The vacant William O. McKay Ford and Pacific Lincoln Mercury auto showrooms in South Lake Union are historic landmarks, relics of the age...
The vacant William O. McKay Ford and Pacific Lincoln Mercury auto showrooms in South Lake Union are historic landmarks, relics of the age of the Model A and Model T.
They’re also in the path of Seattle’s plans to widen Mercer Street.
Mega-developer Vulcan, the buildings’ owner, on Friday unveiled an unusual proposal to save them — at least in part.
It would dismantle the buildings, then carefully catalog and store the elements the city has deemed most worthy of preservation: their terra cotta facades and the Pacific showroom’s ornate interior.
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Later, after Mercer Street is widened, those components would be reassembled inside and outside a new frame Vulcan would build for them, 70 feet north of the buildings’ present locations.
The rebuilt Pacific Lincoln Mercury structure would hold down the northwest corner of Westlake Avenue North and Mercer, just as it has for more than 80 years, architect David Yuan said.
Vulcan also plans to build a six-story office building on the block. Spokeswoman Lori Mason Curran said the new and old buildings would be connected, and Vulcan envisions the new building as a backdrop to the reconstructed showrooms.
The city’s Landmarks Preservation Board must approve any changes to the historic buildings. Vulcan officials and contractors briefed a board committee on the proposal Friday, emphasizing it is preliminary.
Karen Gordon, the city’s historic-preservation officer, said she couldn’t recall any other owner proposing a similar preservation scheme. “This is definitely unusual,” she said, “but it’s not out of the realm of consideration.”
Stephen Lee, the landmarks board’s chairman, told Vulcan he wants to hear more about why the buildings can’t be moved in their entirety. “We see it done all the time with other kinds of buildings,” he said.
But Susan Boyle, Vulcan’s historic-preservation consultant, said the concrete buildings are settling and have structural problems.
The showrooms were built in the early 1920s by Seattle auto-industry pioneer and civic leader William O. McKay. At the time Ford was building cars in a factory a few blocks away, and Westlake Avenue North was becoming Seattle’s auto row.
The online local-history encyclopedia Historylink.org has likened the Pacific Lincoln Mercury showroom’s interior to a Mediterranean courtyard. It features a vaulted ceiling, Ionic columns and a tile fountain flanked by twin staircases ascending to a mezzanine.
While there’s no final plan yet, the relocated showroom could serve as a lobby for the new office building, or retail or restaurant space, Vulcan’s Mason Curran said.
Vulcan, controlled by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, owns more than 60 acres in South Lake Union and is redeveloping the once-neglected area into an office, residential and biotech hub.
It bought the block that includes the two auto showrooms in 2003, and successfully nominated them for historic-landmark status in 2006.
Mike Foley, who is married to a McKay granddaughter and managed the property before the sale to Vulcan, said he likes the developer’s plan. “I hope the landmarks folks don’t hold them up,” he said.
Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231 or firstname.lastname@example.org