West Seattle Blog... » Alki Homestead http://westseattleblog.com West Seattle news, 24/7 Fri, 29 Aug 2014 23:02:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 West Seattle history: Alki Homestead listed for sale, again http://westseattleblog.com/2013/12/west-seattle-history-alki-homestead-listed-for-sale-again/ http://westseattleblog.com/2013/12/west-seattle-history-alki-homestead-listed-for-sale-again/#comments Fri, 06 Dec 2013 18:26:58 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=258307

(WSB photo, taken this morning)
Thanks to Richard Hesik for spotting the listing and sending the link: Almost five years after the electrical fire that damaged and closed the historic-landmark Alki Homestead, it’s listed for sale, again. It had been on the market before the fire; a year and a half afterward, owner Tom Lin said he would put it back on the market, but no listing ever appeared. He then engaged a team of local architects to pursue a restoration plan that went before the city Landmarks Board Architectural Review Committee four times (reports are in our archive of Homestead coverage) before the project went dormant. Now, the 110-year-old former Fir Lodge, a city landmark on a 14k-square-foot lot, is listed for $1,850,000, with Paragon Real Estate Advisors‘ flyer declaring that the Homestead is “now waiting for a new owner to bring it back to life and carry on the legacy,” while also noting, “The list price does not include the cost of rehabilitation of the structure.”

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City posts ‘stop work’ order after tree-cutting at Alki Homestead http://westseattleblog.com/2012/05/city-posts-stop-work-order-after-tree-cutting-at-alki-homestead/ http://westseattleblog.com/2012/05/city-posts-stop-work-order-after-tree-cutting-at-alki-homestead/#comments Wed, 23 May 2012 19:38:05 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=109903

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

After four public reviews in six months, there’ve been none in the past 10 months for the plan to fix/rebuild the city-landmarked Alki Homestead. But the site is back under scrutiny because of tree-cutting that has drawn a complaint to the city, which subsequently posted a “stop work” order so it could investigate.

We learned about this Tuesday afternoon, when a nearby resident called to tell us a tree crew was at the Homestead site (2717 61st SW). She wondered why, asking whether work was finally beginning on the rehabilitation/reconstruction of the site. We went over to investigate; the crew was gone, but in subsequent hours, running late into the night, we obtained information from the city, from a representative of the coalition of historical-preservation groups that’s been watching the site, and from Homestead owner Tom Lin, who also provided photos of the trees before they were cut, and spoke with us about where the project stands, 3 years and 4 months after the electrical fire that closed the Homestead, a historic lodge open for decades as a popular restaurant.

After our first visit to the site yesterday afternoon to try to find out what was happening, our original tipster told us a “cease and desist” order had appeared. We went back to look; we didn’t find it but we did find evidence on the city Department of Planning and Development website that a complaint had been filed and was being investigated.

So we contacted DPD, whose spokesperson Bryan Stevens replied:

We sent an inspector out (Tuesday) after we received the complaint. It appears that four trees on site were removed. We posted a “stop work” order and required them to leave the remaining timber on site and provide us with an arborist report. At this point we haven’t determined whether the trees were considered exceptional, but we should know soon. On sites not undergoing redevelopment, exceptional trees cannot be removed unless they are deemed a hazard (via permit review process).

The city’s definition of “exceptional trees,” a six-page document, can be read here.

Homestead owner Tom Lin, with whom we spoke by phone late last night, says the trees that were cut were either dead or were in danger of falling into the building. He sent “before” photos. For context, we have a series of photos below, starting with two views from the apartment building across the street – the group photo organized by the aforementioned coalition of preservation groups in July 2010, with the Homestead’s then-existing trees clearly visible behind the posing group, and a photo we took from the same angle early Tuesday evening:

(WSB photo, July 4, 2010)

(WSB photo, May 22, 2012)
Here are photos provided by Lin, from right on the Homestead grounds, before he hired the tree crew:

Lin says a concern was raised in April by Clay Eals from the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, headquartered less than a block from the Homestead in its old carriage house, on behalf of the 4-group coalition concerned about the former Fir Lodge. We had spoken to Eals earlier in the evening; he shared the e-mail he had sent Lin on April 9:

On behalf of our coalition of four local heritage organizations, I am checking in to see if you are aware of the fallen tree and power lines on the south side of the front lawn of the Alki Homestead. Apparently, the tree fell about a week ago. We are concerned about the safety of the situation. Please let us know of any action that is under way on this front. Thanks.

Eals says Lin didn’t reply. But then, while he says he doesn’t pass the Homestead site every day, he did become aware of this round of tree-cutting. Eals believes that it may raise a larger issue: “The trees on the Homestead property obviously were part of what was to be protected in the 1996 city ordinance regarding controls and incentives for the Homestead. While trees are not specifically mentioned, the ordinance mentions ‘the site, excluding minor plantings’. … You will notice that the ordinance also states that ‘in-kind maintenance or repairs of the (protected) features” is allowed without the landmarks board’s approval. Whether the cutting of the trees falls under this provision is a matter of interpretation’. In part, that interpretation requires information about the condition of the trees that we do not have and have not been given.”

That’s the ordinance that officially made the Homestead/Fir Lodge a city landmark in 1996; you can read it in its entirety here.

