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Thursday, June 22, 2006

It’s Like a Jungle

Posted by on June 22 at 14:28 PM

One more word on the remodeling project that’s taking forever at the King Street Station, a building which is far less impressive than the majestic Union Station across the street.

Has anyone walked to the edge of the waiting room and had a peek at what the modernists covered up back in the 60s? One look and you’re heart will sink…. Remember that scene in Sartre’s novel Nausea? The one where the narrator comes across a tree that’s so big, so full of life, so present that he loses his grasp on reality, falls to the ground, and is nauseated for a spell. In the near future, something similar will happen to those waiting for trains in the King Street Station, because it’s completely wild, completely alive up there. The designers went bananas and foliated the coffered ceiling to such an extent that its better to call it a jungle.

The inside of Union Station offers us the sweeping peace of a universe that’s mastered by the mind; the inside of King Street Station brings to mind the terrible creatures in the Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

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We're not building either the Shanghai or Berlin train stations on the ruins of King Street and that's FINAL, Charles.

The concealed ceiling in King Street IS amazing, and the sooner it gets uncovered, the better.

The building's fate is still being negotiated by the City and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe. When that finally gets settled, they'll start on the ceiling.

I don't share your enthusiasm about Union Station though. I'm glad it was saved and restored, but I've never really liked that building. Too much like an Edwardian Quonset hut for my taste. Why anyone would have an event in that mausoleum is beyond me, but people do.

btw, Union Station was almost demolished in the 1950's for a new post office (most mail went by train back then). Both stations were under utilized, and King Street was considered the more functional one.

That hole in the ceiling, giving a peak at what was covered up has been there for years. Seems like the full restoration of this building is taking a long time to complete. I first noticed the viewing hole in the ceiling (almost 10 years ago) and many buildings have gone up around the old station along with 2 stadiums a new public library downtown and the redevelopment of Belltown and many other areas in Seattle but this building still has its view hole into the past. Or It's future.

The trouble is ownership.

the building is, at this time, owned by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe. Prior to the Burlington Northern merger with the Santa Fe, the BN didn't know what to do with it, the land wasn't particularly valuable, relatively speaking), and Amtrak's use of it was minimal.

Then came the Cascades and Sounder, and the huge jump in ridership.

Along with the BNSF merger came the Santa Fe's much more savvy real estate division (the brains behind the LA Union Station redevelopment) along with the explosion in value of Pioneer Square properties.

The BNSF knows it has not much practical use for the building - it's can't really be reveloped ala LA Union Station or something like that, and the historical designation hinders it further: They can't, for instance, demolish it.

So, the long and short of it is that the BNSF is using the building to negotiate some sweet land deals with the city. The money is all there - it's a combination of local, federal and Amtrak funds - it just needs the spigot to open.

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