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REQUIEM FOR AN APARTMENT
December 23rd, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

In early October, crews began tossing abandoned personal belongings out of the former Palladian Apartments at Second and Virginia, across from the Moore Theatre/Hotel.

Everything that the building’s former tenants chose not to take with them, along with all of the building’s interior walls and fixtures, was originally sent down the building’s not-always-reliable single elevator, then later by chutes attached on the building’s south side. It all got tossed into truck-sized Dumpsters parked outside.

Among the toss-outs: CRT TV sets. Cheap Ikea shelving. Old clothes in varying degrees of rattiness. Pots and pans. The detrius of more than 60 human lives, detrius left behind and destined for either recycling or dumping.

In 1909-10 (shortly after the the Moore, and a little late for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition tourist business), attorney/businessman Scott Calhoun built the Calhoun Hotel for $175,000. Its block had recently been lowered as part of the massive Denny Regrade project. (The intersection of Second and Virginia is the highest remaining point in what had been the Denny Hill neighborhood.)

Like the nearby Moore, Commodore, St. Regis, and New Washington hotels (the latter two are now nonprofit housing), the Calhoun was the product of a frontier city trying to prove it had come of age.

Its facade incorporated elements of Art Nouveau and Beaux Arts architecture.

Its 152 guest rooms were small by modern standards, but its lobby, mezzanine, and dining room were posh.

There was even a “rathskeller” beer tavern in the basement (which became a Prohibition-era “speakeasy”).

Over the decades, the Calhoun (like its neighbor hotels) got steadily less posh. It essentially became a single-room occupancy residence.

Developers turned it into the Palladian (after a style of window dressing on its exterior) in 1984. The lobby was walled off into two storefront spaces, a building office, and an alcove/mailroom for the residents upstairs.

The storefronts first housed a bookstore and coffeehouse. Later tenants included the Poor Italian Restaurant and Corner Bar; then the Buenos Aires Grill and the Whisky Bar.

The upstairs contained 69 apartments (all studios and 1-brs; some with Space Needle views) and an art studio. It was affordable housing without public subsidies, except a city tax credit for preserving existing affordable housing stock.

However, there were hidden costs within those relatively low rents. The units and hallways were bland looking. Stairwells were poorly maintained. The elevator often stalled.

And it had noise issues, particularly the units that faced the alley entrance to a men’s homeless shelter. This alley became a 24-hour hangout for street people, including drug dealers and users.

In 2011, the city granted historic-landmark designation to the building and its exterior.

The following year, the Buenos Aires Grill’s owners signed a lease on the Whisky Bar’s space. The Whisky Bar’s owners took out all the furnishings and fixtures, which the Buenos Aires people almost completely duplicated to create the new Corner Bar. (A new Whisky Bar moved one block up the street, opening in October 2012.)

Then this past March, notices appeared in the mailroom and the ground-floor office door, asking tenants to personally meet with landlord David Cohanim. They learned that Cohanim, whose family had owned the building for more than a decade, was turning it into a boutique hotel.

City relocation assistance checks arrived in mid-May. Even before that, residents had begun to seek new homes, pack up, and move out. They scattered to places near and far—to commercial and non-profit apartments, to senior buildings, to rooms in relatives’ homes.

The Buenos Aires and the Corner Bar closed by the end of May.

The last resident officially moved out of the Palladian on Aug. 17.

Once the residents’ abandoned trash is removed, workers will take out the appliances, plumbing fixtures, cabinetry, and anything else that can be sold or recycled.

Then, the building’s roof will be knocked open. A crane will drop a small bulldozer onto the top floor. With that machine, crews will knock out the entire interior of each floor, top to bottom; flooring, wiring, and all.

It will take at least a year for what’s tentatively being called the new Calhoun Hotel to open. (Its operation may be contracted out to an established management company, which may want to stick its own name onto the place.)

The last Palladian residents will each get one free night in the hotel.

(Cross-posted with City Living Seattle.)


One Response  
  • Art Marriott AKA "ArtFart" writes:
    December 24th, 20134:08 pmat

    I worked in Belltown in the late 1990’s and would walk past the Corner Bar/Poor Italian on my way to and from the bus. During one Christmas season we took the kids downtown to get their pictures taken with Santa at Fredrick & Nelson (as I recall not long before David Sabey’s revival effort collapsed) do a little shopping and admire all the lights and decorations. We all got hungry and every eatery close to the big stores seemed to have a line, so we walked over and tried the Poor Italian. As it turned out, the prices were more geared to patrons who were not at all poor, but the food and service were in fact quite good. We really had no idea of the function of the rest of the building, nor I suspect did most of the other customers.


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