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On Capitol Hill corner ripe for development, cash-strapped assisted living home will close


(Image: Travis Peterson, courtesy of Ewing and Clark)

A dementia care home on Capitol Hill is preparing to close after the facility’s nonprofit owner announced Wednesday it was selling the 17th and E Madison property likely to be coveted by developers despite its possible landmark status.

Since it was opened by Full Life Care in 2004, the Gaffney House has served hundreds of Alzheimer and dementia clients in a rare, small-scale assisted living setting. Full Life executive director Nora Gibson told CHS the organization was forced to put the 1605 17th Ave house up for sale when it lost its loan on the property.

Gaffney serves a mix of private and Medicaid paying clients, which Gibson said added to the bank’s decision not to renew its loan. Also not helping matters was last year’s arrival of the 125-resident Aegis Living facility at 22nd and E Madison. “They presented a tough competition for us win the private pay market,” Gibson said.

The Gaffney House, which currently houses 12 residents, is not expected to close its doors for several months. “When the sale approaches, we’re committed to helping families make a smooth transition for their loved ones,” Gibson said.

Nestled between Trader Joes and Central Co-op on the future “bus rapid transit”-serviced E Madison corridor, the Gaffney property will certainly draw the attention of Capitol Hill developers. However, the 1906-built house will likely be heading to the Landmark Preservation Board for review before any new development takes place. The property is expected to list for $3.6 million. Gibson said the sale will help fund Full Life’s other memory care home in Columbia City.

The U.S. Census estimates that 21% of residents in the 98112 ZIP code are 60 or older and demand for senior living on Capitol Hill appears to be growing. An Aegis spokesperson told CHS many of the company’s E Madison residents choose to live on Capitol Hill so they can keep shopping at the same stores, and attending the same churches or synagogues.

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23 thoughts on “On Capitol Hill corner ripe for development, cash-strapped assisted living home will close

  1. Seattle itself has now become one big tech “campus”, if you don’t work in tech, either acclimate or flee. These are your options.

  2. Just a little history on the building. It was built for Caroline Kline Galland and designed by Max Umbrecht. Many people are familiar with the handsome Kline Galland building on 2nd Avenue downtown.It was also designed by Mr. Umbrecht.

    Mrs. Galland was a very big deal in early Seattle and there is a home for the elderly in Seward Park that bears her name. She was an incredibly wealthy and generous person. She may have been the wealthiest woman in Seattle history actually.

    Mr. Umbrecht was also a big deal in those days and designed many many beautiful buildings on our city. A very well respected architect and well known too.

    I would expect that this will be a pretty big battle as far as preservation of the structure goes. I am saddened that the current owners couldn’t make a go of it. Seems perfect for this kind of use.

    Not only is the exterior still (mostly) original but many beautiful interior details remain as well. Primarily on the first floor. It is in pretty decent shape for a 110 year old building. Hardly a tear down in my opinion.

    I have little hope for it though as we seem to be tearing everything down right now. Hopefully its replacement won’t rival the Trader Joe’s building on the ugly scale.

    Years ago it was considered for bed and breakfast use but now that airbnb is rapidly killing traditional bed and breakfasts that no longer seems a feasible option for the building. In 5 years I doubt there will be any left in Seattle.

    I agree about fleeing. I have been here for 31 years and this isn’t the Seattle I moved here for. Soon the developers can have my restored historic house too which is just a few blocks from this one.

    • Thanks for the background on the building.

      I’m sad that this facility will be turned over to developers, and the location will no longer serve a vulnerable population. Fingers crossed that this slice of history will win its landmark status and be protected.

    • It is gorgeous, and the space around old buildings makes the new monoliths a lot nicer to be in — light, air. You’d hope that we could keep the historical buildings as public or rentable space for the many people living in efficient apartments. We were better at it when the city was poorer (Hugo House, various ex-churches, the Wilsonian ballroom).

      I think of that as the point of landmark status, to move the economic calculation from “reuse building vs skyscraper profits” but “most profitable reuse of building”.

    • or worse – has the facade maintained or otherwise incorporated into otherwise horrific and bland architecture (in exchange for some sweet “preservation” perks, of course).

  3. Are we sure that it has been nominated for Landmark status? Who is leading this effort?

    It doesn’t appear to have been nominated for Historic Landmark Status:

    Anyone can nominate a building, and it appears that some of the historical legwork has already been done here.

    I’m sure there would be a fight from current and future property owners…but it seems that for once there is enough heads-up to move early and try to save it.

  4. We, Ewing and Clark, represents the seller. We, with the seller’s permission, reached out to CHS to let the public know about the property being listed for sale. The seller’s preference is the buyer goes through the landmark process. Even if the buyer does not want the building to be landmarked, they will still have to go through the process if they try to alter the building due to safe guards the city has in place for all buildings over a certain age.

  5. This is such sad news. It is a beautiful historic house made of quality materials. Nothing like this will ever be built again.

    We all know that the buyer will not want to go through the landmark process and that even if the city requires it for buildings of a certain age, it will just be a formality before the developer can get a permit to tear it down.

    It is disgusting.

    • I am not aware that the city “requires” a landmark process for buildings of a certain age. Does anyone know if this is really true?

    • Commercial properties above 50 years of age in the city of Seattle are required to go through a landmark review before they can be torn down or significantly redone. Private homes are not. I believe this will have to undergo review due to it’s age and use. I think it is highly likely this building will be landmarked, unless there is a grave loss of structural integrity. The real battle will be fighting the trend of facadism in Seattle and preventing a giant box from being built on top of it.

  6. In cities in Europe and some in the US like SF, this beautiful building would be granted protection. In Seattle any true preservation status (i.e., more than a facade) will be DOA, Seattle’s idea of progress. Welcome to the 1950s.

    • Karl,

      The siting of the building (i.e. the land around the structure) can be included in designation controls. This would prevent building around and above. The community needs to make a bunch of noise when it comes up for review (it will be required to go through review if a development is proposed).

  7. We should allow the owners of properties like these to sell their development rights to nearby properties, preserve these beautiful historic buildings that cannot be replaced, and build taller buildings in a nearby target area, such that the overall level of development remains the same. It’s called TDR, transfer of development rights, and it’s been done successfully all over the world for many years.

    • Great idea. Keep the ideas coming everyone. Maybe if we put up a fight, we can get this beautiful building and others like it, saved for future generations.

    • The City of Seattle does grant TDR credits. As a building owner, you may obtain them once your building has achieved landmark status. This building will have access to then when and if landmarked.

  8. If you guys feel so strongly about saving this building, maybe you should buy it and preserve it instead of trying to convince the city to take away property rights from the owner.