Thursday, January 10, 2008

it gets worse



"Ballard's 24-Hour Corner is no more. The corner where you could once buy a Bloody Mary to go with your pancakes, get a burger topped with beet relish, and bowl a round at four, five, or six in the morning, is about to change, and probably not for the better. News broke on January 4 that the 51-year-old Sunset Bowl in Ballard would close in mid-April, making way for a large apartment development on the corner of 15th Avenue Northwest and Northwest Market Street. Meanwhile, across Market Street, the building that for 20 years housed Manning's Cafeteria, and for 20 after that, a Denny's franchise, is shuttered and awaiting likely demolition. Going up in its place: an eight-story building with 261 condos and ground-level retail—a far cry from the businesses that made the corner a destination for generations of Ballard residents.

The Sunset site was bought by apartment developer Avalon Communities for $13.2 million. Although Avalon didn't return a call requesting information about its plans in Ballard, the company's website shows a portfolio of large, cookie-cutter luxury apartment buildings, including several in Redmond and two in Bellevue. Listed rental rates start at around $1,200—for a studio. Sunset owner John Leary did not return calls for comment; the Sunset's general manager, Verl Lowry, said only that everyone at the Sunset was "stressed," including Leary. "He just doesn't want to be bothered right now."

"I think one of the hardest things is that both [the Denny's and the Sunset] represented Ballard's old, blue-collar days," says Beth Miller, director of the Ballard Chamber of Commerce and a lifelong Ballard resident. "It's gotten to the point where money from outside the community is driving a lot of the [development] decisions." Miller says community members agreed to accept more density in exchange for more jobs; but as density in Ballard has increased, she says, the number of jobs in the area has scarcely budged. "These condos often have trouble filling their retail spaces because they often don't attract pedestrian traffic," Miller says.

The corner of 15th and Market has never been particularly pedestrian-oriented—the wide expanse of pavement and car-oriented businesses take care of that—but the new developments will bring hundreds of new cars into a neighborhood whose street system is already overtaxed. If Rite Aid gets permission to put in a drive-through prescription window in a new development up the street, Ballard residents could face a traffic nightmare.

Miller also worries that the large new developments will make that part of Ballard look "like anything else anywhere in the city. "Part of what everybody is feeling is that Ballard is just being wiped out. I'm not averse to change per se, but we don't want to be the new Belltown."

The old Denny's building certainly couldn't be mistaken for anything in Belltown. Built in a space-age style known as Googie, it's flamboyant, bright, eye-catching, and arguably ugly. Earlier this month, the owners of the building hired architect Larry Johnson to prepare a landmark nomination on their behalf. The move is a standard feint by developers who don't want their building to win landmark status—file an application that argues, in effect, against making the building a landmark in the hope that the Landmark Preservation Board will agree that the building is not historic. Johnson's nomination argued that not enough of the building's characteristic Googie elements remained to make it worth landmarking; however, the city's Landmark Preservation Board has voted to move forward with the nomination.

Alan Michelsen is an architect who filed a counter-report to the one Johnson submitted to the board. He believes Johnson's application was biased and incomplete, and failed to consider the significance of Googie architecture and the architect who designed the building, Clarence Mayhew. The building was originally a franchise of the Manning's restaurant chain, and didn't become a Denny's until 1984, when neighborhood protests convinced the new owners not to tear the building down.

But since then, Michelsen says, the environment has become more hostile for preservationists like himself. "I think [preservationism] has been relatively dormant over the last 20 years. If you look around Ballard, you cannot tell me developers have been impeded by preservationists. That's just obviously wrong." Michelsen says he just wants the developer to integrate the Denny's building into whatever they put on the corner—a suggestion that strikes some, including Miller, as not much better than demolition. "I'm torn between thinking it would be great to keep it and thinking it would make for a really awkward-looking development."

The closure of the Sunset brings the total number of bowling alleys in Seattle city limits down to five; the Sunset's owner sold Leilani Lanes in North Seattle to a developer for $6.2 million in 2005."

taken from here. i am speachless, and not sure where i want to move to.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

WTF. Seriously, WTF? All of this garbage is ruining Ballard. Run for the hills, dude. And by the hills...I mean...California :-)

Prince of Ballard said...

california huh? maybe.......LA? your wish may be granted, because i have found more culture there, then here. wtf? i cant believe i just said that. but its true...its a sad sad day for my beloved neighborhood.