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Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Demolition in Georgetown

posted by on January 24 at 13:34 PM


It’s been underway for several days now. These were taken yesterday afternoon.


Those thick pipes on the upper floors to the right are cooling pipes, as the building used to be refrigerated.


Now they spill out of it like spaghetti.


The fence along Airport Way has pink roses, white carnations, yellow daises, and plastic orange flowers threaded into it.




Even though demolition has been going on for days, Airport Way was crawling with photographers—amateurs with their cell phones, professionals with real equipment. I asked one of the photographers (not pictured) if he worked for a newspaper. “Yeah, Seattle Times,” he said. Then he walked up to a row of gleaming scooters parked outside Big People Scooters, which is directly across Airport Way from the Rainier Cold Storage building, caught the half-demolished building reflected in one scooter’s rearview mirror, and tried to find an angle to take a photo of the reflection.


The bar at Jules Maes, which is next to Big People Scooters, has a perfect view of the wreckage. A bartender told me that even though Airport Way, the street you have to use to get to Jules Maes, was closed for the first two days of the demolition, Jules Maes “got a lot of business.”

Down the street at All City Coffee, a barista smiled when asked about what she thought of the building coming down. “It’s not at the top of the list of things I’m thinking about right now. Also, I’m just sick of talking about it. I’ve been talking about it all weekend.” I asked what’s at the top of the list of the things she’s thinking about right now. She said she had a biology test in the morning.

RSS icon Comments


This is truly obscene.

Posted by Mr. X | January 24, 2008 1:47 PM

Photo credits?

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | January 24, 2008 1:52 PM

Is that the building where Big Black's last show was? That would be sad.

Posted by Levislade | January 24, 2008 1:54 PM

COOLING PIPES!! Brilliant! THAT explains why my walls are so cold! My building must be refrigerated with cooling pipes!

Posted by kinaidos | January 24, 2008 2:15 PM
...caught the half-demolished building reflected in one scooter’s rearview mirror, and tried to find an angle to take a photo of the reflection.
What do I keep saying? Those pros at the Times know if it ain't got a fuckin' reflection, it ain't fuckn' artys fartsy. I'm telling you, that picture in the rear view is going to be one creative fuckin' picture.
Posted by elenchos | January 24, 2008 2:17 PM

i thought they were REMODELING the buildings, not fucking tearing them down!!!

jesus, another ruined neighborhood in Seattle...

Posted by michael strangeways | January 24, 2008 2:17 PM

I think the guy who bought this building actually wanted to restore it all, but this section was too far gone, and he's keeping two significant portions intact. Is that right?

Posted by sniggles | January 24, 2008 2:20 PM

@7 -- A corporation called Sabey bought it, not a man, and yes, there was talk of saving the building, and lots of the buildings connected to this one are being saved and renovated, but the Cold Storage Building had gigantic block of ice under it that's been slowly melting since they turned off those cooling pipes a couple years ago, so the building was sinking in on itself.

@2 -- The photos are by me.

Posted by christopher Frizzelle | January 24, 2008 2:27 PM

@3 no, that was at the Georgetown Steam Plant which was declared a nat'l historic landmark

Posted by Fists o' Love | January 24, 2008 2:27 PM

the new owner said the refrig building had to go -- it was beyond repair. i cannot tell from the photos if more than that are being torn down...

Posted by infrequent | January 24, 2008 2:32 PM


Posted by infrequent | January 24, 2008 2:36 PM

Thanks, Christopher. It's a shame they couldn't save the central portion of the building as its proximity to the street makes it one of the most distinctive things in all of Georgetown, but it's good to know that they've taken pains to restore the rest of the structure. Good post!

Posted by sniggles | January 24, 2008 2:36 PM

@9 - thanks. I was thinking cold, but it was hot (steam plant).

Posted by Levislade | January 24, 2008 2:40 PM

I am completely saddened by this. We took our wedding pictures in that exact alley five months ago...

Posted by jewritto | January 24, 2008 2:50 PM

...and I'm sure DPD subjected Sabey's claims that they had to demolish most of this building to a most vigorous analysis, forcing the developer to review other alternatives and fully justify the decision to knock down one of the most iconic and historic buildings in Seattle.

