City working with property owners to improve appearance

Published on Thu, May 16, 2002 by Meg Olson

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City working with property
owners to improve appearance

By Meg Olson

Along with one of the lienholders of the old SeaVue Theater property on Peace Portal Drive, the city is working on the first of three projects to improve the look of vacant lots in the downtown core.

“It’s an undisclosed individual who wants to buy it and is close to first in line as a lienholder,” said city community and economic development director Terry Galvin. Through several Seattle lawyers, the potential buyer gave the city $9,000 to put a new drainage system under the crumbling sidewalk facing the property and replace the sidewalk.

In return, the city will relinquish its lien on the property, secured after owners failed to repair a crumbling retaining wall that led to water seeping under the roadbed and the collapse of the sidewalk.

Janet Parker, manager of the Chrismarian Partnership in Seattle confirmed that the partnership had given the money to the city to repair the sidewalk but would not comment further on their intentions for the property.

Responsibility for the site has been somewhat in limbo since Gundhardt Fleisher, the Canadian developer who tore down the old theater to make way for condominiums, was fined and jailed in 1998 after a conviction for improper disposal of asbestos.

The property was acquired that year by Northwest British Properties along with the lot next to Lester Park, where the old Vanderpol Building once stood. Northwest British Properties hired a contractor to add some fill to the base of the retaining wall but stopped short of fixing the sidewalk, which continued to deteriorate.

Both properties went into foreclosure later that year as the city issued citations against the property owner. While Northwest British Properties principal John Shephard said in May 1999 that he was “completely out of the project,” the company is still listed as the legal owner of the parcels.
“Rather than get into a pissing match with another developer we wanted to get it taken care of,” Galvin said. “We will release this lien based on information we have that the wall will now be stable. This sets the stage for future development of the site.”

Galvin said the city would sweeten the pot by paying for a waist-high fence based on a Bellingham parks design to replace the cyclone fence now keeping people from falling off the edge of the sidewalk.

“As part of the downtown beautification effort I want to get this aesthetically pleasing railing up in three locations to replace ugly fencing,” Galvin said. The old Vanderpol site and the lot between Costa Azul and the barber shop will also get a facelift, at a cost to the city of approximately $3,000 a site. ..
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