And that ordinance is why Lin cannot proceed with restoration/reconstruction work at the Homestead without approval from the city Landmarks Board; any owner of a landmarked property needs approval to make changes to its landmarked features. The Homestead project has not been scheduled for a formal hearing or vote; Lin and the architects he hired for the project, Alloy Design Group, have done what most project teams do before officially going before the board – they have taken it to the board’s informal Architectural Review Committee, meeting with them four times last year to seek guidance on what the board ultimately would allow to be done, with key issues including how much, if any, of the original logs can be salvaged. Lin takes issue with the process, saying that and other issues have been gone over time and time again, and that even without rehash, there is not enough time to consult with the board, with a half-hour scheduled for any project on the agenda, even a complex one like this.

Their last voluntary review with the ARC was in July 2011 (WSB coverage here). But Lin says the project has not been idle; he told us that he had just talked again hours earlier with consultant Mark Fritch, a log-home expert whose great-grandfather helped build the Homestead, has continued to do research, including a trip to Sweden last year. Lin said he and Fritch had also looked at a timber parcel that might have yielded the logs they expect to need for the project, but that the price wasn’t right.

Back to the tree-cutting that the city is investigating now. Lin tells WSB he is done with that work and that no additional cutting is planned; he said the evergreen on the northeast corner of the property was only to have limbs removed, not being prepared for removal. The other trees, he said, died months after the fire – he says they all died during the same month, but were now posing a safety risk – one was on the ground, one was causing problems with utility wires, one was in danger of falling into the Homestead structure itself, as he says is shown by the photos he provided (above). At the time they were discovered to be dead, he said, he “didn’t want to chop them down” – but now, with one having come down and the others in danger of tipping into wires or the structure, he felt he had no choice.

And as for the ongoing process – he says he hasn’t given up, but adds that he doesn’t have “infinite” time or money to devote to it. Yet it is not for sale, he says, while mentioning getting three inquiries this week as to whether it might be.

Meantime, in communication regarding the treecutting, Eals expressed optimism regarding the Homestead’s future: “Our coalition maintains its confidence that the Homestead, including its site, can be preserved and restored and our optimism that it will be. We also maintain our long-stated offer to meet with the owner of the property to offer support and assistance in guiding the preservation and restoration project through the city landmarks process to a successful outcome.”

Lin summarizes, “It has become a very lengthy process, but the goal is to still to bring the Homestead back … I haven’t deviated from that point. … We need to bring it back, one way or another. All I can do is figure out how.”

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Alki Homestead: 3 ideas outlined for restoration/reconstruction http://westseattleblog.com/2011/07/alki-homestead-3-ideas-outlined-for-restorationreconstruction/ http://westseattleblog.com/2011/07/alki-homestead-3-ideas-outlined-for-restorationreconstruction/#comments Fri, 29 Jul 2011 19:02:02 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=81326 By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The process of discussing with the city how to restore/reconstruct the fire-ravaged landmark Alki Homestead/Fir Lodge is so far as painstaking as the actual project itself eventually may be.

This morning, in their fourth informal appearance before the city Landmarks Preservation Board’s Architectural Review Committee downtown, Alloy Design Group architects Mark Haizlip and Greg Squires presented the three options they’re discussing.

All three options assume that the Homestead’s roof and foundation must be replaced – though committee members indicated they’re not all convinced about the former.

With Homestead owner Tom Lin on hand, as well as observers from the Southwest Seattle Historical Society (Clay Eals), Historic Seattle (Eugenia Woo), and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation (Chris Moore), the architects began by briefly discussing a survey of the state of the century-old building’s windows. The upper windows are in better condition than the lower ones, they noted, but overall, Squires said, the refurbish-vs.-replace plan won’t be clear until the overall restoration plan is.

And that’s what took up most of the rest of the discussion.

First, they mentioned completing a survey of the condition of the logs that comprise the Homestead structure, rating each one good/fair/poor.

Later, that became a bone of contention – with both committee members and observers requesting an explanation of the criteria for each category, as well as the methodology for how they were evaluated – because the logs’ condition is at the heart of whether the Homestead is destined for a future that tilts more toward restoration or more toward reconstruction.

As has been discussed in numerous previous evaluations, it’s not just the fire damage that is reported to have compromised Homestead logs, but also other factors over the years, including weather. Below the top three “courses,” the architects say, “there is a lot of exposure to the weather over the past century – a lot of rotting, a lot of crushing.” Weather isn’t the problem for interior logs, they said, but fire damage is.

And to complicate matters, they reiterated another point made previously, that unless some new technique is developed for some kind of patchwork, logs cannot be partially replaced – if a log is 20 percent damaged, it might as well be 100 percent damaged, for purposes of building or rebuilding a log structure like the Fir Lodge/Homestead.

How the logs are handled is at the heart of the three potential strategies they unveiled: Option 1, “Log by Log”; Option 2, “Support, Strap, Lift and Lower”; Option 3, “Shore Up and Span Over.” These were briefly described at the meeting, but there also was a handout with an extensive paragraph about each, so here’s the transcription. The “Core” refers to everything between the roof and the foundation.

For Option 1:

The existing roof will be removed, exposing the top log of the Core. The Core will be taken apart in separate pieces from top to bottom. Each log removed will be cataloged, tagged, and documented. The logs will most likely be stored and protected on-site while the new Foundation is poured. Once the new Foundation is completed, the restoration of the Core will begin with the replacement of all perimeter logs. Working from the bottom up, the Core will be restored log by log. If any of the original logwork is determined to be compromised beyond reasonable use, it will be replaced with a new log that matches in size and character. Once the Core is completed the Roof will be reconstructed.