I also believe in the fucking tooth fairy.

Posted by Mr. X | January 24, 2008 3:35 PM

A desolate building gets torn down: How/why should I care?

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | January 24, 2008 3:46 PM

That was the old Rainer building, right? Not the Tulley's thing, but the pre-prohibition one?

I've been inside there, where big chunks of it were rented out for storage. It was in BAD shape. It's a shame to see it wiped from the landscape - it was beautiful - but I seriously doubt it could have been restored based on the rooms I saw.

Too bad the developer didn't at least keep the street facing facade, but I really don't know about the feasibility of that stuff.

Posted by Dougsf | January 24, 2008 3:49 PM

Question: Is this not the same building that suffered a rather severe fire sometime between 1989 and 1990? I remember going south on I-5 one morning back then, traveling on my big yellow school bus and seeing, (I'm 95% certain), this entire building burning like a motherfucker. I miss seeing Sunny Jim and the big R along I-5. Feeling nostalgic sucks.

Posted by spazzy mcspazzerson | January 24, 2008 3:50 PM

It was one of most distinctive looking buildings in Seattle. Just beautiful. Why couldn't they spend an extra million or two to at least keep the grand facade? It's not like they couldn't come up with the money. Ugh. Another characterless piece of architecture awaits, I'm sure. Sad.

Posted by homage to me | January 24, 2008 4:44 PM

@18 - I'm about 99% sure that was a different building.

Posted by Mr. X | January 24, 2008 4:55 PM

How did this slide thru City approval so fast? Simple, Georgetowners dissed the Mayor by stopping his proposed Garbage Transfer Station in Georgetown about a year ago. The Mayor doesn't forget, he gets even.

Posted by ratcityreprobate | January 24, 2008 5:12 PM

number 21, you're an idiot. bitch about something you know about next time.

Posted by Rat City Is For Lovers | January 24, 2008 9:03 PM

The next fire on November 13 (1988) was potentially even more serious. The “Rainier Cold Storage & Ice Co.” was in a century‑old, block‑long, 4‑story brick building in the Georgetown District. Wiring in a large, old fuse box had seriously overheated. The 8:33 P.M. emergency call to dispatchers was garbled and unintelligible due to major electrical interference, and Engine 27 was sent alone to investigate. On arrival the crew found fire had ignited inside the walls adjacent to the fuse box and called for help. Transformers exploded on power poles outside, igniting the poles and dropping wires. Electricity was cut off for a mile, Fire inside the walls ruptured ammonia lines, causing a severe leak throughout the neighborhood. Before a 5‑11 alarm response could bring the fire under control at 11:49 A.M. the next day, large parts of the north and center sections of the building had collapsed. Seven fire fighters suffered injuries or ammonia inhalation.

Posted by Bax | January 24, 2008 9:10 PM

Are those spaghetti noodles? enormous penis?

Posted by Christopher Frizzelle's Enormous Penis | January 24, 2008 9:16 PM

Wasn't there an article in the Times or PI about this building a few months back? It was actually interesting, in that it talked about how the whole reason the building was being torn down was because it was never properly insulated when it was built. So like people pointed out earlier in the comments, when the cold storage facility operated for decades, it essentially turned the ground beneath the building into permafrost. I want to say something like 30+ feet down was frozen. Then when it was shut off, the ice underneath began to melt, which caused the building to start to settle in all sorts of different directions.

I don't think anybody can blame the city for this building being knocked down -- it's more of an accident of history.

Posted by Bax | January 24, 2008 9:22 PM


Thanks for the post - I didn't remember that fire at the Rainier Cold Storage Building (which I will now call the RCSB).

The fire I was thinking of (and I think the original poster was, too - given the date he used and the fact that it was more destructive than the Rainier Cold Storage fire you cited) was the Sunny Jim building fire in 1997.

@30 - You underestimate the possible with regard to civil engineering. If the RCSB was in a historic district such as Ballard, Pioneer Square, or Chinatown (let alone if it was anywhere in Europe), you'd better believe that a second opinion would have been required and any number of architects would have attested to the fact that much more of the building could have been saved.

