Housing advocate: Developers are diluting Seattle’s character

Sep 3, 2015, 11:30 AM | Updated: Sep 6, 2015, 3:08 pm
Should the City of Seattle keep a developer from demolishing a building in Pioneer Square because i...
Should the City of Seattle keep a developer from demolishing a building in Pioneer Square because it is in the historic neighborhood? (City of Seattle)
(City of Seattle)

A housing advocacy group is fighting a developer’s plan to replace one of Pioneer Square’s historic buildings with an upscale apartment.

Losing the building at 316 Alaskan Way South would be detrimental to the aesthetics of the historic neighborhood, Save Our Square’s Greg Aden told KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz.

“I think we’re saying morally criminal,” Aden explained. “This really hits me deep. It hits me in the heart.”

The plan by Gerding Edlen is to demolish the existing building and build an 11-story apartment building with a waterfront view. Plans call for 199 units within 156,963 square feet of residential space, according to city documents. There would be 5,023 square feet of retail space and 26,769 of additional parking space.

The design was rejected by the Pioneer Square Preservation Board, according to Save Our Square. However, it was approved by the Department of Neighborhoods.

Aden argues there are other areas of the city that a developer can build and there is no need to destroy a piece of the city’s history. There are eight historic neighborhoods in Seattle, why infringe on its history? Aden asked.

“With every new building, you are diluting the historic character of the neighborhood,” he added.

It’s all how you perceive history, Rantz countered. Years from now, someone will be in South Lake Union and could consider that historic.

Aden understands that: Our past becomes history. However, buildings provide a narrative, he said.

“Why do we want to put an ink blot there?” he asked. Why can’t 12 blocks be safe from new development?

Well, for one thing Seattle is growing at a furious pace, Rantz said. How is the city supposed to provide housing if developers can’t build where they want?

Though he doesn’t want to see high-rise apartment buildings, Aden said adding affordable housing to Pioneer Square would be reasonable.

But is this argument too nostalgic? How does it impact Seattle residents?

“It does impact you,” Aden told Rantz. “You love Seattle, this is your history … I don’t see someone going into the Seattle Art Museum and saying, ‘Let’s sell off the collection.’

“We need to appreciate what we have in the city. Perhaps we should give some room to things that could never be replaced.”

The development in Pioneer Square is just one of many proposed in the city. Head over to South Lake Union and you’ll see apartments, office space and restaurants popping up everywhere. In fact, seven new restaurants will open on Ninth Avenue North alone, the Puget Sound Business Journal reports. That includes: Eltana Wood-Fire Bagel Cafe opening in September; Hurry Curry in December; Ethan Stowell’s third Ballard Pizza Company restaurant in 2016 in the Amazon Phase VI building &#8212 that same building will house three other restaurants. Finally, Sam’s Tavern will open another location at the corner of Ninth and Harrison Street.

All this is part of a development boom in Seattle that hasn’t been seen since at least 2005. In the first half of 2015, 20 projects broke ground and 24 more were be completed. There are 36 projects expected to be finished by the end of the year.

So, with all these projects going up all over Seattle, is the city in the wrong for allowing a new apartment building in Pioneer Square?

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
  • listen to jason rantzTune in to AM 770 KTTH weekdays at 3-6pm toThe Jason Rantz Show.

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Housing advocate: Developers are diluting Seattle’s character