Friday, May 15, 2009

Doctors for Demolition

Posted by on Fri, May 15, 2009 at 4:13 PM

The brick building with huge windows at Broadway and East Union Street embodies the architectural style of the Pike/Pine neighborhood, Seattle’s original auto row. “This is the collection of buildings that made the neighborhood successful,” developer Liz Dunn told five city council members at a hearing on Wednesday about a proposal to preserve the area’s older structures. “This is the sort of building the legislation is intended to protect.”

But Dunn was outnumbered.

Arriving in two busloads, staff and patients of the Polyclinic, a collective of physicians and specialist working under one roof, argued that they should be allowed to demolish the 89-year-old building for a new six-story medical facility. They asked the council for an exemption to the proposed rules (more info here), claiming that is their only option to meet the growing demand of ill patients.

“I request that you remove this parcel from the Pike/Pine overlay to allow us to expand the Polyclinic,” Lloyd David, CEO of the Polyclinic, said. A woman added, “If you change those rules, we will not be able to go forward.”

But their argument is disingenuous; the Polyclinic doesn’t need this parcel to expand.

They failed to mention that the Polyclinic owns another plot of land across the street, next to the Seattle First Baptist Church, which is currently used as an asphalt parking lot. After the meeting, Polyclinic president Rex Ochi acknowledged they own the parking lot but said constructing an expansion there would be virtually impossible due to existing city rules, which don’t allow medical office buildings on the site.

However, reached by phone today, Council Member Sally Clark, which chairs the city’s land-use committee, says the city council could modify rules for the parking lot site to allow a medical clinic.

What if the council changed the rules? Ochi still resists. Even if the council did change the rules, he says, the Polyclinic still won’t build behind the church. “I don’t think we are interested in an exchange,” he said.

Dunn pointed out to the council that the legislation to protect old buildings “has been in the works longer before they purchased the building.” The Polyclinic bought the 20,000 square foot building last June for $6.25 million dollars (far more than the county’s appraised value of $2.2 million).


Comments (20) RSS

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Fnarf 1
This is absolutely criminal. A six-story clinic there, with no retail on the ground floor, is not only going to remove an historic relic but destroy the functioning of the block. Have you looked at First Hill? That's the kind of building they're talking about, and they are NEIGHBORHOOD KILLERS.
Posted by Fnarf on May 15, 2009 at 4:14 PM · Report this
Baconcat 3
Please, save our auto row! No more retail! No more restaurants! We need a place to buy cars, to park cars, to talk about cars! Preserve our auto legacy!!
Posted by Baconcat on May 15, 2009 at 4:18 PM · Report this
Dominic Holden 4
@ 1) In the Polyclinic's defense, I think they would be required to include some retail on the ground floor. But they would tear down the building and replace it with something else... and as the Polyclinic's track record shows from previous terrible designs (e.i., buildings that turn backs on the street) the new building could leave much to be desired.
Posted by Dominic Holden on May 15, 2009 at 4:27 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 5
OMG, the sirens from urgent care will keep the cars awake and then they can't rest their car alarms from going off every time a cat brushes up against them!

Think of the poor scared kitties!

I demand we preserve the original function of this area and restore the log skids so we can log Seward Park and drag the logs down to the steamboats! It's the only historic thing to do!

(you do realize I'm not serious, right?)
Posted by Will in Seattle on May 15, 2009 at 4:27 PM · Report this
Dominic Holden 7
@ 6) They own a parking lot. Are you seriously suggesting that it's better to tear down an old building than a parking lot?
Posted by Dominic Holden on May 15, 2009 at 4:31 PM · Report this
It's an ugly, unused building, with no real historical significance. Get rid of it and build something useful. If anything, there should be more of this being done-- Seattle is really poorly planned and needs more tall buildings to help clear up congestion and sprawling issues.
Posted by Memetastic on May 15, 2009 at 4:34 PM · Report this
Baconcat 9
@4: Dominic, that's already a live block though, so it wouldn't be a big loss. There'd be a lot more folks going there than visiting the current building, so that's eyes on the street. It beats the current soulless underpinnings of the current building.

And why are they going to build a commercial venture on a parking lot that's better suited for residential?

As far as the architecture, that "auto row chic" is such bull. Those buildings are the mid-century version of so many a discardable and soulless box-and-window plan, much like the tacky stacky boxes being built on the hill nowadays.

God, The Stranger is starting to sound like it's being run out of a one-story strip mall in Fed Way or something.
Posted by Baconcat on May 15, 2009 at 4:42 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 10
I demand they build a hamburger place with cat seats on top of a six-story pole, surrounded be pennants and disco balls.

Oh, and a twirly star-spangled umbrella that dangles people from two-story "strings".

That would fit the character of the neighborhood better.
Posted by Will in Seattle on May 15, 2009 at 4:48 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 11
Or maybe a penguin orrory (did i spell that right) - and a place selling Hawaiian shaved ice.

