The Seattle Design Review Board Does Not Want to Save the Hahn Building

On Tuesday April 3, we found out that the City of Seattle Design and Review Board supports plans to destroy the Hahn Building — commonly known as the entrance to Pike Place Market — and replace it with a 14-story boutique hotel.

A crowd piled around the entrance to room L2 in Seattle’s City Hall to show opposition (and in a few rare cases, support) for development plans by Ankrom Moisan Architects.

Before the crowd entered the room, those opposed to the project handed out daffodils as symbols of resistance. “Whenever you agree with statements about preserving the market, hold up a daffodil,” one woman explained as she distributed them to the audience.

Daffodils.jpgThis was the third presentation by the architects to the city’s all-volunteer Design Review Board, which is comprised of local architects, designers and engineers.

The Hahn Building itself is not deemed historic because it was remodeled and renovated in the 80’s, but it’s facade remains a critical aesthetic element to Pike Place Market.

Most of the meeting attendees had some connection to Pike Place market, whether they worked at the market or have been members of Friends of the Pike Place Market—a group that advocates for preserving the market’s historic and cultural value.

Ankrom Moisan admitted that their presentation was in the more conceptual, rather than detailed and pragmatic, stage and its presentation focused on how the new design would fit into the community. Dave Heater, lead architect for the project, built up his ethos by explaining that he lives in Ballard and is dedicated to maintaining and preserving the city’s character.

He used slides to show off the “strength of concept” that resulted from listening to the guidance of the neighborhood. The porous design he presented uses urban design principles to blend inside and outside spaces to create a feel that’s historic to the traditional nature of the building, particularly the base which uses masonry and stone to meld into the market’s aesthetic. The thus far unnamed hotel’s design also echoes the steel structures found throughout the market to make the hotel feel like an extension of the market.

PlansHeater also explained that one piece of design guidance that emerged from the previous two meetings was to move the facade back a few feet. It was back 3 feet – Initially, there was no set back required along pike, so the first plan set the building back 3 feet, and then they pushed it back again another 6 feet. Heater also stated that they have moved the tower after every single meeting, resulting in a building that is “absolutely as small as it could possibly be.”

Some critical features of the building include a place for those famous Pike Place Market flowers to be showcased on second floor and top floor terraces, both of which would be public spaces. Heater and his colleague contend that “not all buildings need to call attention to themselves;” some can be quiet and respectful of their surroundings, and this most current design is the most modest that Ankrom Moisan could conceptualize.

After Heater’s presentation, the Design Review Board opened the public comment period. The first public comment came from Henry Erikson, who expressed opposition to the size of the loading dock: it’s too small for a traditional 20-foot truck. He recommended that the new plans show how a truck with a 20-foot wheel base would maneuver in the loading dock area.

Most of those who spoke in favor of the designs touted the possibility of increased safety as a win. Barry Blanton, longtime downtown resident and owner of property management company Blanton Turner, is in favor of the design’s opportunities for “activation of pedestrians” and how it “puts more eyes on the corner of 1st and Pike,” which can make it less tempting for criminals.

Donald Andrew Kunz, longtime Queen Anne resident, quoted Irene Wall to claim that views are  “civic soul food” and the plans as they currently stand disrupt the iconic view of one of the most photographed, “sacred” sites in Seattle.

Peter Steinbrook also opposed the new development plans and has been a member of Friends of Pike Place Market since 1964. He claimed that the tower does not respond to the B2 guidelines for bulk and scale in relation to the transition of height in the area and declared that the setbacks don’t go far enough.

A man named Jason was most visceral in his criticisms. He “doesn’t like seeing the bland, soapy city that it’s become.” Jason expressed that this design and others like it doesn’t do anything for residents. When his friends come to visit, he spends more time talking about what the city used to be.

Alana agreed that she has seen the city change a lot. It’s developed a more metropolitan feel, but at what cost? She said that simply pulling elements from Pike Place Market doesn’t go far enough to preserve the landmark.

Peter Shibley, a carpenter, gave one of the best burns of the evening. He described Ankrom and Moisan’s plans as “surreal.” Based on the drawings, he said, the final product will look cheap and fake. The building should be scaled down to something more reasonable.

Johnny Hahn (who didn’t mention a direct relation to the building) has been a busser at Pike Place Market for 40 years and said that the project is out of proportion and it will literally and figuratively cast a shadow over the market. There are hundreds of hotels in Seattle, he declared, but only one Pike Place Market.

As of Tuesday night, over 14,000 people signed the petition to say it’s the wrong development for this unique location.

When the public comment period ended, Tami Garrett (who is an absolute angel–she was so sweet and patient and almost too nice; but then again, she is a volunteer and not a full-time City Hall employee) announced that the board would convene for their own conversation about the design. The public and Ankrom and Moisan were invited to stay for the discussion, and many did accept the Board’s offer.

DesignREviewBoard.jpgThe review board agreed with Erikson’s comments about the loading dock and instructed the architects to rethink the turning radius of that area in the next design. Then they got into some more wonky design recommendations, like ensuring that the windows were as thin as possible and to scale with the market’s window designs.

Overall, the design review board did not reflect any of the moral opposition to the plans in the way that the public did. They seemed generally on board and in agreement with moving forward with the project and were not affected at all by the outcries against Ankrom Moisan’s plans, meaning that we will soon be seeing a 14-story boutique hotel in the entrance to Pike Place Market.

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