Amid all the continuing flap about historic Seattle buildings threatened with doom, there’s one building a lot of people here would like to get rid of, as soon as possible.
It’s a lovely building for what it is. It’s perhaps the architectural ideal of its type of structure.
It’s just in the way of something a lot of people want.
It’s a long, low, large, rustic, wooden industrial building, with an arced roof and bare support beams. A delightfully rundown-looking front office emits that vital “we don’t waste our customers’ money” look.
It’s called United Warehouses. (Not to be confused with the old United Furniture Warehouse, of once-ubiquitous musical TV commercials.)
Since its opening in 1954, the structure has provided short- and long-term storage for the makers and distributors of all sorts of stuff. In recent decades, United Warehouses’ CEO Tom Herche has expanded the operation into six facilities throughout the Northwest region, plus trucking and freight-forwarding services.
The place has a new landlord. And as you might have heard, he’s got big plans for the property. Storing supplies of gardening tools and energy drinks isn’t among them.
Christopher Hansen, a local boy who made good (if you call hedge funds a “good” thing), acquired it and a couple of adjacent parcels, as a site for the big new basketball and hockey arena he wants to build.
As Hansen proved at the fan rally he staged on June 14, he’s got a lot of support among the local populace. There were thousands of never-give-up lifelong Sonics fans, who’d just love to again shout such old team slogans as “Not In Our House!” Hockey fans too, who’ve supported minor league teams and now want the NHL here.
The warehouse building stays put and in use until the arena’s ready to go up, which Hansen insists won’t be until at least one of those teams is a sure thing.
A moved NBA basketball franchise would probably be the first to arrive, because any “new Sonics” could hold court temporarily at KeyArena. That place is still a perfectly fine place for basketball (except to the league’s moneybags), but lousy for hockey.
Even then, the soonest you’ll get to see a game at the ___ Arena (Hansen will undoubtedly sell the naming rights) will be 2017.
Heck, the building hasn’t even been designed yet. I personally hope the new complex incorporates a gently arced roof design as a nod to what came before it.
And the city and county councils want their say on a complex plan to kick in $200 million in bonds to pay part of the arena’s construction, with the funds to be paid back by tax revenue the arena will generate. So far, City Councilmember Richard Conlin appears to be the most hard-to-convince, but this situation fluctuates nearly daily.
Then there’s the little matter of neighborhood traffic, as publicly moaned about by the Port of Seattle and others.
This has to be fixed anyway, as is known to anyone who’s tried to get to downtown from the south end on a Mariners game day. In that regard the arena plan is an opportunity, not a problem. And it’s best to plan and execute that road revamping in the immediate future, during or just after the viaduct replacement mess.
There’s another aspect to all this maneuvering. While it hasn’t been publicized much, the community has already benefitted from Hansen’s dealmaking.
Tom Herche’s privately-held company got nearly $22 million for the United Warehouses property. The proceeds will, in part, help Herche and his wife Mary maintain their lifelong personal commitments to local causes.
The Herches are major supporters of Childhaven, the Healing Center (a grief support community), Rebuilding Together Seattle (providing home repair for low-income homeowners), the National MS Society’s regional chapter, and the Rotary Boys & Girls Club (they host a fundraising picnic for it at the warehouse every August).
Whether or not any puck ever drops or any free throw ever rises at the United Warehouses site, Seattle has already come out a winner.
(Cross-posted with City Living.)