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I am all for preserving and adapting historic buildings and neighborhoods.
I think that maintaining a proper scale, material palette and sensitivity to the historic context is a good thing.
I am absolutely against the overt replication of a historic style. We do not have the ability, at least without significant expense, to properly recreate these wonderful old buildings. Most of the attempts at simulation that I have seen are poor at best.
Cities need layers. New buildings should be sensitive in scale and materials and should help delineate the sense of history.
I think the Hacker design fits well in these respects. It is contemporary yet blends well with the context.

Doug Kelso

Personally, I have no objections to putting a replica of an old building in Old Town as long as it is an accurate replica (at least on the outside). Don't tell me we can't create brickwork like the Pythian Building today. Don't tell me we can't pour a classic cast iron facade for the front of a building, even if it's attached to a steel skeleton.

Personally, I'd like to see the City draw a line around the Old Town Historic District and allow new buildings within that reproduce -- as exactly as possible -- the exterior of any notable building that was built in the Pacific Northwest prior to 1930. (At this point, that's a minimum of 81 years ago). Set height limits that let the buildings get as tall as their historic pre-1930 counterparts.

The trade-off for the developers would be the waiver of ALL off-street parking requirements -- a rule that's also historically justified, since very few people owned cars or even carriages in that era. The area is well-served by public transit and there's a lot of street parking, plus surface parking in the vacant lots in the district, and plenty of structured parking just a few blocks away. No need to make room for more cars.

Certainly, reproducing an old building isn't any challenge for an architect. It's more an engineering question -- take an old blueprint from a spectacular now-demolished 1922 Seattle building (for example) and modify the interior for modern materials, seismic standards, and energy efficiency.

But as noted, "the district is the resource." Keep the sense of a historic district all around, and the buildings will rapidly increase in value. It would be a good pay-off for property owners over the long run.

It would also make for a good tourist draw, something like a Portland version of the old towns in the hearts of many great cities in Europe. (Which, in some cases, are reconstructions of older buildings that had been destroyed in the Second World War.) That would help support a lively pedestrian district with a lot of retail and restaurant space on the ground floors.


I will tell you that unless a serious financial investment is made, an accurate historic replica is not possible. It does not pencil out for any developer to make this kind of investment.
I will tell you that creating a Disneyland like simulation is not a proper way to make a city.

Doug Kelso

That may be true, but I'm skeptical. It would certainly cost money to reconstruct an elaborate brick facade on the face of a building; a lot more than just slapping on prefabricated panels. But how would that balance against the savings of NOT having to provide a lot of underground parking?

And I said nothing about a "Disneyland like simulation." I'm talking about historic design on building facades to match the neighborhood around it. Neighborhood restoration to an approximation of what was actually there, not a theme park. If I start suggesting people wearing period costumes, 19th century gift shops, nickelodeon theaters and horse-drawn carriage rides, feel free to call me on it.

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