Vulcan Real Estate has floated a proposal to relocate at least one historic South Lake Union auto showroom, in the path of a wider Mercer...
Vulcan Real Estate has floated a proposal to relocate at least one historic South Lake Union auto showroom, in the path of a wider Mercer Street, a few yards to the north as part of its plan to redevelop the block, Seattle city officials say.
The developer has owned the property, at Westlake Avenue North and Mercer, since 2003. It includes two ornate, now-vacant showrooms, the Pacific McKay Building and Ford McKay Building, that date back to the 1920s and are designated historic landmarks.
Vulcan submitted preliminary applications this week for a six-story office building on the block with ground-floor retail and underground parking. The city’s summary says that “reconstructed portions of the Ford McKay and Pacific McKay building(s) will be incorporated into this project.”
Vulcan spokeswoman Lori Mason Curran said the company is “committed to preserving the buildings’ historic elements” and is working on an “appropriate preservation strategy” with the city.
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She would not discuss details, saying it would be premature.
But Angela Brady, Mercer Corridor project manager for the Seattle Department of Transportation, said she understands Vulcan is “committed” to moving the Pacific McKay Building closer to Broad Street.
The city plans to widen Mercer from a four-lane, eastbound-only street to a six-lane, two-way boulevard. The Pacific McKay Building is in the proposed wider right of way.
Karen Gordon, the city’s historic-preservation officer, said she has discussed the relocation idea with Vulcan officials. It’s unclear whether it would involve one or both buildings, she said.
It’s also unclear whether entire buildings would be moved, she added, or if pieces deemed most significant by the city Landmarks Preservation Board — the terra cotta exteriors and the Pacific McKay Building’s showroom interior — would be incorporated into the new building.
Any changes to those components would require board approval. Vulcan officials are to present their plans to a board committee June 13, Gordon said.
At least four other landmark buildings — all single-family houses — have been moved, she added: “It’s not something that is done every day, but it’s not unheard of.”
The city’s advisory Queen Anne-Magnolia Design Review Board is to consider Vulcan’s redevelopment plans for the block July 2.
Seattle auto pioneer and civic leader William O. McKay built the Ford McKay Building in 1922 and Pacific McKay Building in 1925 as showrooms for his Ford and Lincoln dealerships, respectively.
Westlake Avenue North was becoming Seattle’s auto row at the time. By 1939 a 12-block stretch featured 40 auto-related businesses, according to Historylink.org.
McKay’s Lincoln showroom was fancier, befitting that make’s more upscale clientele. In addition to elaborate terra cotta cladding, the building features a vaulted ceiling and a fountain flanked by twin staircases ascending to a mezzanine.
The showrooms were designated landmarks in 2006 at Vulcan’s request, a year after the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation placed them on its “most endangered historic properties” list.
Vulcan has incorporated landmark buildings into three of its other projects in South Lake Union. The real-estate firm, controlled by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, owns more than 60 acres in the neighborhood that it is redeveloping into an office, biotech and residential “urban village.”
Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231 or firstname.lastname@example.org