March 17, 2017

1919 building on Westlake nominated as a landmark

  • Seattle-based GEM Real Estate Partners has filed plans to raze the American Meter building to make way for a seven-story, 81-room hotel.
    Journal Staff Reporter

    The landmark board voted 8-1 to nominate the interior and exterior of the structure.

    The Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board on Wednesday voted to nominate as a city landmark the American Meter & Appliance Building at 1001 Westlake Ave. N. in South Lake Union.

    The vote was 8-1 to nominate the interior and exterior of the building, which was constructed in 1919. The board will consider designating it as a landmark at a meeting at 3:30 p.m. May 3 in the Boards and Commissions Room L2-80 of City Hall at 600 Fourth Ave.

    Seattle-based GEM Real Estate Partners has filed plans to raze the building to make way for a seven-story, 81-room hotel with a ground floor restaurant, as well as a rooftop deck and bar that would have unobstructed views of Lake Union.

    A landmark designation would have consequences for the project because landmarks may be demolished only if the owner can demonstrate there is no reasonable economic use. Landmarks cannot be significantly altered without a permit from the board.

    Designation would negatively affect GEM's plans, said Collin Madden, a partner in the company, on Thursday.

    “We effectively would not be able to move forward with the hotel project because there would not be sufficient scale,” he said, and it would be a “real challenge” economically to adapt the American Meter building to another use.

    Madden said in GEM's view the building is unremarkable, and does not meet the criteria to be landmarked even though it is old. In Seattle, he said, some buildings are being landmarked merely because they're old.

    “There's been so much development, we totally understand there's a backlash,” but landmarking can impose financial hardship on developers and landowners like GEM, Madden said.

    Heliotrope Architects is designing the hotel and Site Workshop is the landscape architect. The site is near offices occupied by Facebook, a Marriott Courtyard hotel and Kenmore Air's seaplane base.

    Madden said the hotel would be an amenity and gathering place for the neighborhood.

    “The building that we proposed we believe will be a landmark,” he said.

    GEM bought the property last March through an LLC. It paid $5 million to the estate of James E. Merlino, who died in 2011.

    American Meter & Appliance operated for decades in the three-story, 19,647-square-foot building. The company was founded and run by the Merlino family from 1958 to 2014, when it was sold to El Segundo, California-based WASH Multifamily Laundry Systems. WASH has moved out, Madden said.

    The building was originally owned by Frederick Boyd Co. Inc. (for which it used to be named), and was a factory, warehouse and showroom, according to the landmark nomination application prepared by The Johnson Partnership.

    Hurley-Mason Co. with Henry Bittman designed and Hurley-Mason constructed the building, which is on part of a triangular, 7,440-square-foot site at Eighth Avenue North and Westlake.

    The structure combines reinforced concrete perimeter walls with interior heavy-timber construction, and has undergone several interior remodels, according to the application. Original industrial steel sash windows have been replaced and the storefront windows were changed.

    Henry Bittman was the structural engineer for the building. The Johnson Partnership writes that his firm designed dozens of projects in the Northwest, including commercial store-and-loft blocks, apartments, hotels, civic buildings and theaters. Some of the notable Seattle projects initiated prior to the Great Depression are The Decatur Building, Terminal Sales Building, Fraternal Order of Eagles (now ACT Theater), Mann Building and Troy Laundry.

    Hurley-Mason Co. completed dozens of projects in the Northwest between 1904 and 1928, ranging from houses to government and industrial complexes, the application notes. It had an engineering and design department.

    The firm's early work includes Seattle Construction & Drydock Co., Perkins Building and Union Station (now Washington State Historical Museum) in Tacoma, and several buildings in Portland.

    In Seattle, the landmark nomination process is required in certain circumstances as part of getting a land use permit if a building could meet the landmark criteria.

    The American Meter nomination application is at under “Current Nominations.”

    Madden's partners in GEM are Erich P. Guenther and Daniel D. Ederer, according to its website. Guenther is a principal at Glacier Real Estate Finance in Bellevue. Ederer is president at Ederer Investment Co. of Seattle.

    Madden is a principal at Windy Point Consulting in Bellevue. He comes from one of two families that owned and operated Vitamilk dairy at Green Lake from 1945 to 2003. The properties were later developed into mixed-use apartments by Wallace Properties and Lorig Associates.


    Lynn Porter can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.