For a real-world local example, I offer the case of the Cadillac Hotel - formerly the Fenix Underground - which the initial set of for-profit developers said had to be torn down after the 2001 Nisqually Quake. Turns out that the building was eminently renovatable using historic tax credits, nonprofit donations, and FEMA funds, and has it since been restored and now is in active service. Go figure.

Sorry, Bax, but even Paul Schell would have at least made the effort to figure out what parts of the RCSB could have been saved. We all can and should blame the City for this - period.

(And though it's unprovable, I bet that there more than a few permit specialists at DPD and other City planners who are eating their guts out over this outcome in particular and the gutting of their professional oversight role in general).

If we want Seattle to look like Seattle and not like pretty much any Quizno's pretty much anywhere, we have to keep complaining about this stuff.

Heaven forbid - we might be forced to raise our voices and perhaps even be a smidge impolite.

Got pair?

Posted by Mr. X | January 25, 2008 2:50 AM

I'll have another tall, cool glass of WHO CARES, thanks.

Posted by wbrproductions | January 25, 2008 9:03 AM

@26: Bull-fucking-shit, Mr. X. Yes, it's sad that yet another cool looking building has been leveled in Seattle, but why don't you shut yer goddamn pie-hole when you *clearly* have not clue-fucking-one. (Is that impolite enough for you?)

Georgetown Brewing down the block looked into expanding into the space more than a year and a half ago. The independent engineering analysis they commissioned found *exactly* what everyone else has been saying. They're moving around the corner to the old sugar plant.

But, of course, they must be part of the grand conspiracy as well, you dumb fuck.

Posted by Mr. X Is A Stupid Fucker | January 25, 2008 9:49 AM


Gee, thanks for sharing. Your rant doesn't obviate my larger point by one iota, but I hope you feel better now.

The original owner of the Cadillac Hotel had their own analysis that said they'd have to shit-can that building, too. As in medicine, there is such a thing as a second opinion. And, unlike medicine, there are funding pools and tax credits for historic structures for those developers (and I'm guessing Georgetown Brewing was looking to be a tenant, not the owner/developer of the RCSB) who do not choose the easier path of demolition.

So blow me.

Posted by Mr. X | January 25, 2008 10:08 AM

@29 -- Thanks for the offer, Mr. X but I haven't had my rabies shot so I won't make you take it out of your own ass.

And, of course, you are a structural engineer who has actually reviewed the site so I guess everyone else can just shut the fuck up, right?

Posted by Mr. X Is A Stupid Fucker | January 25, 2008 10:41 AM

Also, let's not forget that this was signed off on by the same politically-motivated DPD that would have allowed an ILLEGAL parking garage at the Woodland Park Zoo.

@30 - I'm sure that the guys who wanted to knock down the Cadillac Hotel had a report from an engineer saying they had to do so, as well. I'd love to see a report commissioned by a party that didn't have a financial interest in demolishing the building.

BTW - most of the Stranger writers know who I am, and if you want to get as nasty in person as you do anonymously I'm sure that could be arranged.

Posted by Mr. X | January 25, 2008 10:47 AM

Is that a threat? So cute, Mr. Burly X...

Still chock full 'o shit, pally.

Posted by Mr. X Is A Stupid Big Macho Fucker | January 25, 2008 1:20 PM


Still anonymous and gutless. Surprise, surprise.

Here's another set of contradictory engineering studies to consider.

WSDOT (which decided back in 1995 to turn the Alaskan Way Viaduct into a toll tunnel) commissions a study by Parsons- Brinkerhoff (a likely bidder for any AWV work with a strong financial interest in the project) which says the AWV can't be retrofitted.

Victor Grey - retired former longtime head engineer of the WSDOT with no axe to grind and no financial interest at hand - says that it can.

Often times, the client gets the conclusion they pay for when a study (or poll, for that matter) is commissioned.

Oh, can you do better than "stupid fucker"? It's so third grade.

Posted by Mr. X | January 25, 2008 2:09 PM

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