For Option 2 (which the architects summarized as “the most aggressive”):

The existing Roof will be removed, exposing the top log of the Core. A large steel support structure will be constructed underneath the existing headers of all window openings in the Core. This structure will span the entire length of the Homestead. The existing Core logs beneath the headers will be hung from the steel support structure by use of industrial straps that wrap from the steel support beams, underneath the logwalls and back up to the steel beams. Once the core is completely strapped, the steel support structure will be raised via hydraulic jacks. The existing Foundation will be removed and a new Foundation will be poured. Logs at the base of the Core will then be examined to determine if they are structurally compromised beyond reasonable use. Any of the original logwork that must be replaced will be done so with a new log that matches in size and character. With the new log work in place, the Core will be lowered onto the new Foundation. After the Core has been successfully secured to the Foundation, the Roof will be reconstructed.

Option 3 (which the architects termed “the most creative”):

The existing Roof will be removed, exposing the top log of the Core. Shoring will be constructed underneath all existing log walls and the existing foundation will be removed. The new Foundation will be excavated and poured while the Core is supported by the shoring above. Once the new Foundation is complete it will support the existing logs and the shoring can be removed. At this time a new steel structure will be erected around the existing walls. The new steel structure will span above the top of the Core, and function to support both the original Core that are structurally unstable as well as and the new Roof structure. Once the steel structure and the Core is secured to the new Foundation, the Roof will be reconstructed.

Haizlip and Squires acknowledged the eventual process may turn out to be a hybrid: “The restoration solution is somewhere within these options.” In all options, they promised, “the chimneys plainly stay, all these options work around them.”

But in a line of questioning pursued by committee/board member Steve Savage, one big “missing factor” emerged – What will the city require in terms of seismic safety, and how would that affect the eventual appearance of the building, as well as the plan for restoration/reconstruction?

The architects said they had some preliminary discussion with the city Department of Planning and Development in two “pre-submittal” meetings (before the actual permit application is made) – the Landmarks Preservation Board is actually part of the Department of Neighborhoods – and that they are continuing to work with engineer Todd Ferbix.

Committee members said they would like to hear directly from the engineer regarding some of the issues, including specifics about the foundation and roof, which the architects insist must be replaced. Otherwise, looking at the project now, one quipped, is a “chicken and egg” situation – you don’t know which requirements are going to result in which results/effects.

Ultimately, the end result, according to the architects, is: “Visually, the idea the goal, is to see what you see now.”

The Architectural Review Committee is a sub-group of the Landmarks Preservation Board, and applicants are invited to bring their project to the committee for discussion before seeking a formal board vote, so today’s meeting did not end with any formal action, and in fact, committee/board members said they did not feel comfortable “signing off” on anything, even in this context, without hearing from the engineer.

Before the Homestead’s portion of today’s ARC meeting ended, there was an opportunity for public comment. Historic Seattle’s Woo said Option 1 raises concerns for her because, “What guarantees that the building would actually be rebuilt (once it’s taken apart) because once you remove all that, it’s gone?” She also wondered about the visual effects of steel supports – wondering if they might be hidden inside logs.

Washington Preservation for Historic Trust’s Moore – a West Seattleite – asked Homestead owner Lin about broken windows he said he noticed while walking on Alki last night. Lin said he visits the building frequently and just noticed the vandalism yesterday, so he believes it happened within the past three days, and regarding repairs, “I already talked to my contractor about that.”

There’s no date set yet for the next meeting.

Previous WSB coverage of the Alki Homestead is archived here, newest to oldest.

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Another review next week for Alki Homestead project http://westseattleblog.com/2011/07/another-review-next-week-for-alki-homestead-project/ http://westseattleblog.com/2011/07/another-review-next-week-for-alki-homestead-project/#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2011 20:59:14 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=80690 For the first time in more than three months, the proposal to restore/reconstruct the historic-landmark Alki Homestead (originally the Fir Lodge) will return to the city Landmarks Preservation Board‘s Architectural Review Committee next week. This will be its fourth review before the committee, which holds informal reviews with project teams – multiple times, if they request it, as has been the case here – before they take proposals to the full board for a vote. Two and a half years now have passed since the fire that ravaged the Homestead’s interior; here’s our report on the most recent review of the proposal to restore/reconstruct it for use as a restaurant/banquet facility (our full coverage archive is here). This next review is listed as a “briefing on proposed building elements condition survey”; it’s set for 9:35 am next Friday (July 29th) on the 40th floor of the Seattle Municipal Tower downtown.

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Alki Homestead review déja vu: Restoration? Reconstruction? http://westseattleblog.com/2011/04/alki-homestead-review-deja-vu-restoration-reconstruction/ http://westseattleblog.com/2011/04/alki-homestead-review-deja-vu-restoration-reconstruction/#comments Sat, 02 Apr 2011 03:26:16 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=68591

(WSB photo from 1/16/2011)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

It’s come up before, and now it’s come up again:

To reopen the city-landmarked Alki Homestead (originally the Fir Lodge), will it take restoration, reconstruction, rehabilitation, or some combination of all of the above? The scope of the proposal came up this morning downtown as owner Tom Lin and his architect team from Alloy Design Group returned to the Architectural Review Committee of the city Landmarks Preservation Board for a third review, with historic-preservation advocates watching from the sidelines.

The same question arose when Lin and a different architect brought a different proposal to the committee a year and a half ago, as reported here. Back then, they were proposing adding “other uses” to the site – a bar, maybe a bed-and-breakfast – but that plan was scrapped, and the new plan is all about bringing the Homestead back as a restaurant and banquet facility.

