Boom Smashing History
posted by October 23 at 16:59 PMon
As you read this, crews are breaking off the terra cotta trim from a 1914 building at the corner of Second Avenue and Stewart and throwing the pieces into Dumpsters. Stripping the building of its vintage details will erase the building’s historic status, tenants and neighbors say, which will potentially allow the owner to redevelop the site into a tower.
“Our guess is that it had to do with taking down what would have been the historically significant portion, which is the terra cotta,” says Joe Woods, an architect at Hummel Architects, a tenant in the building. “[The owners] would have their hands tied if the historic process got further down the line.”
The two-story MJA Building is a product of the downtown building boom of the early 1900’s, which was spurred by the Klondike Gold Rush. In 2004, a historic resources survey found that the building “appears to meet the criteria of the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance.” But for reasons that are unclear, the building didn’t become a historic landmark.
New owners, calling themselves MJA Building LLC, bought the property late last year. Under zoning rules adopted by the city council in 2006, a new building on the site could be as tall as 400 feet. Until this week, it looked like this:
But today, Slog tipper Christine alerted us to the carnage occurring under the scaffolding that wraps the building. Construction workers are “taking the terra cotta off in such a way that there will be no way to salvage the actual material,” she says. The owner “is replacing it with one of those hideous fake stucco products.” She sent this photo of how it looks today:
“We are just trashing our history when we do stuff like this,” says Jeff Hummel, owner of Hummel Architects. “These buildings are our heritage.”
The property-management company, KG Investment, sent a notice about plans for stripping the exterior to the building’s six commercial tenants two or three weeks ago, calling it a “seismic retrofit,” says Hummel.
“They have been framing this as a seismic retrofit, which is total bullshit,” says Hummel. “It is not.” If it were a retrofit, he says, the owners would also reinforce entryways, the skin of the building, and other components of the frame. Building owners could retain the historic facade and still build a tower on the site, he argues, much like the Cristalla a few blocks north.
KG Investment and MJA Building LLC have not returned calls to comment.