Deadline set on historic Collins Building

EVERETT — A group trying to save the historic Collins Building on the city’s waterfront has until early November to secure financing, Port of Everett commissioners decided Tuesday.

Commissioners made clear, however, that they’re not willing to give the Collins Building Redevelopment Group an open-ended deadline for raising money to renovate the 81-year-old structure at 13th Street and W. Marine View Drive.

“I’m reluctant to stretch this thing out because it could go on and on and on,” said commissioner Phil Bannan. “I don’t want to see that building sitting around forever and forever while everyone dreams about it.”

After years of argument about the future of the former coffin factory, the port and the redevelopment group negotiated last year an agreement to revive the building, which sits near the entrance to the port’s $400 million development of condominiums and mixed-use space.

That agreement called for the group and its director, Richard Sullivan, to raise 10 percent of the projected redevelopment budget for the building by Aug. 22.

In late August, Sullivan submitted a letter to the port committing $1.5 million of his own funds to the project. But the commitment letter contained several conditions, including one allowing Sullivan to move forward with the project “in an acceptable manner and within an acceptable timeframe at my sole discretion.”

John Mohr, the port’s executive director, described the letter as an “open-ended opportunity to walk away from the commitment.”

Sullivan is in Asia this week, part of an extended trip, but his supporters argued at Tuesday’s meeting that he is working hard to secure tenants and a solid plan for the building.

“It takes time to put together the support you’re seeing from the community and the financial support to make this all come together,” said Kenneth Berger, the redevelopment group’s attorney. “It doesn’t happen overnight.”

He said six more months would really help, a sentiment echoed by Chris Moore of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. The building was added last year to the National Register of Historic Places.

“I’d hate to see another deadline in place that’s set up for failure,” Moore said.

But given the agreement and its previous deadlines, port commissioners indicated they didn’t want to set a deadline longer than Nov. 5.

By that date, according to the unanimously approved motion, the redevelopment group needs to have accumulated at least $1.5 million in an escrow account. Alternatively, the group can meet the requirement by gaining and documenting receipt of a grant in that amount.

Commissioner Don Hopkins said he talked with Sullivan last weekend and is satisfied that he’s “real close” to gaining financing for the project.

If the next deadline is not met, the port can terminate its agreement with the Collins Building Redevelopment Group. If that happens, there’s a chance the building could be torn down.

Valerie Steel told port commissioners they should consider community sentiment, pointing out nearly all of the standing-room only crowd at the meeting supported keeping the building.

“This isn’t just a few squeaky wheels in the back row in support of this community icon,” she said.

Commissioner Connie Niva acknowledged the building has become a lightning rod for rumor and distrust of the port, and she asked that supporters treat the port fairly.

“I think all of us agree that if this building could be done, and done correctly, it could be a beautiful entree to the redevelopment area. But right now, it’s sitting derelict.”

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