But how can it be done, when it needs a new foundation and a new roof – and some degree of replacement inbetween? “Tricky” is one word that was used.

For context: Architectural Review Committee meetings are somewhat-informal consultation-type sessions. Most project teams seek the ARC’s blessing before taking a project to the full board, which must approve alterations to city-protected features of landmark structure/sites (as explained here). In fact, Homestead project architect Greg Squires told WSB before the meeting, they have been trying to return to the committee as often as they can get on its agenda, to get as much guidance as possible as they plan a project that – whatever the scope – was repeatedly described today as “complex.”

Squires said they had hoped to spend their time today focused on the “accessory structure” that is proposed for the rear (western) side of the Homestead, mostly for kitchen space devoted to the restaurant and its envisioned second-floor banquet space, as well as an elevator to facilitate access to the 2nd floor (as well as a roof deck discussed at the last review meeting - here’s our report). But he said they had been told the board wants to hear more sooner rather than later about the actual “restoration” plans for the fire-damaged Homestead, so the discussion of the “accessory structure” was relatively brief.

Nonetheless, that part of today’s meeting yielded a few toplines, and they also gave some insight into the plan for the Homestead site’s landscaping, which had become a point of concern after the fire, with the once-lush front lawn drying out, among other changes visible to passers-by.

Architect Mark Haizlip told the committee that a landscape architect has joined the project and has toured the site “to determine individual plants’ health and well-being,” before developing a restoration plan for the landscaping. They are hopeful, he said, that “the majority will remain intact.”

Regarding the “accessory structure,” they reiterated that they are proposing a two-story structure with roof-deck access, “24 feet to the top of the roof, though DPD code allows 30 feet” – 27.6 feet to the “top of the parapet,” and 34 and a half feet to the “roof-access roof line.” According to Haizlip, the architects have consulted elevator companies to focus in on the “most advantageous” elevator for the site, one that needs only a four-foot pit – the water table is as high as 8 feet, he explained – with 12 feet clearance needed at the top “from the landing to the top of the tower.”

Then to the discussion of how the Homestead might be restored – and how much of it, in this team’s view, needs to be restored.

Back in 2009, the last time the restoration-or-reconstruction discussion came up, consultants suggested only about 20 percent of the structure could be saved. This time around, the assessment didn’t seem to boil down to much more.

The architects referred to multiple reports, including one by log-home expert Mark Fritch, a descendant of the Fir Lodge’s builder, who is still offering guidance on the project, and another one commissioned by Historic Seattle when it was considering buying the Homestead last year. (Historic Seattle‘s Eugenia Woo, who has been in attendance at many Homestead-related meetings, was there today, as was Judy Bentley of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society.)

In the architects’ current view, top to bottom:

*The roof must be replaced; it’s in bad shape, but “we’re keeping true to the dimensions of this roof from the exterior”
*The second floor’s interior walls need to go (and aren’t considered historic anyway – they were mostly to partition off apartment space) to clear
*The second floor’s exterior walls “might also need to be replaced depending on roof loads with new roof”
*The second floor’s framing “had the most significant damage from the fire, burned right through …” and in their view the logs need to be replaced
*The first floor’s interior walls are a mixed situation -some “in really good condition aside from smoke damage,” but one “must be entirely replaced (because of) fire and moisture damage
*The first floor’s exterior walls need “significant repair” because of rot
*The first floor’s framings are also a mixed bag, some in good condition, some rotted out and needing replacement
*The chimneys would likely remain in place, but the architects would “work with masonry experts to determine verify their condition.” Their cobblestone, is believed to have been from the area; Haizlip observed, “a high percentage of this building is sourced very locally.”
*The Homestead’s sign will be fixed up and replaced.

And then the big one – as also had been described in the past, the foundation needs to be replaced. Local soil and sand was used in it originally, the architects say, and with the saltiness from the bay’s proximity, “that could have played a role in rotting” some of the building’s wood. But getting to the foundation is the nearly impossible task – since the building is considered to be not in good enough shape to be lifted – the architects say they even consulted pre-eminent house-lifting/moving firm Nickel Brothers – that’s where the concept of disassembling and reassembling came in.

But they spoke of improvements as well. More so than in the 2009 reviews, they spoke of how many times the building had already been altered – “butchered,” even – before it was protected as a landmark. They also spoke of restoring original features long gone, like a skylight, “unique for the time,” that apparently capped the structure when it was built; that could “give light to the banquet space,” in a “fantastic opportunity for the building to reinvent itself.”

With the difficulty of what lies ahead, they may well have to reinvent the concept of how to carry out all those repairs and replacements. “It ultimately involves taking this place apart and putting it back together,” suggested Squires – once they have established criteria for whether components of the Homestead can be saved, and then used those criteria to review it piece by piece. In addition, there are potential complications such as smoke damage and leaded paint.

Once they were done detailing their view of the Homestead’s condition, that’s when the restoration-vs.-reconstruction discussion kicked in. Was this a “worst-case scenario,” suggesting the building was almost a complete loss? they were asked. Another opinion: “I’m really concerned about the amount of material that’s being replaced.”

“We are too,” offered Squires, “but it’s a reality of what’s there.”

Even with that, the concept of more reconstruction than restoration struck one committee member as “shocking.”

Landmarks Board coordinator Beth Chave suggested at that point, “You’re really talking about reconstruction, not restoration.”

