MISCmedia MAIL for 10/9/15
Oct 9th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

Our weekend bulletin has the usual cornucopia of activity listings, plus: Remembering raconteur and alt-culture bon vivant Dennis Eichhorn; Amazon quietly opens real-world stores; what Seattle’s pre-WWII streetcars were really like; the hold where the Public Safety Building had been will finally be filled.

Oct 8th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

ex bill's off bway construx

In December 2013, I wrote in this space about Bill’s Off Broadway, the legendary Capitol Hill pizza joint and bar.

It had just closed earlier that month. Its building at Harvard and East Pine was going to be replaced by a fancy new mixed-use development.

Now, Bill’s is back.

It’s got the same owners, much of the same staff, and the same menus.

It’s got the same interior color scheme.

It’s at the same corner.

But it’s not the same place; and it’s not in the same space.

Only the street-facing outer brick walls remain from the old building. Everything else, including the Bill’s interior, is all-new. Above the brick front, modern steel and glass construction rises six stories up.

exterior 1b

This sort of thing is going on all over Pike, Pine, and Union streets on Capitol Hill. Everything from printing plants to luxury-car dealerships has been removed except for the skins. A few blocks away, even the beloved Harvard Exit Theater is being razed-and-rebuilt like this.

It’s going on all over South Lake Union. The massive Troy Laundry building has already been hollowed out. The former Seattle Times building, its interior recently defaced by squatters, will probably also vanish except for its art-deco frontage.

In these and other places around town, you can see forlorn exterior walls of brick and terra cotta, artificially braced up, standing in front of nothing but construction holes.

In the frontier towns of the Old West (including pioneer Seattle), main streets were full of “false front” architecture. Grand, pompous storefronts stood proudly as signs of civic ambition, drawing people into the little one- or two-story stick structures hiding behind them.

Today’s “façadism” (yes, that’s a term some people use for this phenomenon) attempts an opposite aesthetic goal.

It seeks to mask the harsh, brutal, hyper-efficient modernity of a structure by offering a make-believe connection to the funky old building it replaced. Long-time residents can drive past it and imagine that the historic old building is still there, as long as they don’t look too closely.

But that’s about all it does.

It doesn’t preserve the spaces within, or their diverse uses.

Eugenia Woo, a local historic-preservation advocate and current director of preservation for Historic Seattle, writes about “What Price Façadism?” in the latest issue of Arcade, the local architectural/design journal.

Woo decries the practice, as an aesthetic travesty that fails to preserve the old buildings’ “authenticity”:

Stripped of everything but its facade, a building loses its integrity and significance, rendering it an architectural ornament with no relation to its history, function, use, construction method or cultural heritage. With only its primary facades saved, the original structure is gone, including the roof, interior features and volume of space.… Further, the scale and massing of the new building change the rhythm and feel of a block and neighborhood.”

Crosscut.com’s Knute Berger recently noted that property owners have sometimes manipulated the façades they’re supposedly preserving.

Berger writes that preservation advocates “have accused developers of damaging the historic integrity of building exteriors to ensure their building won’t be made a landmark, yet preserving the building’s skin as a ploy to win approval for more height for a new project. In other words, façade protections could actually be undercutting true preservation.”

Berger also notes that, at least in the Pike/Pine Corridor, current regulations have the effect of encouraging façadism instead of true preservation: “If an old building’s exterior is deemed to have architectural and contextual character, a developer can get additional height for a new structure in exchange for saving the façade. In other words, extra density and square-footage is dangled as an incentive to save an original exterior.”

The current tech-office boom, a legacy of city officials promoting urban development at almost any price (except in “single family” zones), and popular trends that see urban life as more attractive than suburban life have combined to create a “perfect storm” of development fever. This has put pressure on  the continued existence of old commercial and industrial buildings, throughout Seattle.

Growth, say pro-development “urbanists,” is inevitable.

But façadism needn’t be.

