Seattle Times on the 619, 1/10/11

Pioneer Square artists to be evicted by tunnel work

The state will demolish the century-old Western Building, where about 100 artists work, because it won’t withstand construction of the Highway 99 tunnel.

By Mike Lindblom
Seattle Times transportation reporter

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Jen Vertz, a curator and photographer, is one of about 100 artists who will be forced to move out of the Western Building in Pioneer Square. The state doesn’t think the building would survive the Highway 99 tunnel construction.

The state will demolish the century-old Western Building, where about 100 artists work, because it won’t withstand construction of the Highway 99 tunnel.

Project administrator Ron Paananen disclosed Monday in a Seattle City Council hearing that the six-story former warehouse at 619 Western Ave. will be razed instead of retrofitted.

The building has a weak foundation, and it would cost $30 million to reinforce it enough to resist sinking, said KaDeena Yerkan, a spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation. Otherwise, it might sag 2.4 inches on the west side and 1 inch to the east, Paananen said.

Among other problems, Paananen said, it would create pressure against the Polson Building, with which the Western Building shares a concrete wall. The tunnel machine would go 70 feet deep there, but the top 50 feet is weak fill soil, he said.

The Western was identified last May in contract documents as one of five threatened buildings that required special reinforcement plans by the winning tunnel-construction team. Another 34 need targeted grouting to strengthen the soil beneath.

But not until mid-December were artists specifically told by the Department of Transportation (DOT) that a teardown was being considered, said Johnny O’Brady, a painter and tenant there.

Location is crucial because about 600 to 2,000 people visit the building on First Thursday art walks, artists said.

The artists are to move out before March 2012. Excavation of the tunnel’s south entrance could start in late summer 2011, followed by launch of the deep-bored tunnel machine by early 2013.

A group of artists, under the name “Local 619,” insist that DOT not start construction of the $2 billion highway link until a replacement building is found in Pioneer Square.

Jen Vertz, a photographer, said the tenants have never taken subsidies, and have no interest in behaving as “the artists who stopped the tunnel.”

Instead, they want to rent or even buy another Pioneer Square property. “We as a group could come in with a hefty down payment if we went in with the city,” she said.

Built in 1910, the Western stored fishing nets, canned fruits and vegetables, coffee and many other goods. Two large freight elevators are still used today for lifting art supplies — including motorcycles on which Vertz paints.

The building is owned by Benjamin and Lois Mayers, of Bellevue, landlords to the artists since they arrived in 1981. “We were very happy to continue having the building as it is, a unique, affordable artists’ colony. It was fun,” said their son, Ron Mayers.

Owners can expect a DOT payment for an underground easement, with extra dollars to pay for demolition-related losses.

The state has called for a meeting at 6 p.m. next Tuesday with the artists, in Union Station. Several members of the pro-tunnel City Council are offering the artists their help to relocate.

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City Arts article, 1/10/11

CITY ARTS

619 Western Will (Most Likely) Be Demolished
January 10, 2011 at 3:39 PM | by COREY KAHLER

Last month, I reported about the possible fates of 619 Western, the historic Pioneer Square building that is currently home to over hundred artists. To recap – last month the Washington State Department of Transportation decided that the building would need to be evacuated by Spring next year due to construction on the Alaskan Way alternative tunnel, which would be directly underneath the one hundred year-old building. At the time, it was unclear whether the building would be temporarily evacuated for retrofitting or demolished.

According to an email sent to the building’s tenants earlier today by a representative of WSDOT, due to safety concerns, they are recommending the building be demolished.

“While this was not an easy conclusion to reach, we believe it is the best for the safety of the tenants, visitors to the building, and construction workers,” the email read, “We are committed to assisting each tenant financially, as appropriate, and to helping you find a new location within Pioneer Square or another neighborhood if you so choose.”

The WSDOT will hold another meeting for tenants next week in light of this new information.

Though it’s easy to complain about urban development, in my mind there’s two big things you can do to help everyone at 619: Go First Thursday Art Walk all this year and help them sell all their work, (less to move, more money to do it) and if you know of cheap spaces for rent in the city, let the artists know directly or post it on the 619 Western Facebook wall.

