Club plans to put E Union Knights of Columbus property up for sale

Knights of Columbus, First Hill, Seattle

Depending on how you look at it, there is another historic Capitol Hill-area building lined up for sad destruction — or to be part of much needed redevelopment.

The Knights of Columbus, Seattle Council 676 will meet next week to hear Grand Knight Tom Joyce discuss one of the biggest decisions in the group’s 116 years as “a fraternal order of men dedicated in our Catholic faith” — the multi-million dollar decision to sell the Knights’ 106-year-old masonry building at the corner of Harvard and Union.

“As you are aware, the Knights of Columbus Club of Seattle (which is the Council’s funding source and owner of the building and adjacent property) has made the difficult decision to sell its property after a lengthy review process,” Grand Knight Joyce writes in the most recent club newsletter.

The club will vote on a resolution approving the sale at a meeting next week:

UPDATE: A representative for the club tells CHS that their Grand Knight can’t comment on the sale plan at this time.

As part of the sale process, the Knights have already decided what to do with the proceeds of the three-story building and its 15,000-square-foot surface parking lot on Harvard in the area connecting Capitol Hill to First Hill. In April, the council vote unanimously “to contribute substantially all of the property sale proceeds and any other Club assets to a new and separate 501(c)(3) charitable organization” intended to “manage the contributed funds and the earnings to use them to financially assist other charitable or religious organizations which pursue worthy causes.”

“This will allow the Knights to not only continue our primary mission of charity, but to greatly expand our ability to make a significant difference in helping important causes,” Joyce writes.

While in the early half of the 20th century, the Knights were known for their beliefs in fraternity and equality, the modern incarnations of the clubs have taken on less tolerant positions:

In 2008, the Knights was the single-largest funder of Proposition 8, which eliminated recognition of same-sex marriages in California and has been struck down by two federal courts as violating the constitutional rights of gays and lesbians. In 2012, the Knights and its local councils contributed nearly $1 million to unsuccessfully oppose same-sex relationships in state ballot measures in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington.

We will check in with the 676 Knights to ask more about their future charity and giving efforts.

Today, there are no development plans lined up for the soon to be listed property, according to City of Seattle permits. Whatever its future, the property likely faces a landmarks review. Here is how the property’s history is described in the City of Seattle’s survey of historical site:

The Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Church’s largest lay organization, is a fraternal order founded in 1882 to support church programs and serve charitable causes. The Seattle council was chartered in 1902 and constructed this building in 1913 as the local headquarters. It has played major role both among Catholic and in the larger community, as the site of notable lunches, dances and other events. The gym and swimming pool in the basement were used by servicemen during World War II. The building looks much as it originally did, except for the replacement of some windows on the main façade. The main entry originally had an elegant metal and glass canopy that has been replaced by a fabric awning.

“This is a substantial three-story building, clad with clinker brick,” the survey entry reads. “There is a deep dentillated cornice of cast stone at the top of the building, with another cornice below the third-floor windows.” According to the city, the 1912-built brick and stone building has not been reinforced to modern seismic standards.

According to tax records, the building property has a taxable land value of nearly $2.5 million while the parking lot on Harvard weighs in with a hefty $3.9 million total. The E Union parking lot the group also owns is worth around $750,000. We’ll check in on which of the parking lots — or both — are slated to be part of the sale. UPDATE: We’re told the plan would be to include all of the parking lot parcels in the sale — a potential $6 million in land alone.

Over the years, the building has hosted the club as well as athletic activities and countless weddings, celebrations, and, yes, wakes.


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18 thoughts on “Club plans to put E Union Knights of Columbus property up for sale

  1. This is right across the street from Fire Station 25, another historical building that was turned into condominiums ages ago – and that was done without modifying the exterior at all. Given the size and relative spaciousness of the KofC building it’s likely that something similar can happen there without it being yet another “character structure” “preservation.”

  2. Happy to see this. I hope someone takes this limited use commercial building and parking lots and replaces everything with mid to high rise housing that we so desperately need. This is the perfect location for this type of structure.

  3. Yeah, it would be great if they could turn it into something nice without destroying the pleasing outside character…also like the former Christian Science church on 16th.