Cute and cuddly boys. Cute and cuddly.
Posted by Will in Seattle on May 15, 2009 at 4:49 PM · Report this
The Stranger on cars, owning cars, driving cars, urban sprawl caused by cars. BAD, REALLY BAD AND SELFISH AND SUBURBAN AND REPUBLICAN AND STUFF!


Jeeze! Are you guys off your meds?
Posted by Westside forever on May 15, 2009 at 4:52 PM · Report this
Reality Check 13
I'm sorry Dom but @6 FTW

They'll use that parking lot across the street to eventually build a multi story parking garage or maybe another outpatient facility. That area screams for the need ofa a large parking garage to handle the extra vehicle inflow to the area and when the additional hospital/clinic appointments create additional congestion it will only get worse. Reserving that space for now, will ensure they have future building/growth options down the road.

That dealership needs to go. It is very weak sauce to imply that it is historic in nature. It is a freaking glorified warehouse. Tear the damn thing down. Just make sure you have 300 parking spots on an underground garage, and a couple long term anchor restaurants underneath to give those visiting the clinic/hospital an option to find a reasonable simple quick meal. Very few places fit that bill on that end of the Ave.
Posted by Reality Check on May 15, 2009 at 5:19 PM · Report this
Gitai 16
Seriously? That's a building you're going to defend? I was all for tearing down the Ballard Denny's, and that at least looked slightly unusual. There's nothing interesting architecturally about this building, and no one will mourn it.

Sure, building in the parking lot would be better, but there's no good reason to preserve that building, and with some decent design rules, a new building could be an improvement.
Posted by Gitai on May 15, 2009 at 6:34 PM · Report this
Maybe I'm wrong but isn't this building architecturally similar to some of the early 20th Modern buildings, like maybe Gropius' Fagus Shoe Factory? Sure, it's only one story and I'm not one to support luxury car dealers, but I find it attractive, especially with the the transom windows (or whatever the windows above the plate windows are called).

I'm not saying they should save it or scrap it, but I think it's a mistake to just dismiss it as crap or save it because it's old. If pressed, I'd probably side with the clinic because they would actually use the space to do something worthwhile. But, still, I like those windows.
Posted by keith on May 15, 2009 at 8:16 PM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 18
I'm torn.

On one hand, that is a Fugly building. Architecturally, there isn't a reason in the world to preserve it.

On the other hand, I think there is some value in preserving some old buildings in the area. New construction is all kinda uniform, and new retail space is pretty expensive. Do you ever see unique independent businesses in new buildings? No, hardly ever. It is all big chain retailers, who are the only businesses that can afford retail space in new buildings. Almost all small independent businesses are in older buildings, because that is all they can afford. If you tear down all old buildings and replace them with new, you will drive out almost all of the small independent businesses, artists, and shops. If that is what you want, you may as well put a Walmart on Capitol Hill and be done with it.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on May 15, 2009 at 11:15 PM · Report this
Sure, that's an old building, but there are thousands of buildings that old. If it looked anything like it did 89 years ago, sure... but it definitely doesn't.
Posted by andrew on May 15, 2009 at 11:57 PM · Report this
merry 20
What about that fenced-off spur of land with the cool old spiral staircase, that's right adjacent to the PC building? I've wanted something cool to happen to that space/staircase for years and years....... Granted, it's not an especially big piece of land, but.... does anyone have a plan for that bit?

Posted by merry on May 16, 2009 at 12:08 AM · Report this
NumberOne 22
@10 ftw!
I say down with the rich folk's car box and make the clinic there. Like 21 mentioned, the box is a drag on the neighborhood and pretty much any thing else is an improvement.
Posted by NumberOne on May 16, 2009 at 10:11 AM · Report this
building medical facilities creates high paying and stable jobs, that dealership is by appointment only and I doubt it has more than a few employees. i lived two blocks away for years and only saw someone in there a few times. so how about thinking about what would be better for the neighborhood in terms of those who have to work for a living, instead of whining when anyone wants to build anything in seattle
Posted by high and bi on May 16, 2009 at 1:33 PM · Report this
litlnemo 25
FWIW, that building hasn't been a car dealership for its entire existence. It has actually been retail during my lifetime, though admittedly it wasn't cute, trendy or hip retail. (It was a beauty supply store in the 60s-early 80s.) I love the building for its old-style windows, and for being part of old Broadway. It just doesn't really need to be a car dealership these days -- though that was a historic use of the area, it doesn't suit it well now.
Posted by litlnemo on May 18, 2009 at 3:28 AM · Report this
I may be biased because I'm someone who does demolition for a living, but if the building has no historical or other significance, the doctors should be able to bring it down.
Posted by Demolition Contractor on December 28, 2009 at 7:39 PM · Report this

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