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Long live Capitol Hill’s La Quinta — Residents rally (early!) to make 17th and Denny Anhalt apartments a landmark

(Image: Viva La Quinta/Jesse L. Young)

Hoping to head off yet another story of a lovely, old building being torn down to make way for a new brick of ceramic and fiberboard, residents of the La Quinta apartments have started a drive to have their building recognized as a landmark.

The building at 1710 E Denny Way was built by prolific Seattle developer Frederick Anhalt in 1927. The U-shaped building with a clay tile roof holds a dozen two-story apartments and has a large central Mediterranean Revival courtyard. A thirteenth apartment is perched over the building’s garage.

It changed hands a few times until it was purchased by Ken Van Dyke in 1982. Van Dyke died earlier this year, leaving residents worried that the new owners might want to redevelop the property.

Chelsea Bolan, who has lived in the building since 2003, said they don’t know for certain that redevelopment was planned in the immediate future, but they started hearing rumors from people in contact with the new owners.

“He suggested, if we wanted to do a landmark, do it now,” Bolan said.


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The building residents tend to be tight-knit, Bolan said, noting that many people stay for a long time.

“You do talk to your neighbors and we share spaces,” she said. “I forget that other places aren’t like this.”

That connection, she said, made it easier for them to come together to help preserve the building.

Bolan acknowledges that there is a housing supply problem in Seattle generally, and that a new building could potentially allow for more units. But she also said that must be balanced, and some of the city’s stock of historic buildings should be preserved.

“I think it’s a really unique space – a really unique building,” Bolan said.

She noted that each of the units has its own distinctive features and finishes, instead of a single, cookie-cutter layout.

“Care was taken in the place to make it a home,” she said.

The residents were able to connect with others in nearby buildings which are also designated as landmarks to get some advice in working through the system.

One of the groups they reached out to was Historic Seattle, a nonprofit dedicated to preservation and with extensive experience in the landmarks process.

Supporting the project was an easy choice for Historic Seattle, said Eugenia Woo, director of preservation services. Woo noted that there seemed to be community support, not just in the building, but also in the neighborhood, which is something Historic Seattle looks for. Beyond that, it’s a valuable property.

“It is a historic property. It seems to be significant,” Woo said.

(Image: Viva La Quinta/Jesse L. Young)

This nomination is unusual since it’s happening without a pending development. More commonly, historic nominations are reactive. An owner proposes redeveloping a property, and residents or neighbors or both band together in an effort to protect it.

Other times, property owners will go through the process prior to beginning a redevelopment project so they aren’t surprised by a last minute nomination undercutting months or years of work. But this one, happening without the threat of development, made things a bit easier.

“There was time to strategize and prepare a nomination application. And the La Quinta residents had an open communication channel with ownership, so they were aware of the nomination efforts,” Woo said. “We aren’t addressing this in the 11th hour.”

One facet likely to help the nomination is Anhalt’s involvement in the project. He was responsible for developing dozens of buildings in the late 1920’s are scattered across Seattle, many of them architectural gems. The depression took the wind out of construction for a while, but he was back at it for a couple years in the mid-30’s before getting out of real estate.

There are numerous Anhalt properties around Seattle already recognized as historic, but they are largely in the Tudor style, while this is one of the few built in the style known as “Spanish Eclectic.” The relative rarity of this style is one of the elements that makes it attractive for preservation, Woo noted. The building retains many of its original interior and exterior features, including some original landscaping.

In preparing the report detailing why the building should be preserved, there was an added hiccup caused by COVID-19. Many of the old city documents which might have been used to support the designation are only available on microfiche. But the offices which house the collection are not open to the public at this time.

Woo said she thinks the landmark board will understand that they were unable to complete all of the typical research that goes into a nomination. And even without that information, the report still runs well more than 100 pages.

“It is still a very substantive, meaty report,” Woo said.

They also got help from the residents, Woo noted. The group had different skill sets, such as a photographer and graphic designer to help put the report together. They were even able to build a website detailing the preservation effort.

The nomination process is currently well underway. The nomination has been through its initial review by city staff, Woo said. They are now trying to set up a date for a hearing with the landmarks board, likely early next year.


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Ariel
4 months ago

This is smart — that stretch of 17th north of Denny has had several tear-down redevelopments in the past couple years. They’re wise to be proactive instead of reactive.

Andrew
Andrew
4 months ago

King County has created 3.33 jobs for every 1 new housing unit the past decade.  

Basically showing us a new supply of additional housing in King County is desperately needed to allow everyone who works here to also live here.

Tearing down older dwellings to allow higher densification is the only solution unless we stop employers from creating new jobs. 

If we keep going on the same path of restricting new housing supply then we can only expect the same result. Higher home prices and cost of living along with more congestion and traffic.  

