Wedge Historic District issue reaches City Council July 20 ***PART TWO***

Tacoma City Council will hold a public hearing Tues., July 20 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall to take comment...

Tacoma City Council will hold a public hearing Tues., July 20 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall to take comment on a proposal to designate the city’s “Wedge” neighborhood an historic district.

The proposal has worked its way through City Hall since June 2008, when three Wedge residents submitted the historic district nomination to the city’s historic preservation office. According to the nomination, the Wedge neighborhood is an area of Tacoma that boasts more than 50 homes dating back 80 years or more. It’s also where Tacoma pioneer Aaron Titlow, candy company entrepreneurs Frank and Ethel Mars, and Titanic survivor Anne Kincaid resided. And it is ringed by Wright Park, the North Slope Historic District, and many of the city’s oldest churches.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) began reviewing the nomination on Sept. 10, 2008. Since then, the commission has held a series of public meetings to discuss several elements of the application, such as district boundaries, buildings inventory, and the neighborhood’s historic significance. Last year, the LPC met Wedge residents, property owners, and other interested parties for a walking tour of the neighborhood.

If approved, the Wedge neighborhood will become the fourth historic district in Tacoma, and the second residential historic district, according to the city’s historic preservation office. The proposed district zoning overlay stretches north to south from Division Avenue to Sixth Avenue, and zig-zags in several places along the eastern border: the alley between South L Street and South M Street; the alley between South M Street and South Sheridan Avenue; and a portion of South M Street near Sixth Avenue. The proposal also includes several conservation districts.

After much discussion and a series of public meetings, on July 22, 2009, the LPC forwarded to the Planning Commission a recommendation to create the historic and conservation district overlay zones. The Planning Commission held a public hearing March 17 to collect feedback on the issue. During that meeting, many people testified for or against the historic district. Earlier this year, the Planning Commission voted four-to-two in favor of the proposed boundaries and recommended City Council adopt same.

For more information, visit http://www.tacomaculture.org/wedge.asp .

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Tacoma Daily Index has covered the Wedge historic district nomination since the application was submitted to City Hall nearly two years ago. The Index has published nearly two-dozen articles about the issue, including interviews with the authors of the nomination and residents in the neighborhood, public testimony of people who support or oppose the nomination, and photographs of a walking tour of the neighborhood with Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. In light of this week’s City Council public hearing, we have reprinted each of those articles.

SEPT. 5, 2008 – MARCH 27, 2009 (PART ONE) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1807429&more=0

APRIL 16, 2009 – MARCH 10, 2010 (PART TWO) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1809055&more=0

MARCH 24, 2010 – JUNE 17, 2010 (PART THREE) — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1809059&more=0

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

A house in the city, a home to neighborhood history

By Todd Matthews

Apr 16 2009

http://www.wahmee.com/tdi_walkup_residence.pdf

Wedge neighborhood resident Diane Walkup likes to compare her 117-year-old home to a single-owner automobile — it has more than a few years on it, but it still runs great. The home was built before the automobile — a former carriage house in the backyard is one reminder. But for more than 90 years, the two-story, Victorian style home on the 400 block of South M Street was the residence of one family: the Alvin C. McIlvaines.

According to a 15-page Hilltop walking tour map and guide produced by the City of Tacoma’s Historic Preservation Office in 1997, McIlvaine, a contractor, arrived in Tacoma from Pennsylvania in 1893. He owned small parcels throughout Tacoma, and, in 1906, hired architect John P. Larkins to design an apartment building at 920 So. 9th St., near a streetcar line and the “K Street” Business District. In 1995, McIlvaine’s apartment building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The exact age of Walkup’s home has been a question for more than two decades (though it’s believed to be the oldest house on the block). A McIlvaine relative told her the house was built in 1886. According to the Pierce County Tax Assessor’s Web site, the house was built in 1900. Still other records say it was built in the 1890s.

But one source shows the house dates back to 1892.

