Historic First Hill church sells 'air rights'

KING 5's Chris Daniels reports.

Over the past 125 years, much of Seattle has changed.  The corner of 8th and James has not.

“This building was built in 1892,” says Reverend Jeffrey Gill, as he walks past a wall of old photos in the Trinity Parish Episcopal Church. He mentions another, pointing at a photo: “(It) burned in the great fire.” 

It’s part of the spectacular history, spanning decades.  The neo-gothic structure suffered major damage in the 2001 Nisqually earthquake too.

Gill says he and his parishioners realized there were dark days potentially ahead.  The First Hill neighborhood was growing, with new developments underway.  His congregation looked around and saw its half block of holdings, which included separate structures for a rectory and food bank, were in disrepair.  There was a major, likely seismically caused crack in the foundation of the rectory.  Gill says the estimate was that it would take “millions and millions of dollars to mitigate."

That’s when the congregation hired a consultant and looked to the heavens for help.

“What if we sold the air rights?” says Gill.

That’s right. The congregation decided to sell the air, up there.

Trinity worked out a deal with an Australian developer to tear down three of its buildings and construct a 30-story tower.  Trinity will still own the ground and get three floors of the new tower.  Condos will take up the rest.  Financial details were not released. 

The deal will essentially move the existing Trinity offices and partner non-profits into the high rise space. The tower will also be configured in a way so that natural sunlight is unobstructed for the gothic cathedral that has stood on the corner for 125 years.

“The sun is still going to shine through,” says Gill with a smile.

Australian-based Caydon hopes to have city approval on the design framework by 2018 or 2019 and begin construction soon after that.  Northwest Harvest, which has run the Cherry Hill Food Bank for years, says it is unclear yet where they will relocate.

© 2017 KING-TV


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