Key Seattle landmark staff are advising the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board against preserving the former Denny’s on the corner of 15th Avenue Northwest and Northwest Market Street.
The recently boarded-up landmark
The board voted in February that the building’s prominence for the Ballard neighborhood makes it a historic landmark worth protecting. But what that actually means for the building and plans to build a multi-use development on the site has been up in the air.
Over the past several weeks, board staff and site owner the Benaroya Co. have been negotiating over controls and incentives for the building. That will establish what the owners and developers can and can’t do with the site.
The board meets at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Seattle Municipal Tower in Room 4060 at 700 Fifth Ave. to go public with their decision.
As first reported on Crosscut, Historic Preservation Officer Karen Gordon and Landmarks Coordinator Beth Chave say in the memo that they can envision no scenario that preserves the building’s “character defining features” while allowing the developer “to realize a reasonable return on their investment.”
The Seattle Monorail Project bought the one-acre site for $7.5 million in 2005, before voters rejected the monorail plan. Benaroya paid $12.5 million for the site in 2006 and said the price reflects the high-density development planned there.
Just six months ago, Denny’s was still operating in the building. But Benaroya said in February that the building is not up to code and Denny’s does not pay enough rent to justify using the space as a restaurant. Denny’s paid $5,295 a month for rent in 2007 and covered the site’s $26,485 property tax bill.
The building was designed by San Francisco Architect Clarence Mayhew in 1964 for the Manning brothers in the flamboyant roadside “googie” style. The original oversized sign and glazing are gone. Denny’s remodeled the interior to add modern mechanical equipment when it took up the lease in 1984.
Board members said in February that the building still conveys its architectural significance through its unique roofline, and is a visual marker for Ballard.
Grace Architects' vision for adaptive reuse of the building
Some still argue the building can be kept without depriving the developer.
Above is a rendering Grace Architects submitted to the landmarks board that envisions denser development while keeping the 1964 building on the site.
“The only way that a reasonable financial return can be realized at this site is by embracing a creative
approach to the site, allowing additional density on the remaining site area to compensate for the
lower retained height at the landmarked structure,” writes Ralph Allen of Grace Architects in a May 19 letter to the board.