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Historic & Traditional

Everyday Heroes of the Built Environment

Whether you are pro-density or a full-blown BANANA (a step beyond the ubiquitous NIMBY), you probably have an opinion about how the fabric of Seattle is evolving as the city grows. In this post, Anne explores her thoughts on it, offering praise for the Everyday Heroes who care for our urban fabric.

July 8, 2014

Seattle is changing rapidly. Even if you don't have a strong opinion about our growth, you fall somewhere on the spectrum ranging from calling for maximum density to a "BANANA" (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything - a step up from the now ubiquitous "NIMBY"). I often lament that I did not take photos around Capitol Hill when we moved to the neighborhood seven years ago, capturing the spot where we used to get our oil changed that is now apartments, the quirky building that housed The Men's Room C.C. Attle's which is now the Bullitt Center, and the beautiful old Espresso Vivace location which was torn down to construct the future light rail station on Broadway.

Photo Credit: The Bullitt Center.

As someone in the industry, I fall somewhere in the middle. We are thankful for the bustling economy. I am thankful that new multifamily housing is built so that a mere mortal like myself can afford to own in a neighborhood like Capitol Hill. But a little part of my soul dies when an historic building, or even just a building I'm attached to because it's part of my everyday experience, is torn down to make room for yet another apartment building. Or, am I just upset because I worry that the wait for brunch anywhere will be too long now? I didn't say my point of view was entirely rational, but I think that a longing for connection to our history is deeply rooted in our psyche and needed even more in this day of unprecedented rapid change.

That said, there's a lot of negative talk about developers, micro-housing, monster ADU's, small lot buildings, demolition, apartments, etc, etc. Sometimes I forget that I don't hate life and will tumble down the rabbit hole of reading the comments on an article about one of these subjects in an online publication, of which no good can come. But we like to focus on the positive here, and I want to give some encouragement to anyone who feels like Seattle is just becoming one huge Hardie Panel. This is where the Everyday Heroes come in.

These are regular folks who are lovingly remodeling or adapting historic homes and commercial spaces. You might not read about them in the Seattle Times or neighborhood blogs, just like you don't hear about the 87,000 flights per day that land safely, just the very rare occasion where something goes wrong. But at Board & Vellum we hear from them and work with them every day... a couple with a 1914 craftsman jewel that needs a thoughtful addition,  a box style home that needs a modern kitchen, or a 1930 Tudor style that needs a floor plan tweak to fit the lifestyle of an active family. We get so much positive feedback about Ada's Technical Books and Café, and not just because of the awesome design (ahem). Most of the credit goes to the owners, who chose to maintain an historic home as a vibrant commercial space, enhancing the human scale experience of 15th Avenue.


Ada’s Technical Books and Café, before and after.

People all over Seattle are putting their time, money, and considerable efforts into adapting older homes. In most cases it would be easier to just tear it down and start over with modern plumbing, or move to a new house in the suburbs. An important motto when remodeling an older home is to make an addition feel as if it's always been there, on the inside and out. Maintaining historical integrity as much as possible while adapting homes for modern living can be challenging, but a rewarding challenge that we are always up for.

While the homeowners take on the burden, we all benefit and can enjoy the preservation of the finely knit urban fabric that makes Seattle such a livable city. Everyday Heroes of the Built Environment, we salute you!

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