The Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board voted Wednesday to make KeyArena site and the nearby Bressi Garage as landmarks.
It's potentially a positive ruling for the Oak View Group and the City of Seattle as they try to negotiate a Memorandum of Understanding on a new Arena at Seattle Center. Oak View's formal proposal called for $50 million in historic tax credits, which would potentially be applicable by way of the historic designation. The KeyArena designation was widely expected.
But, the Bressi Garage designation is also potentially a victory for longtime tenant Pottery Northwest and provides a previously unpredicted wrinkle in the KeyArena redevelopment design. It came after a lengthy meeting of the board at Seattle City Hall.
The original Oak View Group proposal has called for tearing down the Bressi Garage, which was built in 1923, for use as a staging area and potential future office space, as well as an entry point for a subterranean tunnel to a loading dock on the south end of the new facility. The City's Economic Development office offered it up in the original request for proposals for renovation of KeyArena.
However, the 11-member Preservation Board felt, after a tour Monday, that the building has an important place in Seattle history. It voted to preserve the walls of the brick building, interior trusses, and deck. Board members argued that it deserved designation because it "it is associated in a significant way with a significant aspect of the cultural, political or economic heritage of the community, city, state, or nation" and "it embodies the distinctive visible characteristics of an architectural style, or period, or a method of construction."
Historic Preservation does not necessarily rule out renovation, but the designation triggers a "controls and incentives" phase of development. Erin Doherty, who is the coordinator the Landmarks Board, said after the meeting that the Bressi ruling triggers a wide variety of possibilities, but the design and how the building is treated within it, will be a factor. The designation could also trigger a negotiation or settlement with Pottery Northwest or potentially a new plan for the tunnel and staging area. It may also make the city eligible for further historic tax credits. On Monday, OVG Chair Tim Leiweke, Director of Special Project Lance Lopes, and potential NHL investor David Bonderman were all seen at City Hall meeting with council members.
As the city's website explains: "If the Board designates a property, a Controls and Incentives Agreement for the landmark is negotiated by the Board staff with the property owner. Once an agreement is reached and signed, it is forwarded to the Landmarks Preservation Board for approval at a public meeting. Controls define those features of the landmark to be preserved and outline the Certificate of Approval process for changes to those features. Incentives may include, but are not limited to, zoning variances, building code exceptions, and financial incentives."
James Lobb, the executive director of Pottery Northwest, noted that the non-profit organization has been in the building for 45 years, pointing to their logo.
"If you look at our logo right here, this is the facade of our building, very much part of our identity."
Lobb says 1,500 artists a year use the facility, and it hosts classes on a daily basis. He pointed out that it would be hard to replace the kilns, but on the prospect of redevelopment, "(It) would be a bit of a hassle to pick up and move - if that happens - we can come out of that situation better than we are, I'm open to that."
Lobb said he was most concerned with what happens next. "What I'm striving for is that my organization survives."
The board declined to designate the NASA Pavilion and Blue Spruce apartment buildings, both of which are on the Seattle Center campus, were part of the 1962 World’s Fair, and are in the KeyArena redevelopment zone.
As the City of Seattle's website explains, "In order to be designated, the building, object, or site must be at least 25 years old and must meet at least one of the six criteria for designation outlined in the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Ordinance."
The Council's select committee on Civic Arenas is scheduled to review the status of the KeyArena proposal on August 14th.