(Photo of the presentation of the PCSI Town Hall, south side of the building along SW Holden)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog Editor
How many? How long ? What size?
The answers to these questions will help shape the reconstruction plan for buildings damaged by fire. Highland Park Improvement Club, as discussed during PCSI’s second post-fire “town hall” online last Wednesday.
They are all linked – the size of the reconstruction project will determine how much it costs and how soon the building – closed for six months already – can reopen.
Premium Wittman Estes – run by a couple from Highland Park – is on board as the architectural firm that will design the renovated / repaired HPIC, both the building and the grounds. Their presentation began Wednesday evening’s discussion, with over 30 people in attendance. (You can watch a recording of the meeting here.)
Matt Wittman said him and Jody estes hope to “build something even better than what existed before”. Right now, as he showed in an early timeline, they’re in the “pre-design process,” most of which is for community feedback. “It’s time to think big… anything is possible” within the framework of what is authorized on the site. It started with a chat about the site – where the surroundings have changed a lot since it was built a century ago. They hope the reconstruction can embrace the yard more than the building does now. The corners of the building could be more open, for example, so that the building had more of a relationship with SW Holden – some tentative ideas were presented.
For context, he also showed plans for adding the building to the west side in the 1980s – this part is more salvageable than the original part of the building, which is likely to be ‘scratched’ into the frame. reconstruction, as shown here:
Questions to be answered include:
To get these answers, a community questionnaire (still open three weeks) asks these questions:
This resulted in a discussion, facilitated by HPIC Kay kirkpatrick. The first commentator noted that as much as the “anything is possible” attitude is important, keeping the budget in mind is important as costs can add up quickly. Wittman said they would bring up rough numbers next time. The second commentator observed that cost considerations go beyond construction – they also need to be aware of what staff / maintenance will cost for anything they build (as another person said, “How much will it cost to run the club?”).
“We’re going to have to raise a lot of money no matter what we do,” was another observation.
Specific suggestions included a stage – which could bolster rentals, an important source of income for PCSI – and classrooms. Also: Building on the food safety work that PCSI pivoted to at the start of the pandemic, with a loading area and possibly a commercial kitchen. Perhaps a state-of-the-art streaming facility for events: “Making it more meaningful to a larger group of people might make it easier to raise a larger amount of money.” “
Could the project be built in multiple phases, raising enough to cover the first phase, and then adding in as future fundraising allows? was a question. Connecting the inside and the outside will be imperative, observed another participant, “something that will make the building more flexible” – the courtyard is very much used / loved but is simply adjacent to the building, not connected to it.
A metal building could cost less, was another suggestion. Wittman said the project team can assess potential materials as well as costs. He added that other materials could also be conducive to quick construction, such as solid wood. Energy efficiency was also discussed, as well as “future” ways of addressing indoor air quality.
The building has a crawl space with standing places in places – could it be completely dug as a basement? was another question. Plus: Even if the entire building were demolished, would the new one remain in the current footprint? Probably yes, Wittman said – as a “substantial change” some components of the project would be grandfathered, but a total rebuild would have to meet new parameters. It is also information that can be reviewed at the next meeting.
Although the ’80s addition is in fairly good condition to be preserved, it does not have the architectural / historical appeal that people are attached to. Perhaps, then, it has been suggested, the part of the building adjacent to the courtyard could be smaller.
Then the discussion was brought back to what the building should be for, not just what it should look like. What activities should continue? What to add What would attract you to HPIC in the future? What ideas had surfaced in the past but could not come true because of the space or other aspects of the “old” building? (In the “what’s better” department, “easier storage” was suggested.)
Dream, but be realistic, was the advice of a participant who is also a general contractor. Getting the building back into service as soon as possible would be a practical goal. Adding too much, changing the footprint, would bring “a whole bunch of other problems” to the project. “The longer we wait, the more time we waste… bringing joy back to the neighborhood,” another person warned. “Every time I walk past it’s a dead building surrounded by a fence,” so this needs to be remedied as soon as possible.
The question “how much” then resurfaced: How much money do they think they can or should they raise? A million? Following? (The insurance company is willing to pay up to $ 750,000 for an “in-kind replacement,” it was noted.) The vision must precede the demand: “You have to get people to fall in love with it. . Telling the story of all that is happening and can happen at HPIC will be “really powerful”. Can they fundraise on the site right now? No, was the answer, as they are not insured for it – this was a recent revelation, no events are allowed on the site after all, due to security / insurance concerns. (Side note – that means there won’t be a ‘Camp HPIC’ New Years Eve event on the site after all, but they’ll likely bring back the Not-So-Silent-Night Neighborhood Parade.) HPIC has been resilient, and they will find something, administrators have promised: “We will find a way,” said PCSI president Nicole mazza.
AND AFTER: They hope to get together every month from here, to keep the planning up to speed; January 19 is the date set for the next one. (Look hpic1919.org for attendance details.) And whether or not you attended this meeting, HPIC hopes you will respond the question sheet.
PS You can help even more by becoming a member of PCSI; although they are now open to broad community participation, it is the members who will have the final vote on what HPIC does – here is how to join.