A tale of two landmarks

You may have heard this before. An old building gets bought by a developer. The building is torn down and in its place rises a bland, generic townhouse that eliminates a building that helped give a neighborhood its character and adds nothing of aesthetic value in return.

Safe to say this has happened all over Capitol Hill. But instead of writing to condemn another such project, I'm here to praise two developers.

If you've driven along 225 14th Avenue East, you may have noticed the old, antebellum house with the two city-protected trees close to the street. A rental property, it was bought earlier this year by The Dwelling Company, which planned to develop a high-end residential project. I wrote an article in April about efforts to save the large sugar maple trees, but at the time there seemed little hope that the house itself would be saved.

But Paul Slane, who lives nearby, spearheaded efforts to have the building approved as a Seattle landmark. He made an application to the city's Landmark Preservation Board in September and the board approved the nomination. In November, with The Dwelling Company's support, landmark status was granted. The board found that the project fit three of the six criteria (only one is needed). The board determined that the building was an outstanding work of its designer, embodied distinctive and visible characteristics of an architectural style and was an easily identifiable visual feature of the neighborhood.

No doubt the great amount of community support lent weight to the application. A plan will now be developed between The Dwelling Company, Historic Seattle and the Landmark Board's Architectural Review Committee to preserve the building. The interior may undergo substantial changes, but the landmark approval should keep the building where it belongs.

Kudos to Paul Slane for leading the charge.

On the other side of the Hill, one block west of Broadway at 803 E. Denny Way, an altogether different project is ready for its close-up. You may recall the old, yellow house on the corner of East Denny Way and Harvard Avenue East. More than four years ago the Burns family, which had owned it for 33 years, needed to sell it. And beyond its role as an unofficial landmark - it's distinctive, wraparound porch tended to stick in people's memory - the building was built in 1905 by Alexander Pantages, the noted theater owner.

Heather Burns, speaking for the family in 2001, told me, "We simply want to save the house. But finding someone to take it away hasn't been easy. We found out just how much is involved in moving it."

Enter Capitol Hill Housing (formerly known as the Capitol Hill Housing Improvement Program, or CHHIP). In 2002, the house, and the building adjacent to it, were purchased by the organization. Capitol Hill Housing is the highly regarded provider of low-income housing on the Hill, responsible for numerous notable projects and providing more than 1,000 units of affordable housing.

CHHIP set out to save the Pantages House as well as develop much-needed affordable housing. The house was granted landmark status in 2004. After a great deal of work, the renovated building will contain four apartments, a meeting room and a sitting room that overlooks the signature front porch.

Next to the Pantages house, a newly-built structure contains 45 units of affordable housing, many of which are two- and three-bedroom apartments much desired by families. To say this is a win-win is something of an understatement.

On Thursday, Dec. 15, Capitol Hill Housing will hold an open house for the new Pantages Apartments. More than just a ribbon cutting, the event will feature tours, refreshments and live entertainment. (I have it on good authority from someone who works at CHHIP that the entertainment will be great. "This isn't going to be your average ribbon cutting," she enthused.)

The open house begins at 5:30 p.m., with the official program starting at 6:15 p.m. and all are welcome.

This is hardly the first time, but here's a garland of kudos to CHHIP as well.

Doug Schwartz is the editor of the Capitol Hill Times. He can be reached at editor@capitolhilltimes.com or 461-1308.

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