There are other ways to keep Seattle’s built history alive, while accommodating new residents and new uses.

Instead of false façades, Woo would rather see a form of “smart planning” that either preserves historic buildings whole or replaces them whole with “new projects that are well designed, perhaps the landmarks of tomorrow, cohesively knitted into the streetscape.”

ex bauhaus facadism

(Cross-posted with City Living Seattle.)

MISCMedia MAIL for 10/8/15
Oct 8th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

In your Thursday news-oids: The Lava Lounge is saved! (and just perhaps Shorty’s too); the Decibel Fest boss decamps for LA; saving orcas by destroying dams; the cost of Bertha’s bustedness.
MISCmedia MAIL for 10/7/15
Oct 6th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

Our midweek missive discusses the end of buses in the “bus tunnel”; the return of underwater mortgages (hint: they’d never really gone away); Rihanna’s defense of Rachel Dolezal; and beautiful deer endangered by gnats.

MISCmedia MAIL for 10/6/15
Oct 5th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

Tuesday at your highly esteemed MISCmedia MAIL: An “ugly win” is still a win; a hedge fund may take over struggling American Apparel; UW researchers want to learn what really went down in El Salvador; is Seattle’s latest housing boom really just another bubble?
MISCmedia MAIL for 10/5/15
Oct 5th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

The cutest three-legged raccoon you’ll ever see tops Monday’s e-missive. Also: More about the Oregon shooter; a defense of the Aurora Bridge; wondering if another tech bubble’s a-building; and the Mariner season sputters to a quiet close.

MISCmedia MAIL for 10/2/15
Oct 1st, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

Oh God, more of this homicidal insanity. In lighter aspects of the Friday newsletter: The obvious choice for (gluten-free) art on the Interbay grain elevators; Congress quietly kills another highly beneficial program; are Mercer Islanders really THAT full of themselves?; a beloved burger chain comes to town (no, not the one I still want); and many many weekend activity choices.

MISCmedia MAIL FOR 10/1/15
Oct 1st, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

Another new month, another new day, another new MISCmedia MAIL. In it: Squatting “Fairview Fanny;” the end of “apodments;” how the teachers’ union won big; how two legislators almost gave a great trail to private landowners.
MISCmedia MAIL FOR 9/30/15
Sep 30th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

In our month-ending missive: More bridge-crash aftermath; whither the Decibel Festival?; smashing a Chihuly (apparently not as a performance-art statement).

MISCmedia MAIL for 9/29/15
Sep 29th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

In Tuesday’s MISCmedia MAIL: The big city budget campaign begins; Amazon in the Motor City; a song for the bus-crash victims; could eastern Washington become western Idaho?

MISCmedia MAIL for 9/28/15
Sep 27th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

The tragedy on the bridge persists in many of our thoughts. Also in Monday’s newsletter: Shell may leave the Arctic; KeyArena still might get “renovated;” there was a moon out.

MISCmedia MAIL for 9/24/15
Sep 23rd, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

In MISCmedia MAIL for Thurs.: More big China pronouncements; (non-Vulcan) mind melding; could Western State have to close?; stuff Yogi Berra probably didn’t say.
MISCmedia MAIL for 9/23/15
Sep 22nd, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

In your Wednesday e-missive: Does Seattle really need a 101-story building? Do we have to ignore China’s authoritarianism just because it’s “good for business”? Will the First Hill Streetcar ever run?
MISCmedia MAIL for 9/22/15
Sep 21st, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

A big news day at MISCmedia MAIL: Pro-choice protests take over social media; Tim Eyman formally accused of being a cheat; private-jail pickets; the City Council’s toned-down rent control resolution; and all the Xi in China.
MISCmedia MAIL for 9/17/15
Sep 16th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

Thursday in your Trump-free MISCmedia MAIL: Fixing ed-funding at last; historic bus depot razed; MS sued for gender bias; even the rich would rather rent.
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