How Everett can keep old buildings amid new

EVERETT — City planners don’t want downtown Everett’s modern growth spurt to overshadow the character of its past.

That’s the thrust behind a historic preservation strategy that aims to balance Everett’s architectural past with the buildings of its future.

That doesn’t mean freezing the clock to a time when Everett aspired to become “Pittsburgh of the West.” Indeed, a stroll along most downtown streets offers a smorgasbord of building styles dished up by succeeding generations.

“The downtown plan doesn’t say you have to make your building look like the 1890s,” said Dave Koenig, Everett’s long-range planning manager. “You can have historic preservation and new buildings.”

The past few years have seen tremendous development downtown. The ultra-modern county government complex, Comcast Arena at Everett Events Center and Everett Station have dramatically altered the cityscape.

A wave of new downtown condos expected to hit the market next year will bring even more change.

As downtown grows denser, city planners are mindful to take stock of the central business district’s cultural and historic resources.

Historic preservation is seen as a tangible way to connect people with the past.

At the same time, government studies suggest communities can profit from rehabilitating and reusing old buildings. Toward that end, the Everett City Council this week accepted a $10,000 grant from the state Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation to pay a consultant to put together a downtown historic preservation plan.

The consultant will review existing preservation goals, talk with downtown property owners, residents and the Historical Commission, and come up with a recommendation for reshaping the city’s historic preservation strategy.

This may include identifying additional buildings to place on historic registers. For owners, that can mean significant tax credits.

Because it often is more expensive to restore a building than to tear down and start over, the government can offer tax incentives to help property owners offset the added expense.

A good example in Everett is the Frat Mansion across from Grand Avenue Park which had more than $1 million in restorations completed in 2004. The owners were able to deduct the investment from property taxes for a decade.

Downtown buildings on the National Register of Historic Places also have undergone extensive restoration and benefitted from tax credits.

The Commerce Building at 1801 Hewitt Ave., and the Monte Cristo Hotel at 1507 Wall St., are both on the national register. The two buildings underwent what is often referred to as “adaptive reuse.” That means the function of the buildings changed while some of their historical value was maintained.

Both buildings have restaurants downstairs with affordable apartments on the upper levels.

But it’s not just buildings from the early 1900s that are seen as worth saving for their historical value.

The former Key Bank Building at California Street and Wetmore Avenue, a post-modern building from the 1960s, is being eyed by city officials for a children’s theater and urban plaza.

Some downtown buildings will inevitably become casualties of development. A group fought to preserve a few turn-of-the-century brick commercial buildings on Hewitt Avenue early this decade. But city leaders decided the foot of Hewitt Avenue at Broadway was the perfect spot for the Everett Events Center, a multi-million entertainment complex.

Valerie Steel with Historic Everett, a nonprofit group that works to preserve Everett’s historical heritage, said historic preservation can help downtown become a cultural heritage tourist attraction.

“A healthy mix of new buildings and old is a testament to the inelegance and vitality of a community,” she said. “Besides, historic buildings are eye candy. They’re nice to look at.”

Reporter David Chircop: 425-339-3429 or dchircop@heraldnet.com.

Historic Buildings in Downtown Everett

National Register

Masonic Temple1611 Everett Ave.

Monte Cristo Hotel1507 Wall St.

Federal Building3006 Colby Ave.

City Hall3002 Wetmore Ave.

Snohomish County Courthouse3000 Rockefeller Ave.

Carnegie Library3001 Oakes Ave.

Fire Station No. 22801 Oakes Ave.

Commerce Building1801 Hewitt Ave.

State Register

Everett Public Library2701 Hoyt Ave.

Everett Theater2911 Colby Ave.

Marion Building1401 Hewitt Ave.

Pioneer Block 2814-2816 Rucker Ave.

Everett Register

Evergreen Building1909 Hewitt Ave.

Morrow Building 2823 Rockefeller Ave.

Krieger Laundry2808 Hoyt Ave.

Commerce Building1801 Hewitt Ave.

Culmback Building3013 Colby Ave.

Everett Downtown Storage3001 Rucker Ave.

Port Gardner Building2802 Wetmore Ave.

Monte Cristo Hotel1507 Wall St.

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