CD Neighbor
CD Neighbor
4 months ago
Reply to  Andrew

King County is bigger than the entire states of Rhode Island and Delaware… a great number of those jobs are not within the city of Seattle – plenty of them are on the Eastside and elsewhere within the county. We don’t need to pack every single new apartment or house onto Capitol Hill.

Good on you residents of La Quinta. It’s a beautiful building and deserves to be preserved.

Nancy Elizabeth Douglas
Nancy Elizabeth Douglas
4 months ago
Reply to  Andrew

What has occurred with housing in the past decade is no longer relevant in Seattle and especially on Capitol Hill. Lets wait and see how much new or even current housing we need here once Covid-19 is under control and we are able to determine who is even interested in living in our neighborhood anymore.
Recent estimates indicate there is a 30%-40% vacancy rate in apartments and condos on Capitol since late last summer.
With a huge vacancy rate the market will adjust and housing will become more available and affordable.
In any case tearing down an historic Anhalt landmark building should not be considered.

Brandon
Brandon
4 months ago

I love this building and it wanted to live there for a long time. I’m really happy they’re doing this and hope it stays around long enough for me to one day find a spot there!

Please match the requested format
Please match the requested format
4 months ago

Really a great building, tho it is definite need of renovation if you’ve ever walked by. Paint job, anyone?

Also, the landscaping is ridiculously overgrown. That said, the right owner could easily do some investment to improve the property and I’m sure the rental rates could be increased.

Those older apartments are always much bigger than the matchboxes they build today….

Bob
Bob
4 months ago

Cool to see! Great move by the residents

Nooe
Nooe
4 months ago

Looks like it’s falling apart. Is this really the best architecture in Seattle ? Or are we making it harder to build more energy efficient buildings…

SeattleNative
SeattleNative
4 months ago
Reply to  Nooe

Define “best architecture in Seattle”- what does that even mean? I agree that the light colored stucco may occasionally appear discolored in this climate… but falling apart? Some of the rough edges are part of its charm, as are the [presumably inefficient] sun-decks and the communal outdoor spaces. I’m all for energy efficiency and wisely managed urban density, but given the multitude of other lousy buildings around here, this is hardly a place to wage that battle.

Jules James
Jules James
4 months ago
Reply to  Nooe

Yes. It is some of the best architecture in Seattle. Fred Anhalt shows us time and again that density and quality of life are not mutually exclusive. The intimate design elements of his buildings convey senses of respect to tenants as humans. The UW School of Architecture should have a “Fred Anhalt” class as a requirement for graduation. Maybe we’ll learn to build multi-family ground-related housing in-city, then fewer households will re-locate much further away when children come along. Its a social and environmental lesson worth learning. This landmark designation has my support.

JohnW
JohnW
4 months ago
Reply to  Nooe

It is not an either/or condition. Preserving a small bit of history does not make it more difficult to build energy-efficient dwellings. Demolition and construction are highly-energy intensive, which is why programs like LEEDS first try to preserve elements.
Maintenance is not what makes it historical. In this case, it is not only the architect himself, but the lack of “upgrades” like removing the original leaded glass and replacing with white vinyl windows that make this building so worthy of preserving.
The two houses next door do not have any notable characteristics, so no one is attempting to save them. They both most likely will be dozed to create more housing that is energy efficient.

Karl Liebknecht
Karl Liebknecht
4 months ago

This is both exciting and heartwarming. Good job, La Quinta residents! Anhalt is smiling down upon you.

genevieve
genevieve
4 months ago

I had the chance to live here briefly a few years ago. I believe there was talk a couple of years ago of turning it into a co-op that the residents could buy – I wonder if that’s still an option. Yes, there are some repairs needed – but this buiding is amazing, and the residents have made it a true community.

Wonderful, unique spaces with neighbors who bother to know and care about each other used to be a huge part of what made Capitol Hill so great – now both are rarities. Good luck in this process, and in working with the new owners.

RWK
RWK
4 months ago

In my opinion, EVERY Anhalt building should be landmarked as a group. These gems must be preserved from greedy developers!

Kudos to the residents who are doing this.

JerSeattle
JerSeattle
4 months ago

I live across the street from this building and love it and it’s residents. It’s a very artsy and electic building. I think it should be preserved. As should many buildings in Seattle.

That being said, we should work to build housing for every resident in king county that is affordable and obtainable.

I would rather see Seattle build more affordable housing, regulation on housing prices/rents, and housing assurance. It’s stupid we can’t solve this problem. Capitalism and greed are what keep the housing expensive. If King county offered more housing there is nothing to say that a wealthy few would buy up the inventory and jack up the rents. Regulation helps with his.

Margaret Kramer
Margaret Kramer
4 months ago

I lived there in the 90’s. It was magical and we were truly fortunate to have stumbled upon it as young renters Not only is La Quinta worthy of repairs and preservation status, but the community of eclectic and caring people who have been its occupants over the years deserve their own place in Capitol Hill history.