Unreliable Safeway and Thriftway memories prove you don’t always get what you wish for!

Metropolitan Market Goodbye Sign.

Memoirs retell important experiences in human lives, but I think they are unreliable history. This story is my memory of efforts to stop the construction of an expanded Queen Anne Thriftway in 1990 and to block a new Safeway megastore on its nearly full block site in 1993. As sure as I am that these events actually took place, I worry about the details.

First a couple of facts: I live a bit east of both sites on First Avenue North. In 1990, I was the director of the Seattle Children’s Museum, and the Queen Anne Thriftway was a major donor. Talk about conflicts of interest! During this period, the state passed the Growth Management Act which prompted the city’s first 35-year master plan. That plan encouraged new zoning requirements and created urban villages including one on upper Queen Anne that runs west on Galer and stretches alley to alley on either side of Queen Anne Ave. N. except at Safeway where it extends to my street. I love the master plan. It called for increased density in the ‘village’ while protecting the surrounding single-family housing we cherish. The property owners of both the Thriftway and Safeway sites may have been trying end runs around the master plan before it became law in 1993.

Looking northeast at The Towne across the old parking lot.

In about 1990, the Cox family, that owned the Thriftway site, collaborated with Dick Rhodes, the store’s owner, to replace the building with a low-rise structure covering the entire site. The idea to build a store with underground parking and a much bigger footprint on the land provoked neighbors who, while loving the Thriftway, had no desire for a larger store with apartments plunked on top of it. Ours was an anti-density push that reeked of nimbyism and an unwillingness to see the neighborhood change. I was among the people who prevailed at public and design review meetings. I was also among those who cheered when the ownership abandoned the project. Seattle’s up and down economy along with national busts in both 2001 and 2008 helped preserve the existing fabric of the neighborhood. At that time, we didn’t worry about preserving the Elfrieda at Crockett and Queen Anne Ave. or either bungalow on Crockett which shared the same ownership.  Later the Cox family working with Kroger tried again to redevelop the site for a big QFC. That idea failed mainly because Kroger didn’t have the resources to buy into the massive undertaking. Ultimately developer Joe Geivett of Emerald Bay Equity acquired the site along with the Elfrieda and the bungalows. Tearing down everything on the half-block for a multitude of shops below and 140 apartment units above, Joe tried to lease the store in his new building to Thriftway under its new Metropolitan Market banner, but the numbers didn’t work. After closing its doors in 2012, Met Market abandoned the top of the hill focusing on the new store down the hill where it had taken over the bankrupt Larry’s Market. No laggard, Trader Joe’s snapped up a part of the space.

Looking east at what’s left of Elfrieda.

The Safeway’s 1993 redevelopment ideas struck me as even worse than those for Thriftway. Safeway touted the construction of a megastore which would attract shoppers from around the region. I don’t remember how many floors of apartments Safeway and its architect Val Thomas proposed, but we hated it too. The idea of a massive influx of automobiles choking our pleasant hilltop neighborhood appalled us. We didn’t look at the quality of Val Thomas’s design, perhaps because we were conflicted. We all knew Val as the architect of the marvelous preservation project at West Queen Elementary. Indeed, Val lived there in a fantastic condo he converted from the gym. Val also impressed us with his work at Capitol Hill’s Broadway Market. In the end, Safeway relented adopting an addition by Thomas that obscured its historic rainbow roof (it is still there) and the under-scaled clock tower at Crockett and Queen Anne Ave.

Safeway Bell Tower looking northeast.

Alas, when you try to protect the fabric of your neighborhood, you never know what you are wishing for. Now I see that our hostility may have been a mistake. If Metropolitan Market had built a modest building on Queen Anne Ave. N., we’d have been spared the huge development that sits there now, and we might still have our cherished supermarket and Elfrieda with her two bungalow sisters on Crockett. Now comes Safeway this year with a scheme to build out and up. We don’t know what it will look like, but our success in 1993 left the parking lot fallow ground awaiting Seattle’s next big boom and Val Thomas’ sensitive design unbuilt.

My tale is a cautionary one. Think big when you oppose increased density or up-zoning and don’t forget you don’t always get what you wish for.

Now you have my memories and the opinions they shape. They may be false. I sort of hope they are, for the errors will prove the unreliability of memoirs.  I promise to follow up with new information from folks who correctly remember these grocery store battles. Better yet, I could research the facts!

How to designate a landmark: The Boyd Building

View from the northeast shows historic windows on upper floors and in the three southern bays.

 

Once upon a time in 1920, former Queen Anne resident, Frederick L. Boyd built the Boyd Building at 995 Westlake Ave. N. Just this spring, to the apparent dismay of its owners, the Boyd was designated a Seattle landmark. The story of the designation has fairy-tale qualities with a prince of a building and some strange goings on.  Coincidentally, it provides a good lesson about how historic buildings become designated landmarks.