“We still believe in the term restoration – it’s just a matter of how that physically happens,” replied Squires. “It might be perceived more as a deconstruction-reconstruction.”

Could that involve shoring up or patching some of the logs? some wondered. Squires wasn’t so sure that would be a “viable solution true to the restoration spirit.”

And yet, it was clear, the concept of restoration was muddied by the fact some parts of the building had already been altered or replaced over the years – “it’s not 1905 craftsmanship”; as the building “really was being butchered year after year after year,” said Haizlip, there was no apparent effort to match the original quality or standards.

Still, one board member pronounced the concept of taking the Homestead apart and putting it back together – with many replacement parts – “shocking.”

There could be an alternative, suggested Historic Seattle’s Woo when public comment was invited; she recounted the process of having a report done while they were considering the Homestead purchase – “We asked about excavating rather than having to lift up the building. By going under, you can actually create a new basement level for mechanical and electrical (features). (The consultants) said there’s enough historic fabric that can be retained and should be restored because of the importance of this building. At no point in our conversations was deconstruction discussed. I’d rather call it a rehabilitation, because that’s what it is.”

With some turnover on the Landmarks Board since the last round of Homestead consideration, which had included a site tour, it was decided that new members should arrange a visit. SWSHS’s Bentley invited them to visit the Log House Museum while they’re there, and – as had happened in 2009 – called attention to the fact that the museum, once an outbuilding for the Fir Lodge (Homestead), was preserved. “Perhaps it was in better condition at the time,” she acknowledged.

Again, no vote was taken today – the committee doesn’t vote, but offers guidance and suggestions, and the applicants are welcome to return for another discussion as time and space allow. Squires said before the meeting that they’ve so far been able to get on the agenda every other meeting, so if that holds true this time, they’ll be back in four weeks.
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Earlier WSB coverage of the Alki Homestead is archived here, newest to oldest.

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Next public city review set for Alki Homestead renovation proposal http://westseattleblog.com/2011/03/next-public-city-review-set-for-alki-homestead-renovation-proposal/ http://westseattleblog.com/2011/03/next-public-city-review-set-for-alki-homestead-renovation-proposal/#comments Mon, 28 Mar 2011 22:23:52 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=68149 The architects who are working on the plan to renovate the Alki Homestead, closed since an electrical fire in January 2009, will return to the city Landmark Preservation Board‘s Architectural Review Committee this Friday morning. It’ll be the third time they appear before the committee, which doesn’t vote, but rather advises applicants on their project before they get to a vote of the full board – whose approval is required for an official city landmark to proceed with renovations/modifications. The meeting is open to the public and is scheduled for 9:30 am this Friday at the Municipal Tower downtown; here’s our report on the first review in January, and the second review last month. The proposal seeks to renovate the historic Fir Lodge as a restaurant, with banquet facilities, and an added structure to its rear (west side) that would house the kitchen among other things.

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Alki Homestead restoration review #2: View deck proposed http://westseattleblog.com/2011/02/alki-homestead-restoration-review-view-deck-proposed/ http://westseattleblog.com/2011/02/alki-homestead-restoration-review-view-deck-proposed/#comments Fri, 25 Feb 2011 22:36:54 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=64966 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.

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Alki Homestead returns to Landmarks Board committee next week http://westseattleblog.com/2011/02/alki-homestead-returns-to-landmarks-board-committee-next-week/ http://westseattleblog.com/2011/02/alki-homestead-returns-to-landmarks-board-committee-next-week/#comments Fri, 18 Feb 2011 19:57:46 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=64333 For those tracking the future of the Alki Homestead (historically known as the Fir Lodge) and owner Tom Lin‘s new plan to restore it – the project is scheduled for another review before the Landmarks Preservation Board‘s Architectural Review Committee, a required step before the full board votes on the project (their approval is required because the Homestead is an official city landmark). The agenda for the meeting has just arrived. It’s open to the public, with this item scheduled at 10 am next Friday (February 25th) on the 40th floor of the city Municipal Tower downtown. (Here’s our recent coverage – last month’s committee meeting here, a look into the city files regarding the restoration plan here; our Homestead coverage is archived here.)

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New Alki Homestead plan: Advocates say they’re ‘thrilled’ http://westseattleblog.com/2011/01/new-alki-homestead-plan-advocates-thrilled/ http://westseattleblog.com/2011/01/new-alki-homestead-plan-advocates-thrilled/#comments Fri, 28 Jan 2011 18:17:03 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=62344

(WSB photo from 1/16/2011)
From the city Municipal Tower downtown, here are the toplines from the first public meeting to reveal details of the new plan for the Alki Homestead. It was brought to the Architectural Review Committee of the city Landmark Preservation Board. Though the committee does not vote, the board will have to approve a plan before any permits can be issued for work to proceed on the Alki Homestead, aka the historic Fir Lodge, closed since an accidental electrical fire two years ago.

We wrote about the restoration proposal on Monday, after reviewing new additions to the file here at the Municipal Tower.

(Alloy Design Group principals at left – Greg Squires, seated, and Mark Haizlip, standing)
Though the new architects from Alloy Design Group made it clear they were not here to discuss intricate details of how the Homestead would be “restored,” they did verify that restoring it and reopening it as a restaurant is the goal now, and that the previous proposal involving other components on the site – a spa, a bar, a “small inn” had all been mentioned in 2009 – is “water under the bridge,” declaring that they were brought in for “a fresh start.”

