Everett to raze buildings

By Theresa Goffredo

Herald Writer

EVERETT —The city’s past and future took center stage Wednesday during a passionate seven-hour debate, and the future won out.

City council members voted 6 to 1 to go ahead and demolish two 100-year-old buildings on the Everett Historic Register to make way for a $75 million arena for hockey and special events.

And though it had been suggested that moving the proposed arena 20 feet could save another old building, the Ancient Scottish Rite Temple, council members voted to demolish that structure too.

What’s next

Other roadblocks still could arise following Wednesday’s decision by the Everett City Council to go ahead with demolition of historic buildings at Hewitt Avenue and Broadway to build a $75 million arena for hockey and special events:

  • An activist group, Citizens for a Better Arena, is currently collecting signatures to validate their initiative to eliminate Hewitt Avenue as a site for the arena. As of Wednesday, the group had collected 1,500 signatures. They need 2,829 signatures and have set a Dec. 20 deadline to reach their goal. For more information on the initiative call Michael Cox at 425-316-7955.

  • The arena will be paid for, in part, with an approximately $45 million sales tax rebate paid to the public facilities district over 25 years. To build the arena, the city and district have to come up with the money for construction. Both entities will need to sell millions of dollars in bonds.

  • Construction on the arena must begin by Jan. 1, 2003, in order to use the sales tax money. Project backers estimate construction will begin by March 2002.

  • The council’s vote ultimately sends the wrecking ball to the two-block area of Hewitt Avenue and Broadway. There, six old buildings will be knocked down to clear the way for the 8,000-seat hockey arena, public ice rink and 10,000-seat events hall, to be built in part by a state-financed sales-tax rebate.

    But at least a couple more hurdles must be cleared before the decision is final, including an initiative drive that would force the project to a different location.

    The design of the proposed arena was both praised and condemned by the more than 250 people who packed the Everett Performing Arts Center during Wednesday’s public hearing. The arena resembles a ship with masts jutting out of the roof. At this point, a brick facade has only been included on one side of the building.

    Councilman Dan Warnock, who insisted that the city "build it right the first time" by requiring that brick be made part of the stadium facade on all four sides of the building, cast the sole dissenting vote against demolition.

    In expressing the council’s desire to build the arena as a means to revitalize Everett’s downtown, Councilman Bob Overstreet said: "Nobody is going to be happy. Well, everybody is not going to be happy, but this is for the betterment of Everett for decades to come."

    Councilman Ron Gipson said it’s "time for Everett to be seen through younger eyes."

    But Gipson did say that he hoped the building’s design team, PCL Construction of Bellevue, and board members of the Public Facilities District, who will operate the arena once it’s built, would "incorporate the wishes of the council and keep historic integrity intact."

    In voting for demolition, the council asked the district to mitigate the loss of the buildings by providing landscape and brickwork that will revitalize the area and incorporate a historic look to the final design of the facade along Hewitt Avenue.

    The council declined to require that parts of the historic structures be incorporated into the arena. The cost of keeping the facade of the Moffat Building, Stovie’s Stove Shop and the entire Ancient Scottish Rite Temple would have been about $2.1 million.

    But keeping history intact in Everett became the hue and cry of many of the more than 70 residents who chose to testify on behalf of saving historic buildings along the Hewitt Avenue corridor.

    Wednesday’s public hearing was held so the council could decide whether to accept, reject or modify a recommendation made two weeks ago by the Everett Historic Commission not to demolish the two historic register buildings, the Moffat Building and Stovie’s Stove Shop.

    The commission’s decision not to grant the waiver for demolition was merely a recommendation and not binding.

    Commission chairman David Blacker told the council Wednesday that the 275,000-square-foot arena, which would stand 85 feet tall, is out of scale with the rest of the downtown core, and that putting buildings on the historic register and then demolishing them sets a bad precedent.

    "It says that our heritage, gentlemen, is expendable," Blacker said. "We were told by the community that demolition is forever and we believe it."

    Everett resident Vicki Rosenau agreed.

    "The message you are sending is if they are in our way, we will tear them down," she said. "Go back and find a better revitalization package for downtown. The answer is not eviscerating its core."

    But the pivotal point for the council Wednesday appeared to be when several Everett High School seniors testified that Everett’s future should be considered with an eye to the young who have nothing to do and who must travel to Seattle, Tacoma and beyond for entertainment.

    "This gives young people the opportunity to do something more positive and controlled and do something that everybody would want us to do," said Corinne Harris-Jones, 18.

    High School senior Ben Carson, who coaches gymnastics, said he knows 6-year-old girls who travel to Tacoma for shows.

    And Adam Bryson said the arena would improve downtown’s look by attracting other businesses that want to set up shop nearby.

    He told the council: "You can’t preserve historic buildings at the cost of your economy."

    You can call Herald Writer Theresa Goffredo at 425-339-3097

    or send e-mail to goffredo@heraldnet.com.

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