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King 5 News, 1/10/11

by KING 5 News
Posted on January 10, 2011 at 5:40 PM

SEATTLE — More than 100 artists and a non-profit group who call a historic Pioneer Square building home received bad news Monday.
The Washington State Department of Transportation elected to demolish 619 Western instead of retro-fit it before drilling for the downtown tunnel project begins.
The building was once a six-story warehouse and built in 1910. Plans for the deep bore Highway 99 tunnel that will replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct have it going directly under the building.
Large cracks were found in the building’s foundation, and WSDOT engineers decided the structural integrity of the building would not be able to withstand the shifting soil when the drilling begins.
“It is the problem child, it’s 100 years old, not much has been done with it since the day it was been built,” Ron Paananen, administrator for the tunnel project said last month. “It’s gone through three earthquakes and it’s in pretty poor condition as it sits.”
Tenants must be out of the building by March, 2012. WSDOT says the plan to help the tenants relocate.
KING 5’s Owen Lei contributed to this report.

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Johnny O’Brady at the tunnel contract signing

619 Western artist Johnny O’Brady attended the tunnel contract signing to protest WSDOT’s relocation plans for the Western Building’s tenants.

Johnny’s question begins at 19:05

On the Seattle Channel:

http://www.seattlechannel.org/videos/video.asp?ID=5191101

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King 5 on the 619

King 5
by OWEN LEI / KING 5 News
Bio | Email | Follow: @king5olei
Posted on December 23, 2010 at 7:37 PM

http://www.king5.com/v/?i=112408949

http://www.king5.com/news/local/Seattle-artist-building-must-vacate-over-tunnel-concerns-112408949.html

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Q13 Fox broadcast on the 619 Western demolition

http://www.q13fox.com/videobeta/47ebda0f-e639-481a-aa05-52bc7127164d/News/WESTERN-BUILDING-TUNNEL

 http://kcpq.vid.trb.com/player/PaperVideoTest.swf

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City Arts on the 619 Western Demolition

http://blog.seattlepi.com/city-arts/archives/232648.asp
City Arts via PI Blog

City Arts
« 4 Illuminating Things from the Weekend | Main | Celebrate the Winter Solstice Tonight in Tacoma »

619 Western May Be No More
By COREY KAHLER
CITYARTSONLINE.COM

619 Western, the historic structure located in Pioneer Square, well-known for the over 100 artists who currently inhabit the building as a workspace or gallery, is set to be to evacuated over the next fifteen months, due to structural concerns related to the construction of the Alaskan Way viaduct tunnel.

619 Western, the historic structure located in Pioneer Square, well-known for the over 100 artists who currently inhabit the building as a workspace or gallery, is set to be to evacuated over the next fifteen months, due to structural concerns related to the construction of the Alaskan Way viaduct tunnel.

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At the moment, it is unclear whether the building will need significant reinforcement or will be demolished.

The news came unexpectedly last week when the Washington State Department of Transportation informed the tenants that regardless of the pending decision on the building’s future, they needed to be relocated by March 2012.

One of the biggest concerns among the artists is the effect the move would have on the culture of Pioneer Square, which hosts the popular of First Thursday Art Walk and is still reeling from the loss of Elliott Bay Book Company last year.

“The fact that we all have to vacate in fourteen months was presented to us as a done deal,” said tenant and visual artist Johnny O’Brady, “If the building is reinforced and then reopened after the tunnel is complete, it would be up to the building’s owner to allow the artists to return.”

Speaking with Ron Paananen with the Alaskan Way Viaduct Program by email, he stated that the project is currently working with numerous preservation groups because of the historical value of the building.

As for the artists, he stated: “We recognize the unique contribution that these tenants make as a group, and are going to work with them, along with the City of Seattle, in this effort. It is yet to be decided if tenants will relocate in the Pioneer Square neighborhood, but that is our goal.”

A second tenant meeting will be held in January to provide further information to the building’s residents. Until then, 619 residents have created a Facebook group to help coordinate their plans and WSDOT can be reached for further questions by email.

A final evaluation of the building’s structural soundness will be determined later as the tunnel project continues to develop.

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