They asked the board to indicate support for the two-story structure they want to add on the west (rear) side of the Homestead to house its kitchen and possibly access (elevator/stairs) to what’s envisioned as an upper-level banquet facility (the building previously had upper-level apartments) – they say it will have an 890-square-foot “footprint,” not much larger than the “non-historic additions” they want to remove from the site; as for its height, they said it was not expected to reach the 30-foot maximum allowed for the zoning on part of the site.

After the presentation, representatives of the four groups that spoke to the media at the Log House Museum on the 2-year anniversary of the Homestead fire, reiterating their concern for protecting and restoring the landmark, all stood up to say they’re “thrilled” that the discussion is now about restoration rather than demolition. However, what would be involved in “restoration” is clearly up for much discussion – the architects say the building needs a new foundation, and that depending on how much of the existing logs were reusable, some “new material” will have to be brought in. Homestead owner Tom Lin was at this morning’s meeting but did not speak to the committee.

Next step – the architects are expected to return to the Architectural Review Committee on February 11th, for more discussion/review of the project before a potential future vote on whether the board will grant the required “certificate of approval.”

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Landmarks Board committee to review Homestead restoration plan http://westseattleblog.com/2011/01/landmarks-committee-to-be-briefed-on-alki-homestead/ http://westseattleblog.com/2011/01/landmarks-committee-to-be-briefed-on-alki-homestead/#comments Mon, 24 Jan 2011 22:05:15 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=61986

For the first time in more than a year, the city Landmark Preservation Board‘s Architectural Review Committee is about to be briefed on the proposed future of the fire-damaged Alki Homestead (historically known as the Fir Lodge). A review is set for this Friday morning at the city Municipal Tower downtown; that’s the first step toward the approvals required to alter the structure, since it’s a city landmark; the Homestead was last brought before them in November 2009. Shortly after the recent 2-year anniversary of the accidental fire that shut down the Alki Homestead restaurant, the language regarding the project changed on the project’s city webpage; instead of mentioning “reconstruction,” it now reads “Restoration of the Historic Fir Lodge/Alki Homestead Restaurant, removal of the non-historic accessory structures, and new construction of an attached facility at NW portion of the site.” Before finding out about this review, we had in fact just checked on this project at city Department of Planning and Development headquarters downtown, and they told us the plans haven’t been submitted to DPD yet, so this Friday may be the first official look. (Added: Since we’re still downtown, we’re going over to the Landmarks Board office to take a look at what they have on file.)

ADDED 5:35 PM: The restoration project’s description, according to what we subsequently found on file at the Landmarks Board office downtown – read on:

Key excerpts that we transcribed from the application for a “certificate of approval,” which the Landmarks Board would have to approve before work could proceed on a landmarked structure like the Homestead:

The proposed work consists of the restoration of the historic Fir Lodge/Alki Homestead Restaurant, the demolition of the non-historic accessory structures at SW portion of Homestead, and the new construction of an attached kitchen/storage facility located at the NW portion of the site. Existing parking (21 stalls) to remain. In addition, the existing entry sequence and surrounding landscape will remain or will be restored as required …

The proposed work is being presented to the Architectural Review Committee in order to reach agreement on all issues pertaining to the development of this site. The following determinations have been agreed upon as necesary for approval of this project:

*Maintain location, massing, and aesthetic character of the Homestead …

*Maintain existing entry sequence and landscaping
…The walkway will be retained and the landscaping will be replaced as needed (many trees are considered unhealthy and may need to be replaced). …

*Maintain existing parking court (21 stalls in all) …

*Demolish accessory structures on south and southwest wall of Homestead
Two accessory structures were added … in 1980s prior to its historical designation. These structures as cited in the reports disrupted the structural integrity of the primary Homestead structure. In addition, they significantly affect the overall appearance of the Homestead particularly when viewing the south and west facades …

*Construct new accessory structure at rear in place of demolished accessory structures.
In order for the Homestead to continue operating as a restaurant, which it has been since the 1950s, a substantial kitchen area is needed. In an effort to restore the southwest portion of the structure, where most of the kitchen facilities are housed, a new kitchen will be built in the rear of the site directly adjacent to the alley (see site plan). This new structure will be attached to the Homestead and will house the kitchen facilities that previously existed in the accessory structure additions. Placing the new structure at the rear of the Homestead will greatly enhance the overall aesthetics of the Homestead, since the new structure wil be almost entirely out of sight when approaching the Homestead’s front door. …

*Maintain/restore signage located on the roof.
The neon sign that sits atop the Homestead is of significant historical importance and will be restored back to working condition.

Also of note, a different lead consultant is on the project, compared to last year – Alloy Design Group is listed; Jeffrey Smith, the architect who led briefings in 2009 and was still on project documents we saw in the LPB file from early 2010, is no longer mentioned. This Friday’s hearing, by the way, will be on the 40th floor of the Muni Tower downtown.

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Alki Homestead fire anniversary: ‘Somebody has to speak for the building’ http://westseattleblog.com/2011/01/alki-homestead-fire-anniversary/ http://westseattleblog.com/2011/01/alki-homestead-fire-anniversary/#comments Sun, 16 Jan 2011 18:55:36 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=61241

10:55 AM: We are at the Log House Museum, steps away from the Alki Homestead (above), where 4 groups are announcing their updates on the Homestead’s status, on the 2nd anniversary of the fire that closed it. Historic Seattle says it still hopes to find a way to buy it. The 3 other groups say they have asked the city to step in to prevent further damage to the building. More to come after the media briefing.