  4. Perhaps someone like Scott Shapiro can purchase, preserve and renovate the existing structure. We need to be mindful of protecting the architectural heritage of The Hill’s many wonderful brownstones.

    The two parking lots would be perfect for seven-on-one residential/commercial structures. Even better if they were designed to be mindful of the existing structure and compliment its exterior.

    High rises on The Hill? Hell no. We’ve already had this discussion.

  5. The outside of that Christian Science bldg still looks nice, but the condos they built inside it are trainwrecks. Most of the units have very weird light given the constraints of the existing windows. It actually didn’t lend itself very well to development. But at least the outside still looks nice.

    • @””Timmy73″, those mid/high rises to which you refer are on First Hill, not Capitol Hill – big difference. First Hill is, and always has been, zoned for high rises.

      As for the ‘many 11 floor mid-rise structures all over Capitol Hill’, north of Pike Street where Capitol Hill begins, there are none on 23rd, none on 19th, one on 15th, none on 12th, zero on Broadway and around three in the Summit and Mercer area.

      Hardly Manhattan

  6. @carla: you may have already had a discussion about high rises on the Hill, but that doesn’t mean others can’t discuss it. And on that point, why not? The character of Capitol Hill is pretty much already destroyed. We need more housing. First Hill already has high rises. We are a city, not a small town. We need more high rises, more density, and a large percent of that affordable. Now I don’t like the “preserve the facade” deal. Hate it in fact. Maybe in this case, they can take the parking lots and build high rises (if they’re big enough lots) and put parking underneath. Then preserve the original building. I have no idea. But some blanket “no high rises” is selfish. Seattle is already aesthetic garbage. Growth has happened and is continuing to happen. The only reason that growth is manageable is because housing is becoming unaffordable for the majority so they can’t even live here anyway. I’m more interested in preserving the people diversity of the community than on some old buildings. And I love old buildings, but people are more important.

    • The days of “affordable” housing on Cap Hill have long sailed. Unless an org like Capitol Hill Housing buys the property “affordable” is not a word you could associate with this.

    • @Max, talk about it and have the discussions all you want – I don’t care. That said, the reality is within the next two weeks, the City Council will vote to upzone all of Broadway between Pike and Roy to eight stories, and I support this. Please do some research and read the articles – there will be a requirement for affordable housing in all of these higher structures.

      It has taken almost two decades to get to this point and the process has been difficult. But at some point we have to make a decision and move forward with it.

      Think of things this way, when all is said and done, Broadway will have the look and feel of neighborhoods in Paris, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Lyon, Amsterdam and Berlin. And this is bad?

      At some point we have to accept what is and move on. I led an effort to preserve the Harvard Exit as a performance venue and lost. I do admit though, that Scott Shapiro and Eagle Rock Investments have done an outstanding job of renovating and restoring the building – and I am pleased as punch it will be the new home of the Mexican Consulate.

      Have a nice evening!

      • Carla, it is very doubtful that the upzone on Broadway will result in a significant number of affordable apartments. Under HALA (aka “Ha-Ha!”), a developer must include such units, but only a very small percentage of the total (I think it’s something like 5-8%), which I guess is better than nothing. However, most developers will take the other option, which is to pay a relatively small fee into a fund for affordable buildings to be built elsewhere, in less expensive areas.

  7. Believing that more leveraged, speculative real estate development- at the expense of historic housing stock- is going to help affordability is like thinking that enabling heroin and meth drug addicts to roam Seattle scot-free is compassionate.

  8. @Timmy…..How about a compromise? The parking lots could be redeveloped, but the beautiful old building should be preserved and re-purposed into condos.

  9. @Bob. I don’t like seeing old buildings being demolished. However, I used to walk past the KoC daily. Other than being old with some decorative plasterwork, there is nothing really all that special about it.

    As stands today as a commercial space with a ballroom and without it being retrofitted for earthquakes, costs to turn into condos will be vast. We’ll end up with a few boutique condos that only the 1% can afford. Meanwhile we need attainable housing in bulk.

    • Timmy, I had a look at the KoC building yesterday. Yes, the exterior could use some touch-ups, but it is basically a very solid, attractive brick building which could have many years of life left in it. The parking lot to the north is quite large, and could accommodate a substantial high-rise, of which you are so fond.

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