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County says Center should be declared historic

King County’s historic preservation office has recommended that the county’s Landmark Commission approve a request to designate Center as a historic district.

In an eight-page memo, staff at the small office said the neighborhood — several buildings clustered around the intersection of Vashon Highway and Cemetery Road — meets the criteria established by law for a historic district.

“The nominated district’s period of significance and its contributing elements, dating from 1884 to 1946, are more than 40 years of age and, taken together, retain integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association,” the memo says.

“Center is a rare, well-preserved example of an historic commercial crossroads on Vashon and in all of King County,” the memo adds. “Because of its location at the center of the island, the nominated area has been a prominent visual and cultural landmark for decades.”

The staff recommendation comes days before the eight-member commission is scheduled to meet to decide on Center’s nomination as a historic district. The commission will gather Thursday night on Vashon, where it will hear the staff recommendation and take public testimony before making its decision.

Julie Koler, the county’s preservation officer, said her office made the recommendation because she believes the district meets the criteria — a set of requirements laid out in county code.

“I think there’s enough historic character to warrant a designation,” she said.

But the commission, volunteers appointed to the panel by the County Executive, sometimes re-jects staff recommendations, Koler noted.

“This particular group doesn’t rubber-stamp a staff recommendation, that’s for sure,” she said.

Should it win designation, the district would be the second on Vashon; the Beall Greenhouses are also considered a historic district.

Center, according to the staff memo, includes nine historic properties, sections of two historic roadways and four non-historic properties. Five of the historic properties have already been listed in the county’s historic resource inventory — including the Fuller Store, the Blue Heron Arts Center and the building that houses Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie.

Islander Duane Dietz, who lives down the road from Center, made the nomination after months of research. He submitted his 45-page report in February.

The issue has stirred considerable interest on the Island, in part because of Vashon Allied Arts’ proposal to tear down McFeeds and build a 20,000-square-foot performing arts center. “Today alone, I got five or six new letters about the proposal,” Koler said on Monday.

But because VAA has already filed a permit with the county for its proposed arts center, its project would not be affected, should Center become a historic district, Koler said. Only if its permit were to lapse and VAA decided to file a new one would the commission have any say over VAA’s design, she said.

In an email to people who have expressed an interest in the historic district, Koler stressed that VAA’s project is not at issue.

“Please note that comments about VAA’s proposed design for the performing arts building are not the focus of this meeting; comments should address the designation criteria used by the commission to determine landmark eligibility,” she wrote.

The commission could make a decision Thursday night or decide to continue the hearing, Koler said. “I think they’re going to hear a lot of things from Islanders,” she said.

 

The Landmarks Commission will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Penny Farcy Training Center on Bank Road.

 

 

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