12:58 PM: Our video clip contains the complete, unedited 17-minute briefing (including Q/A). It was led by Southwest Seattle Historical Society’s Clay Eals, who, toward the briefing’s end, summarized the event’s purpose: “We are speaking for the building … somebody has to speak for the building.” Full story to come; here’s an updated link to the official news release.

ADDED 1:50 PM: The snug first-floor central space of the Log House Museum was filled with media (including citywide TV crews), historic-preservation advocates, and SWSHS volunteers for the occasion. Speaking, from left, at a table facing cameras were Chris Moore from the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, Flo Lentz from 4Culture, Rick Sever from Historic Seattle, and Eals.

Notably absent was the building’s owner, Tom Lin, who says expert studies he’s paid for show that the building is too far gone for restoration, and would need “reconstruction.” The groups participating today said Lin had been notified of the event by e-mail and was invited to be there – as an observer, however, not as a speaker. Last summer, he had announced he would put the building up for sale, and extended an exclusive monthlong window for these same 4 groups to purchase it. Historic Seattle’s Sever would not comment during today’s briefing on the status of any negotiations and whether any talks had occurred recently, repeatedly saying “due diligence” prevented specific commenting. He also would not identify the “private investors” that were mentioned.

Regarding the request to the city regarding protection of the structure, we were told that came in the form of a letter to the Department of Planning and Development, which enforces code compliance; specific concerns were described as including being open to the elements, accessible to potential vandals, and having “waste” left around the site. Whatever complaint was filed, it’s not showing yet on the official DPD page for the Homestead/Fir Lodge site (2717 61st SW), which does note previous complaints (from unknown complainants), all listed as “case closed.”

The third major initiative announced today was creation of a new poster featuring the “This Place Matters” photo taken outside the Homestead/Fir Lodge last July 4th. Volunteers are going around putting up copies – we followed former Log House Museum director Andrea Mercado, her daughter Ruby and other young volunteers immediately after the media briefing, as they put up the first one at Sunfish Seafood a few blocks away:

So now what? As Sever repeated before the briefing ended, “In real estate, the door’s always open.” Whatever happens next, the Homestead, for now, remains closed.

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Alki Homestead about to mark 2 years since fire-forced shutdown http://westseattleblog.com/2011/01/alki-homestead-about-to-mark-2-years-since-fire-forced-shutdown/ http://westseattleblog.com/2011/01/alki-homestead-about-to-mark-2-years-since-fire-forced-shutdown/#comments Sat, 15 Jan 2011 14:30:33 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=61083 Tomorrow marks two years since the fire, blamed on a Christmas-lights malfunction, that blackened the inside of the city-landmark Alki Homestead and forced its beloved restaurant to close. While its owner has proposed “reconstructing” the historic log structure and including other businesses on the site, and even took steps toward applying for a permit, it’s been 14 months since that proposal went before the Architectural Review Committee of the city Landmark Preservation Board, whose signoff is required – and it has not reappeared in that venue.

Last July, owner Tom Lin announced he would sell the Homestead, offering it first to preservation/cultural groups, then to the general public. No public listing ever appeared, and no deal has ever been announced. We have left Lin messages asking for comment on its status, but no reply. However, an announcement came Friday afternoon from the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, headquartered half a block away at what was the Homestead’s carriage house: They plan a media event Sunday morning, on the fire anniversary:

A coalition of four heritage organizations — the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, Historic Seattle, 4Culture and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation — will hold a press conference to provide updates on the potential for protection, preservation and restoration of the city-landmark 1904 log building known as Fir Lodge and the Alki Homestead Restaurant.

Those are the same four Lin mentioned in his July announcement offering the Homestead for sale. They also were part of last July’s “This Place Matters” photo gathering, part of this nationwide historic-site-awareness campaign. But at the time, at least one of those organizations made a point of saying they’re not in the building-buying business. So what’s their plan? They’ll discuss it at the Log House Museum, 11 am Sunday.

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150+ people turn out for Alki Homestead ‘This Place Matters’ photo http://westseattleblog.com/2010/07/about-200-turn-out-for-alki-homestead-this-place-matters-photo/ http://westseattleblog.com/2010/07/about-200-turn-out-for-alki-homestead-this-place-matters-photo/#comments Sun, 04 Jul 2010 21:54:35 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=42136

That’s our view from the third floor of the apartment building across from the Alki Homestead, as the official ‘This Place Matters’ photo was taken as part of a rally organized by preservation groups including the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, whose headquarters are in what was the Homestead (originally Fir Lodge)’s old carriage house. By our rough count, around 200 people had gathered by the time the photo was taken. (6:10 pm update: We used our photo-from-above to count: 162.) The photo was preceded by short speeches from those groups’ reps as well as King County Executive Dow Constantine, State Sen. Joe McDermott, County Councilmember Jan Drago, and former mayor Greg Nickels. This came one day after Homestead owner Tom Lin (whom we did not see at the event) announced he’s putting the Homestead up for sale (WSB coverage here), starting with a one-month offer for $2 million to preservation groups. We talked to reps of two – SWSHS executive director Andrea Mercado told WSB they have no official comment yet on the offer; Washington Trust for Historic Preservation field director Chris Moore (a West Seattleite) says his group “unfortunately” doesn’t buy buildings. ADDED 5:53 PM: Video of the politicians’ speeches. SWSHS’s Clay Eals said they’d been asked to speak for 30 seconds each (here’s Eals with a historic Homestead photo during a pre-rally talk at the Historical Society’s annual picnic):

