By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
At the Muni Tower downtown, the architects working on the proposed restoration of the closed-by-fire-damage Alki Homestead appeared today for the second time before the Architectural Review Committee of the city Landmarks Preservation Board.
No vote was taken – meetings of the Architectural Review Committee are informal gatherings for architects, property owners, and developers to get feedback before bringing complete proposals to the full board, which has to sign off on projects affecting official city landmarks like the Homestead (historically known as the Fir Lodge). But the discussion represented another step toward restoring and reopening the Homestead, a popular restaurant for decades before a January 2009 electrical fire put it (for now) out of business.
As was the case at the January review, the architects from Alloy Design Group (above) made the presentation, with Homestead owner Tom Lin in the audience. When they appeared last month, the focus was on the overall concept of what they intend to do – this time, the focus was on the “accessory structure” that is being proposed on the east side of the Homestead, to hold its kitchen as well as an elevator for accessing proposed banquet facilities on the second floor. As the architects explained, they need feedback on what will be OK with the “accessory structure” before they can figure out the plan for restoring the fire-damaged Homestead building itself. And that’s part of why projects come before the committee before going for an official vote – to get feedback on whether they’re going down the right road.
Much of the discussion centered on a proposed third-floor view deck, 598 square feet. Here’s a rough sketch from this morning’s informal presentation:
Alloy’s Mark Haizlip and Greg Squires suggested that a third-floor deck would bring back a historic aspect of the Homestead – the reason the Fir Lodge was located on that site in the first place – what was then a view of Elliott Bay.
They also pointed out the structure originally was oriented toward the north – toward the bay. “The moment you get up there, there’s this reconnection with the waterfront,” explained Haizlip. “It all makes sense, it all comes back.” He suggested an educational display or even “blown-up photographs” might be integrated to help meld the view with a sense of history, so “you can realize, yes, the Homestead was built in the 1900s and once looked out over the water.”
The structure will also include access to the banquet room, which as Squires explained, will be a restoration of the second floor inside the main Homestead/Fir Lodge building – “the idea is to take the structure back to the original shell , to remove these internal partitions and reveal the original nature of what that space was really like” — before it was split into living spaces.
As previously noted, they also intend to take down current ground-level building attachments that were built in the 1950s, “to allow people to experience the entire perimeter” – the southwest corner, they noted, has been hidden for half a century.
The added building will have dressing rooms as well as restrooms, the main kitchen, a support kitchen on the upper level for the banquet facilities, and an office, according to the tentative plans that were shown at this morning’s meeting. The sketches and drawings, it should be noted, are for “massing” purposes – NOT final designs, not any indication of what their exterior might look like. The board members who sat in on this morning’s meeting had multiple versions to refer to, for context more than for assessing the possible finished project.
This remains a very early point in the process – the project is expected to come back to the Architectural Review Committee, possibly multiple times, before any application for a “certificate of approval,” which would trigger the formal review and voting process before the entire board. So there wasn’t a lot of discussion this morning. Two board members expressed concern about the potential height of the new structure, and how it might affect neighbors in a nearby apartment building; the architects acknowledged the view would be affected from that direction, but said they are working to make sure that the building is as invisible as possible from the angles the public pass the most to “experience” the Homestead, such as while walking along 61st SW – here’s a rendering of that projected viewpoint:
Another board member wasn’t as concerned about the potential height as about whether the added structure would “compete” with the Homestead itself.
There was an opportunity for public comment; Clay Eals of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society said his group “would be interested in having some dialogue about this,” calling it “all very interesting.” After that, Homestead owner Tom Lin spoke briefly, pointing out that the SWSHS’s home base, the Log House Museum, had itself experienced a major change over the years – it’s no longer on its original location (as explained in this historical essay).
No date is set for the next review, according to preservation-board coordinator Beth Chave; once the project team contacts her with word of something new for the committee to review, she tells WSB, another meeting will be scheduled.