It helps to know that this relatively simple warehouse/factory building sits close the shore of Lake Union on the eastern edge of Queen Anne in South Lake Union. You’ll find it facing generally north at the spot where 8th Ave. N. splits off from Westlake to heading south. Most of us know it as the American Meter & Appliance building. …Continue reading “How to designate a landmark: The Boyd Building”

Bayview Reinvents Itself

A sketch of the Kinnear Mansion (destroyed) serves as the logo of the Queen Anne Historical Society and appears at www.qahistory.org (upper left hand corner of this page) along with many photos of the house. The logo celebrates the longtime relationship of the society with the Bayview Retirement Community and its ties to the Kinnear family. For about 25 years, the society has benefited from a rent-free space for storing its archives at Bayview. The renovations now underway require the society to relinquish its space and seek a new one.

As the primary real estate developers of the land on the southwest slope of Queen Anne, George and Angeline Kinnear had a major impact on our neighborhood. Their 1888 house at 809 Queen Anne Ave. N. was quintessential Queen Anne style. It sported the mandatory tower, multiple gables, clapboard siding, intricately turned columns and spreading front porch that mark the style. The Kinnears designed it as an advertisement for the kinds of homes they expected to see on the lots of their subdivision. Their home sat on a two and a half acre site.

The family’s influence resonates today at Kinnear Park which they gave to the city in 1893 and which is Seattle’s second park after Denny Park. Its impact is also seen in two other tiny parks. One of them, a small strip along Queen Anne Drive just below the Bayview, retains a few trees planted by the Kinnear family and the wall which lined the edge of their property. The other small park, at Prospect and Second Ave. W., held the cistern which provided water for the Kinnear home. (The elevation drop to the house created enough force to provide water to the third floor). Also, still standing in the neighborhood are the 1908 De La Mar Apartments that George and Angeline constructed for their guests to the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition.

When George Kinnear died in 1912, his son Charles moved into the home and lived there until he died in 1956. The Charles Kinnear family had strong ties to the First United Methodist Church and gave their home site to the church for the care of “older adults or children.” The Methodists created a not-for-profit to run the retirement home. It may have also started the foundation that covers housing costs if residents run out of money. The church worked with the community to build the ten-story residential community designed in 1958 that opened in 1961. While the church gave the building to the not-for-profit, it retained ownership of the land. The relationship of the building to the land is a strange historical wrinkle that had to be ironed out before Bayview could initiate its current projects.

The original Bayview building was designed by John Graham & Co. while John Graham Jr. was still practicing. Graham junior — Space Needle, Nordstrom and Macy upper stories, Northgate Mall – was one of the most successful and influential architects in Seattle’s history. The company designed many important Queen Anne buildings including the Victorian Apartments on Highland Drive.  Graham created a tall building made taller still by its location above Uptown-Lower Queen Anne where Queen Anne Avenue begins its steep climb. It had three wings. The east and west wings rose to ten stories while the bisecting wing to the north was held to nine stories. If the Kinnear home expressed the essence of the Queen Anne style, the retirement home did the same for what is known as mid-century modern. Bayview sports a Roman brick veneer and on the south facing façade elegant balconies from which residents have phenomenal 180o views of downtown, the Space Needle, Mt. Rainier, the Olympics and Elliott Bay. Surely no one living on the south slope of the hill remembers the great views before Bayview went up, but now folks living on that slope and in the retirement community are ironically worried that the high-rise building proposed for Roy Street between First West and Queen Anne Ave. will block theirs.

North Elevation showing new two-story memory unit to the left. Image courtesy Bayview Retirement Community.

 

This is not the first time the Bayview has expanded. In 1995, it gave up the front lawn shown in the 1974 photograph to a three-story building that spreads across the entire southern side of the original building and creates elegant terrace gardens facing Elliott Bay. This addition, designed by Dale Anderson of Tsang Partnership, also made room for a daycare center which meets the original terms of the Kinnear gift and provides an exceptional opportunity for intergenerational caregiving. The project now underway, designed by Rice Fergus Miller, adds dwelling units and a memory care unit in the crook of the east and north wings. It sacrifices the common lounge and balcony on every floor at the intersection of the wings. Our Archive, which connects via dumbwaiter to the kitchen and served as a place for distributing meals to third floor residents, is being incorporated into a redesigned dwelling unit. Other improvements include a new swimming pool and refurbished public spaces at the entry level.

Charles Kinnear would have been surprised that his clever scheme to keep the retirement home associated with the First United Methodist Church thwarted its redevelopment plans. Bayview has borrowed the money to renovate and add to its campus through the State of Washington Housing Finance Commission. The program lends not-for-profit agencies funds for capital projects, but they must be owned in fee simple. Fee simple means that the land and the building belong to a single owner. It took a long a time for the Methodist Church to give up its land ownership of the land, but the church eventually sold it for a dollar. Once Bayview owned the building and land in fee simple, it could borrow the required money.

Now, as it seeks a new location for its Archives, the historical society is indebted to the Bayview Retirement Community for its longtime generosity. As one might expect in today’s hot real estate market, finding even a small 200 square foot office in our neighborhood is no small feat. The society has been looking for nearly half a year and has only until the end of June to find a new spot, so any help will be appreciated. In the meantime, Bayview assures the society that it can continue holding its board meetings on the building’s tenth floor where the spectacular views are enough to cheer us up even on dark rainy days of winter.