Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck
Councilmember Jean Godden
CITY MOVES TO PRESERVE DOWNTOWN’S HISTORIC CHARACTER
Largest landmark preservation effort since saving of Pike Place Market
SEATTLE — Over the next year, the City of Seattle may designate as many as 38 buildings in the downtown area as historic landmarks. These buildings include such Seattle icons as the funky 1960’s Cinerama Theater in Belltown, the turn-of-the century wooden wharves on the central waterfront, and the ornate 100-year-old Central Building on Third Avenue at Columbia. The roster of potential landmarks is the result of an exhaustive survey of downtown buildings conducted by the Department of Neighborhoods over the past year.
“The rapid rise of new high-rises in downtown Seattle should not mean the destruction of our older historic buildings,” said Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck, Chair of the Urban Planning and Development Committee. “As downtown Seattle grows, we cannot erase our past.”
Councilmember Jean Godden said, “Seattle needs its past—it’s what binds us together, what makes us distinctive, and what keeps us from becoming just another megalopolis.”
In 2006, the Council adopted a Downtown Livability Plan and approved new land-use code changes that allowed significantly larger and taller buildings in most areas of downtown. As a result of these changes, older buildings and potential landmarks are at risk of demolition to make way for “higher and better” uses. In order to offset this pressure and protect cherished landmarks, the Council funded a $200,000 survey of the central waterfront, downtown, Belltown, and Denny Triangle to determine what structures might be appropriate for official landmark status. Drawing from a list of nearly 100 older buildings, 38 were determined to possess the historic qualities and attributes necessary for nomination as landmarks.
Christine Palmer, Preservation Advocate for Historic Seattle, expressed her gratitude that a definitive survey and inventory of the downtown area has been accomplished to identify and designate all the historically significant buildings. “This effort will remove uncertainty from those properties that are found to lack historic or architectural significance and are not eligible for a designation, but will extend protection to those that qualify as a landmark”, she said.
Often older buildings are nominated at the eleventh hour when a demolition is imminent. By designating these buildings the city is taking proactive steps to preserve cultural heritage. The City sent notices to property owners of the buildings that may receive landmark designation and will work proactively to assist them in the landmark process.
Councilmember Steinbrueck said, “This is the largest preservation effort undertaken in Seattle since the Pike Place Market was saved.”