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).