By our count, most of the rally speeches ran closer to a minute-thirty, still relatively brief. Here’s former mayor Greg Nickels:

King County Executive Dow Constantine, more formally dressed than he was in his appearance at the Admiral 4th of July Kids’ Parade three hours earlier, alluded to that as he began:

Next, State Sen. Joe McDermott – a West Seattleite like Nickels and Constantine, and also a candidate for the County Council seat vacated last year by the now-executive:

Finally, the former city councilmember who currently holds the County Council position for which McDermott is running (though she’s not seeking to keep it), Jan Drago, who – Eals pointed out – sponsored the council resolution that made the Homestead a landmark:

Regarding the crowd count, always a thorny issue in any story in which turnout might matter (ever seen those protest stories where police say 2,000 and organizers say 10,000?), our estimate was a rough count, looking at the photo we took with the view from above. Just because we love precision when it’s possible, we’re working right now to blow it up and print it out so we can do an exact count. We can tell you unequivocally that the “nearly 100″ in the lead line of KING’s story is too low. 6:09 PM: Finished the photo count: 162. Have adjusted the headline. MONDAY MORNING: As noted in comments: The “official photo” is now online. You can click on it, then click again, for a very high resolution version. We are told Historic Seattle counted 199 in the mega-high-resolution version, to which we didn’t have access yesterday. So we are going to revise our headline to “more than 150″ and leave it there, for WSB purposes … no time to print and count yet again … this isn’t an election; we’ll leave the counting from hereon out to the folks who are directly involved.

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Followup: Alki Homestead owner makes his decision: It’s for sale http://westseattleblog.com/2010/07/followup-alki-homestead-owner-makes-his-decision-for-sale/ http://westseattleblog.com/2010/07/followup-alki-homestead-owner-makes-his-decision-for-sale/#comments Sat, 03 Jul 2010 16:12:43 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=42029

With a rally/group photo planned tomorrow afternoon at the Alki Homestead, organized by local preservation groups including the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, owner Tom Lin says he’s offering those groups first crack at buying the fire-ravaged landmark, now that he’s decided to sell it, a few weeks after he told us he was considering that option. Here’s the text of his letter (from this PDF):

Alki Homestead/Fir Lodge is being offered for sale to Seattle’s concerned historical organizations such as:

Historic Seattle
4Culture
Southwest Seattle Historical Society
The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation

Sale Price – $2,000,000 An endowment fund of $500,000 would be provided from these funds by the current owner Tom Lin

Alki Homestead/Fir Lodge was offered to the Southwest Seattle Historical Society under the same terms in 2004 by the previous owner, Doris Nelson, according to her family.

These historical organizations claim to have more extensive resources and the expertise needed to ensure that the Alki Homestead/Fir Lodge retains its historical place in the community and would not be torn down.

Tom Lin will accept offers from interested historical organizations no later than July 31, 2010. Beyond July 31st the property will be offered to the general public at a different sale price and terms.

Contact Information: Tom Lin at savealkihomestead@yahoo.com

Lin had been trying to proceed with a plan to rebuild the historic log building and add other uses to its site – uses without which, he says, it wouldn’t be financially viable; he discussed his challenges in this story we published two weeks ago. This morning, he tells WSB, “It has been over a year and a half since I have tried to bring Homestead back. The cost has become a burden. I had a long conversation with [previous owner] Doris Nelson’s estate yesterday. They understand the dilemma I am in and they respect my choice. In fact, [they] had already told SWSHS to buy the building again 6 months ago … I think when I spoke to you a few weeks ago, I told you I was pretty close at giving it up. Now it is time. I hope they can address that during the rally.”

The rally – to which Lin tells us he finally did get an invitation, after he pointed out to Historic Seattle that he had not received one – is scheduled for 1:30 pm tomorrow on the sidewalk and street (which will be closed for the event) in front of the Homestead. Clay Eals from SWSHS says there’s been one change in the slate of political leaders scheduled to be there – City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen will be out of town, but County (and former City) Councilmember Jan Drago will be there, which Eals notes is “quite fitting because (she) was the Seattle City Council sponsor of the landmark designation ordinance for the Alki Homestead building in 1996.”

Previous WSB coverage of the Alki Homestead is archived, newest to oldest, here.

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1 week till 4th of July, and ‘This Place Matters’ @ Alki Homestead http://westseattleblog.com/2010/06/1-week-till-4th-of-july-and-this-place-matters-alki-homestead/ http://westseattleblog.com/2010/06/1-week-till-4th-of-july-and-this-place-matters-alki-homestead/#comments Sun, 27 Jun 2010 16:47:07 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=41445 To preview next Sunday’s 4th of July “This Place Matters” group photo on the street/sidewalk in front of the Alki Homestead – the Southwest Seattle Historical Society‘s plan to show community concern about its future - Paul Dorpat‘s “Seattle Now and Then” in today’s Seattle Times (WSB partner) looks at the Homestead and its history, while previewing the event. Dorpat published even more Homestead history on his own website the yesterday, recalling it as “A Soap Manufacturer’s Log Mansion on Alki Point.” (His site also republishes the Times piece with a few “Web extra” photos.) Here’s our original June 8th story about the photo plan; here’s our June 20th story about where the Homestead stands from its owner’s perspective.

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