First on My Ballard: The Seattle Landmarks and Preservation Board voted unanimously tonight that there’s no economically-feasible solution to preserve the old Denny’s in Ballard. The attorney representing the developer, John McCullough, said they are “reactivating” the approval process for their planned development, which will result in the demolition of the Denny’s.
“It’s a very sad situation,” said board chair Stephen Lee (in foreground). “It’s a bad situation to be in.” Lee said it’s the first time in his memory the board has designated a building a landmark and then not voted for controls and incentives — the next step in the landmarking process. While the old Manning’s Cafeteria remains a landmark, the developer is not restricted from demolishing it. “It breaks my heart,” said board member Christine Howard.
McCullough presented the board with 12 different options for the property. The scenario that came closest was a high-end restaurant on the site with no parking, but it still fell short, losing just over $1 million. Other scenarios looked at office, retail and even bringing Denny’s back to the building (see below). “We never even got to zero,” McCullough said.
Following the board’s staff recommendation, no one on the board disagreed with Benaroya Company’s analysis. “Nothing works,” said board member Alyce Conti, who ran the numbers on multiple scenarios. “No lender is going to lend… these people will not be able to get a loan.”
The board agreed that an outside proposal to raise the height limit on the property — which would require a change in the city zoning ordinance — was risky and should not be part of their evaluation. Conti said that even with the rezone, the property would not be economically feasible.
“We have nothing to be ashamed of,” said preservationist and Ballard resident Eugenia Woo after the vote. “We put up a great fight.” Board chair Stephen Lee — who rallied the board to preserve the Denny’s three months ago — refused to talk to the media and was overheard telling someone, “I need a drink.”
McCullough did not give a timeline for the demolition, as the permit process has not yet begun. As always, stay tuned to My Ballard for updates on this story.