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Friday, October 24, 2008

Destroying History on Second Avenue

posted by on October 24 at 15:50 PM

We have more details on the MJA Building, a 1914 building on Second Avenue and Stewart Street that crews stripped of its terra cotta trim yesterday. It was defaced to erase the building’s historic status, tenants and neighbors say, thus potentially allowing the site to be developed into a tower.


The building was nominated for historic landmark status in 2004 but failed to achieve the designation after nearly half the Landmark Preservation Board missed the meeting, the Department of Neighborhoods reports. Seven votes from the 12-person board are required to designate a landmark. But only seven of the members attended, says Sarah Sodt, coordinator of the Landmarks Preservation Board. Five voted in favor of declaring it a landmark and two opposed.

Although the five absent members of the board may have also dissented against declaring the building a landmark, if they had attended the meeting and two of them voted for it, the MJA Building would have won landmark status in 2004. But Sodt says there is no requirement for the Landmark Preservation Board members to attend the meetings.

Five years are required between each landmark nomination. “When next April rolls around, someone could again nominate it,” says Sodt. “But they slipped under that five-year timeframe.” Now, the owners have removed terra cotta—the very feature that qualified it for landmark nomination the first place.

The current owners, Iowa-based Principal Global Investors Limited, purchased the building in March 2007. The company had no comment today about why it was removing the terra cotta frieze work and trim (a spokesman did promise to call back next week). But a spokesman for Collins Woerman, a local developer, said the company was hired one or two years ago to study plans for a 20-story office building on the site.

I’ll update when I hear more from the owner, and from the Department of Neighborhoods—are they doing to do anything to prevent this from happening again, like require the Landmark board to actually show up at meetings?

RSS icon Comments


get on with your little lives already!

Posted by blah blah blah | October 24, 2008 4:01 PM

BOOOO, Collins Woerman! BOOOOO! no doubt you gave them the idea. architecture hoes.

Posted by max solomon | October 24, 2008 4:13 PM


I care. Maybe you should change the channel.

Posted by elenchos | October 24, 2008 4:13 PM

Thanks for looking into this, Dominic. I am really disgusted and saddened by this defacement.

I would be in favor of having some of the graffiti removal budget be allocated to the building protection fund.

Posted by MEC | October 24, 2008 4:20 PM

Remember, the Alhadeff family still owned it in 2004. When Ken Alhadeff started marketing this building to national developers in 2006, he made a point of publicly highlighting that this particular building Find out if he slipped some cash to the Landmarks Board members who skipped that 2004 hearing. Follow the money.

Posted by halholbrook | October 24, 2008 4:23 PM

I'm ambivalent about whether this should be a landmark -- I've gone to Darte for coffee several times just because I like the building so much, but I like increased density too. The issue is that it's obvious the owners and architects are slithering past the preservation process once they won the lottery when 5 landmark preservation board members couldn't find a babysitter.

Principal Global Investors Limited: SLEAZY
Collins Woerman Architects: SLEAZY
Landmark Preservation Board: DO YOUR JOBS

Posted by jrrrl | October 24, 2008 4:36 PM

You would think you could get a waiver for the 5 year wait considering they couldn't get enough of the board to show up.

Posted by Mike in Renton | October 24, 2008 4:46 PM

There's a great shot of Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix coming down Second on a motorbike in 'My Own Private Idaho' taken from the roof of that building.

Posted by Grant Cogswell | October 24, 2008 5:14 PM

There are some days when I really fuckin Hate SeeAddle.

Posted by merry | October 24, 2008 6:14 PM

How about a list of the 2004 board members?

Posted by Timothy Hicks | October 24, 2008 6:38 PM

Yeah, especially the absent ones.

This is a travesty. These people are venal.

Posted by TVDinner | October 24, 2008 8:02 PM



It's a very very short building in an area zoned for very tall buildings.


Save the facade and replace it.

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 24, 2008 8:22 PM

Will, you're the only clear thinker in this crowd. The fact is,you are the only one qualified to glue all the shards back together. Thank you for doing this for us, my good man. Godspeed!

Posted by elenchos | October 24, 2008 9:04 PM

This just makes me sad.

Here's what's going to happen next. This stripped building, or a vacant lot, will sit there for years because new construction has screeched to a halt.

Then they'll dig a big hole, and that pit will sit there for years, collecting blown litter or drug addicts.

Then a tickytacky concrete-panel eyesore will go up in its place. It'll look generic but almost adequate for about 8 years, until all the panels will be stained and streaked and start chipping off.

Hope you're happy.

Posted by Christ All Friday | October 25, 2008 1:18 PM

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