Highland Park Improvement Club gets closer to rebuilding, with reveal of design options

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The roughed-out redesign of the Highland Park Improvement Club building would have the same footprint, but a different look and feel inside.

Sketches for the redesign were unveiled during HPIC’s fourth Town Hall about rebuilding, a project made necessary because of the major damage done by last June’s fire. HPIC’s Kay Kirkpatrick opened the online event Wednesday night by saying they’re working on a fundraising plan and hoping they can keep the cost lower by staying within the existing footprint and reusing the foundation.

Architect Matt Wittman of Wittman Estes presented the schematic design options. His presentation summarized nine key themes they’d heard from the community in previous discussions, and how they had responded to those themes.

The new design is “more open” and will accommodate different uses via distinct zone in the building.

In Scheme A, a west terrace would connect the building and the HPIC courtyard. The southwest corner would feature a “community café.” The building would have five all-gender restrooms, an elevator to the second floor, and an open, flexible area.

In Scheme B, a patio would hold down the building’s southwest corner in addition to the west terrace, and the community café would be on the southeast side.

In Scheme C, the kitchen would be in a different spot.

The second floor in all schemes would have a mezzanine as well as a rooftop deck to enjoy sunsets since events often are happening during the early evening. Wittman stressed the idea of creating multiple “zones” within the building so events even could overlap, and so people could find “different places to be,” comfortably, during events.

Moving on to the exterior, Wittman showed a fuller view of the terrace and deck as well as rooftop solar. One rendering, in color, showed how Scheme A might look from SW Holden.

Interior – here’s how that might look:

Possible materials – a wood floor, and other materials could be “simple,” like basic drywall.

The interior could be casually partitioned, for acoustics, with curtains, further promoting the concept of “zones.”

The ceiling could be set up in a way that lights could be suspended in various zones. And the building could have space for public art, such as a mural.

COMMENTS/QUESTIONS: Would the terrace would take too much otherwise-usable space? asked one attendee. In all, the new design has about 30 percent more usable space than the old building, Wittman said. What about lighting for performances? The lighting will be in reach, Wittman said. Discussion of what would be needed to accommodate performances ensued – including a suggestion of a “green room.” Some wondered if the potential patio on the Holden side might be a security challenge. The patio might also alter the acoustics, it was noted. Another critique of a south patio: It could become a “windswept, dirty place.” (It was noted later that this patio would be “fully covered.”)

Further discussion clarified that the “community café” would be a usable space, but not a business – HPIC isn’t a commercial concern.

Are these concepts phaseable, given the way fundraising might go? Wittman said they’d be seeking to get the shell built but thta interior features like the mezzanine and kitchen could be built out as funding allows.

Could the crawl space be made tall enough to serve as a usable basement? All a matter of cost, Wittman replied. The question also would be what to use that underground space for – another “zone,” or storage/mechanical/etc.

When cost came up again, Wittman noted that soon they should have enough detail to start getting construction estimates. One big picture question was related to that: What exactly are they building – a bar/performing-arts venue, or a community center? That, one attendee pointed out, will even shape the fundraising – HPIC already has had a reputation as a place for celebrations. The area already has several “community centers,” he pointed out. Kirkpatrick appreciated his phrase “celebration center.” Another attendee suggested looking at the design in terms of whether it rules out any particular use.

Before the discussion ended, an area to store garden tools was suggested – right now, volunteers bring their own. It was also strongly recommended that HPIC ensure the old building’s history is showcased in the new one.

If you still have ideas and haven’t gotten involved in the process, do it now before it’s too late, Kirkpatrick reiterated. (You can email HPIC at hpic1919@gmail.com.)

They hope to break ground in the fall, Kirkpatrick said, but there’s a lot of work to do before then – permitting, bids, etc. “I have such a sense of urgency,” she said. “I want to get everything done.”

3 Replies to "Highland Park Improvement Club gets closer to rebuilding, with reveal of design options"

  • JN April 11, 2022 (11:32 am)

    HPIC is lucky to have such a gifted architect as Wittman living in the community and caring.

  • JSM April 13, 2022 (2:03 pm)

    That is an amazing design. I see the top of Highland Park Drive growing into a very welcoming community square. Exciting.

  • HPNeighbor April 13, 2022 (3:18 pm)

    Such a shame that an architecturally sensitive design was not devised that pays homage to the original 1919 building. The shed roof design of the proposed rebuild may accommodate greater solar panel exposure and northern sunlight, but this could have equally been achieved with a clever cross-gable design and skylights. The orientation of the current building and existing site conditions already allow significant morning and afternoon sun exposure. Further, HPIC is already surrounded by unattractive box structures. Why erase 100+ years of history with a modern design instead of celebrating it with a sensitive design in a neighborhood with no historical landmarks and attractions? Seattle has already lost so much of its architectural history. 

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