Historic Collins Building to be leveled

  • Fri Jun 18th, 2010 11:07am
  • News

By Mike Benbow Herald Writer

EVERETT — The Port of Everett commission unanimously agreed Tuesday to tear down the Collins Building, saying the historic structure would be too costly to repair.

Commissioner Mark Wolken suggested the move, saying that there is no proposed use for the building that would pay back the estimated $7 million that it would cost to fix up its core and exterior. A complete restoration to set the building up for tenants was estimated to cost $11.1 million.

Supporters had hoped the building would include a public market, with a museum on the second floor and office and hobby spaces on the third floor. But a study by a Seattle architect suggested that those uses wouldn’t be very lucrative.

“There’s no chance that sentiment alone would be enough to sustain the building,” Wolken said. “I cannot dream up something that works, as much as I’d like to. We need to move forward.”

Supporters of the former casket company building, which is on state and national historic registers as the last example of the type of business that once lined the city’s waterfront, were devastated by the decision.

“I thought with you two new guys, this beautiful old building would finally have a fair hearing,” said David Mascarenas of Everett.

Mascarenas was referring to Wolken and Commissioner Troy McClelland, who agreed to re-examine saving the Collins Building after they won election to the three-member commission last fall. The previous commission had agreed last year to demolish the building for financial reasons, saying state law generally prevents the port from doing things that don’t make a profit.

On June 5, the commission held an all-day meeting to look at issues such as cost, the need for a boatyard in the area to serve marine businesses, and the historic importance of the building.

Commissioners said its historic significance and the love for it from supporters are obvious, but they added that cost had to be a key issue based on the laws that govern ports.

“Some question the numbers, but they’re within 10 percent of the numbers from the process that has been undertaken over the last 11 years,” McClelland said.

Commissioner Michael Hoffmann said he would like to consider values other than money, “but I, too, think it’s difficult to see this come together.”

The resolution approved by the commission gives John Mohr, the executive director, the authority to approve a contract to “deconstruct” the building, meaning to take it apart so that portions of it can be reused elsewhere.

Port officials are hoping to use the site for a portion of a boatyard that would accommodate about 28 vessels inside what it calls the Craftsman District. The port is consolidating all of its boat businesses in the district and also is constructing a new port administration building nearby.

Jeff LaLone of Bayside Marine said he and his partner invested $4 million in their new building and that while he understands why people get emotional about the Collins Building, he got emotional when he learned the port was spending $100,000 to revisit its decision to demolish it.

“It comes down to a business decision,” he said. “The business decision is this building has to go.”

The 65-acre area had been identified for a $400 million redevelopment, but the port’s development partner, Everett Maritime, is now in bankruptcy.

With the development in serious doubt, building supporters questioned why the port is rushing to tear down the Collins Building and why it can’t find a new location for its boatyard.

“I don’t see the urgency,” Mascarenas said.

Valerie Steel of Historic Everett agreed, noting that there are government grants and tax credits that would defray the cost of restoring the building if the port truly wanted to save it.

She noted that the waterfront is populated mostly by “affluent white people” and that a public market could “really be the basis of Everett’s international district.”

Architect Richard Sullivan, who has tried to save the building but couldn’t get financing for his plans, displayed a model of the area with the Collins Building as a showcase for the waterfront redevelopment. Developing it in phases would reduce the cost and “help the port come up with something they’re proud of for the future,” he said.

Sue Pelligrini of Everett suggested the port sell the building to Historic Everett for $1 and let it pursue grants, tax credits and donations.

The commissioners said no.

“It creates a liability for us to just sit and wait longer,” Wolken said.

Mike Benbow: 425-339-3459, benbow@heraldnet.com.