If anyone would like to work with me on this, please send me an email:

    • Thanks so much for your post! It’s gotten me riled up enough that I will attend the December meeting. These two buildings are very worthy of preservation, and not just their facades.

      • I am glad to hear you will be attending. I think a show of public support will really make a difference. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 3:30, but these building may not come up for discussion until later in the meeting. Last meeting, the discussion of the Value Village building did not occur until 4:30. When the agenda comes out, I will let you know where in the agenda it falls.

  3. I just read the White Motor Building historic preservation nomination report. It describes the missing rosettes, but makes no indication that they were removed recently by the landowner/developer. The landowner told me that they were removed because he was concerned they would fall off the building and injure pedestrians. This explanation seems obsurd to me. Why did they remove only the decorative tile then? These architectual details were removed at the same time the conceptual designs were being drawn up for the “historic preservation” redevelopment. It seems clear that they were intentionally removed to avoid landmark designation for the building so the developer can proceed with the project and make a lot of money. I find this outrageous. I would suspect that this is common practice for developers with historic buildings. This seems like a good topic for some investigative journalism.

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