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Fate of The Viking hangs in the balance

Posted by Meghan Walker on July 19th, 2012

By M.J. Hoecherl, UW News Lab

A public meeting held last night, Wednesday, July 18, addressed the proposed development of a six-story apartment building that would displace the city’s beloved landmark pub, The Viking, which has been in business since 1950.

Held at the Ballard Service Learning Center, the meeting was intended to give community members the chance to weigh in on replacement of the long-time neighborhood bar and other businesses currently on the corner of 24th Avenue NW and NW 64th Street. It was also meant to educate them on the layout and details of the proposed new building. Although many have voiced distraught opinions to the property manager about potentially losing the pub, no community members attended the meeting.

Bill Parks recently purchased the building the bar sits on. He said he has met with the owners of The Viking numerous times since purchasing the building in early May and that he is open to the idea of the pub remaining on the property after the development is complete, but wants the building to improve the appearance of the area.

“We want the building to be inviting to families; our real focus is creating a nice community,” Parks said. “People have emotional investments in these businesses, and I can appreciate that, but that doesn’t help us to develop a building.”

Parks added that he has talked with people on both sides of the spectrum in terms of the future of The Viking. Though customers clearly want to keep the bar in business, many nearby residents apparently welcome the idea of getting rid of it.

“A lot of immediate neighbors have said that they don’t want it to stick around because of the constant smell of the cigarettes, sometimes there’s vomit outside the front door, things like that,” said Elizabeth Torbet, an associate of Parks who also attended the meeting.

According to Ray Johnston of Johnston Architects PLLC, the firm in charge of the new development, construction isn’t set to begin until spring of 2013 and wouldn’t be complete until, roughly, spring of 2015. So The Viking will remain open for its loyal customers until then, and there’s still a chance that it may be able to continue business.

“This is a complex thing to assemble,” said Johnston. “The goal is to create a friendly place for the community, and it takes a while to sort these things out. Unfortunately, the things people really want to know about [like the fate of businesses like the Viking] aren’t available yet.”

Another public meeting will be held Monday, July 23, at 6:30 p.m. at Roosevelt Ballard HighSchool to discuss further details on the development of the new building.

(M.J. Hoecherl is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.)

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