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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Letter to the Editor of the Day: Georgetown Edition

posted by on June 29 at 16:56 PM

Dear Editor,

Living outside of town I get behind on progress in the city. This weekend while in Georgetown I was standing in front of the gaping hole that was the historic Rainier Brewery. A rendering of the building that will replace it is stapled to a sign board. With almost unbelievable temerity, and wrenching commercialism, the developers have named it “The Original Rainier Brewery.” The new building is utterly vapid. It has not one ounce of the original Rainier Brewery’s honesty or drama. Where we used to enjoy the irreplaceable, massive, old facade we will now be greeted by an example of the developer’s art.

A friend explained to me that the money to save the facade would be better spent on the new building. A passerby made admiring comments about the advertisement. I stood in shock, and remembered an earlier generation of preservationists, names now forgotten, who first recognized the Brewery’s historic status, and prevented its destruction decades ago. “What’s next?”, I thought, but I couldn’t think of another building of equal scale and merit that might face a similar end.

Hans Nelsen

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Posted by grumpypants | June 29, 2008 5:28 PM

I'll tell you what makes me stand in enormous whozeewhatsit!!!

Posted by Christopher Frizzelle's Enormous Whozeewhatsit | June 29, 2008 5:30 PM

By all means, let's retain all of Old Seattle's decaying abandoned buildings. They are much better for the city's future than housing and office spaces that would keep us off of the freeways and just might enable us to deploy a real transit system in this place. It would be terrible to actually have real progress. This city really is full of luddite morons.

Posted by pragmatic | June 29, 2008 5:42 PM

@3 - You're not from Seattle, are you?

Posted by Eric | June 29, 2008 6:17 PM

first off, if this guy is just noticing what's happening in georgetown, then his criticism seems a bit out of place. if you only get out to georgetown once every few months your complaints seem a bit hollow.

second, i believe this is the firm that is preserving most of the buildings, and trying to match the new structure to the surroundings. hardly the example to criticize.

Posted by a non | June 29, 2008 7:00 PM

Yeah, the old Brewery building actually couldn't be saved.. If Letter Writer Hans had bothered to Google the matter, he'd have found that the building's decades of functioning as cold storage formed a gigantic iceball underground, which melted when Rainier Cold Storage finally shut off the freezer a few years ago. This in turn destabilized the old brick building, and, sadly, necessitated its teardown.

It was a really sad day when the emergency destruction permit was issed by the city. Georgetown went through months of agonizing only to have the laws of physics get their way in the end.

Sorry, Hans, you'll have to make your point using some other torn-down landmark Seattle building (Ballard Denny's, maybe?)...

Posted by merry | June 29, 2008 7:57 PM

I know one historic landmark they can tear down right now: the parking garage at 2nd and Yesler. Now THAT will be progress!

Posted by ivan | June 29, 2008 8:11 PM

Grow the fuck up Hans....change is real and happening, especially in a growing vibrant city like Seattle--move to Butte, MT or Omaha if you wanna live in a place stuck in time, with a shit economy and nothing to fucking do. Im with you 3...

Posted by MadDog | June 29, 2008 9:16 PM

I love how every time someone laments the loss of a gorgeous old Seattle building this chorus of "change is happening" douchebags shows up to shout them down.

Of course change is coming, you fucking twats. Tell us something we don't know. But "change" doesn't excuse the ugly, badly-designed shit that has been being built all over Seattle for the last 10 years. Consider the example of the condos on Belmont and Lakeview; they went in 10 years ago, replacing an abandoned single story 1950s office building. Yay. Unfortunately the new condos were so badly built that the entire exterior had to be stripped and rebuilt 6 years after the units went up. The process took the better part of 18 months, and cost the owners hundreds of thousands of dollars each. That's not change, it's a travesty, and it's a travesty that could have been prevented by reasonable local building codes.

Or take a look at the Bellagio on Bellevue. It replaced a broken-down late-Victorian craftsman and a single-story 1920s office building. Again, good news. But look at the building: aesthetically it's a fucking disaster. And the cheap ceramic tiles they built the exterior out of are not designed to survive Seattle weather, nor are they going to be easy to replace over the long haul when they break -- which those kinds of tiles are notorious for doing. So basically we've got an appalling new building that's going to look like a slum in 10 years. It'll cost as much to recondition it as it did to build it and, in 10 years, the residents of the ugly fucking thing probably won't have the real estate equity to invest in a remodel.

I'd love to see underutilized properties around the city torn down and replaced with new high-density mixed use housing and retail. And if some of those buildings are aesthetically pleasing, I'm prepared to deal with that. But the buildings that replace them need to be built in such a way that they are attractive now, and will continue to be attractive into the foreseeable future. The vast majority of the new construction around the city does not fit those criteria -- and the Rainier Cold Storage building did, so it's sad to see it get knocked down and replaced with more ugly fucking modern architecture designed by some carpetbagging development firm from LA.

Posted by Judah | June 29, 2008 10:00 PM

It was an important historic property, and Hans is absolutely right. I squabble with Judah on occasion, but I couldn't say it better than he did.

And MadDog, have you ever been to the nowhere little dumps like London, Paris, New York, Chicago - they have lots and lots of old buildings like the Rainier Cold Storage Building that they renovate and keep functioning, so spare me your sanctimonious BS about how we have to tear every last significant remaining piece of Seattle history (and if the Rainier Building wash't WTF is?) down in the name of progress.

Posted by Mr. X | June 29, 2008 11:00 PM

I say FUCK OLD SEATTLE!! Lets carpet bomb Pioneer Square! Those are old worthless buildings. And anything built before 1995 has to be destroyed!

Progress or DEATH!!!

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | June 30, 2008 8:12 AM

Came through town two weeks ago and COULDN'T BELIEVE they had torn the Cold Storage down. That could have been renovated into the coolest historic condos ever, if that's what they had to do. (I think the 'Original Rainier Brewery' has people thinking on here Hans is talking about the Tullyized brewery most of us knew, with the big R, which he's not.) Chicago has buildings like that - thick-porticoed, Gothic, industrial - out the wazoo, but Seattle has very, very few. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Posted by Grant Cogswell | June 30, 2008 10:09 AM

Ah, if only the fabled Non-profit Builder's Association would build all these wonderful-looking, well-built mixed-used developments at a price that the market would bear...

Why is it I can never find their number in the phone book?

Posted by Tiktok | June 30, 2008 11:11 AM


Developers will always go for the highest profit possible. That's why it is the responsibility of local government to have building codes in place that force developers to meet certain standards of aesthetics and structural quality. Those codes don't mean developers don't make a profit -- they simply reduce the size of the profit in favor of protecting the long-term interests of the region. Developers will still do the work. A small paycheck is better than no paycheck at all. Many other cities with less population growth than Seattle have stricter land use codes (Portland, Chicago, San Francisco) and still have plenty of development.

In conclusion, you're a moron. Thank you for your input.

Posted by Judah | June 30, 2008 2:10 PM

What the hell... Um, underground iceball, anyone? Massive destabilization of giant, scarily-leaning brick wall? City-issued emergency teardown permit?? Hello, hello... Is this thing on?!!??

Yes, it was a MAJOR fuckin bummer when the building went down. But the issue with this one particular building was that it could NOT be saved -- believe me, they tried every which way to save it, and it was just not feasible. You can certainly have your issues with what's going to go in there (I believe we're on the second round of design - the Georgetown community has been very vocal and influential in the design process), but the demise of the original Rainier Brewery, sadly, was already a foregone conclusion long before Sabey bought the property.

Posted by merry | June 30, 2008 2:22 PM

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