“After checking our research here at the Tacoma Public Library, we are confident that the house was built in 1892,” says Brian Kamens, librarian in the Northwest Room of the Tacoma Public Library. According to Kamens, the house does not appear on the 1892 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Tacoma — a reliable source for historians. However, the Tacoma City Directory indicates McIlvaine lived in the house beginning in 1893. “We believe that the house was being built just after the completion of the 1892 Sanborn Map, in the last half of 1892,” says Kamens.

For Walkup’s part, she came to own McIlvaine’s former home through a circuitous route. She was born in Illinois and, after college, lived in Monterey, Calif., as well as one year each in Europe and New York City. She arrived in Tacoma with her then-husband, Bill Walkup, in 1977. After the Walkups divorced, Diane met Richard Turner, a preservationist. The couple bought the home in the fall of 1985. Today, Walkup lives alone at the residence.

“I’ve lived in this particular house longer than I’ve lived in any other place in my life — almost 24 years,” she says. “There were some times I thought of moving, but it’s really nice to live in the central part of town. I’m close to just about everything I need. I’m close to the things I like — the Grand Cinema, good restaurants, artist activities. Especially as I get older, I wouldn’t feel comfortable living out in the country. My needs are pretty much met in this part of town.”

For the past year, Walkup, who also owns an 1890s-era home next door, has been a regular sight at Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) meetings. Last summer, a group of Wedge residents submitted an application to designate the Wedge neighborhood an historic district. According to the application, the Wedge is a part of Tacoma that boasts more than 50 homes dating back 80 years or more. It’s also where Tacoma pioneer Aaron Titlow, candy company entrepreneurs Frank and Ethel Mars, and Titanic survivor Anne Kincaid resided. And its ringed by Wright Park, the North Slope Historic District, and many of the city’s oldest churches.

Walkup has testified in support of the designation, and would like her neighborhood to receive the special protection afforded to historic districts.

The Index met Walkup in her home recently to discuss her involvement and interest in the Wedge neighborhood.

TACOMA DAILY INDEX: When and why did you first move to the Wedge neighborhood?

DIANE WALKUP: My ex-partner, Richard Turner, worked for the city’s department of historic preservation in the early-1980s or late-1970s, was a real preservationist. He would drive around just to look at houses. He spotted this house one day with a ‘for sale’ sign. It was so striking looking. His jaw dropped. He brought me by. We fell in love with it and bought it. That was in 1985.

INDEX: What did the neighborhood look like at the time?

WALKUP: This house had been vacant for a year. The owner died in 1984, and it was vacant for a year. The other houses, everything looked the same. At that point, all these houses were really cheap. This was over 20 years ago. It was close to the Hilltop. At that point, people still didn’t want to live in the inner-city. Although the Wedge, even then, had a really strong, cohesive, residential neighborhood group.

INDEX: What do you know about the home where you live?

WALKUP: I know a little. I wish I knew more. I thought it was built in 1886 because that’s what we were told by the nephew of the woman who lived here all her life — the house was built in 1886. But other records say 1890s. Alvin McIlvaine had two daughters: one married, one didn’t. The one who didn’t was Myrtle McIlvaine. She was a school teacher. She lived in this house her entire life. She died in 1984. So it’s like a car that’s just had one-family ownership. I’m guessing she was in her eighties. There are some historical apartments on South J and either 9th or 11th called the McIlvaine Apartments. I have done research in the Northwest Room, and Alvin had those apartments built and they were in the family for many decades. Those apartments, there’s a big plaque there — National Historic Register — which I think is a neat tie-in to this home. To think that those apartments are on the national historic register and the person responsible for them being built lived in this home.

INDEX: Can you describe the house? The style of architecture? How big it is?

WALKUP: I call it Victorian. I’m not an architectural historian. My home has a front hallway, little living room, dining room, and a kitchen. Upstairs there are three bedrooms and a bathroom. There’s a stairway leading from the bathroom up to the attic. It’s a really wonderful space. It’s almost like a third story. It even has some nice woodwork and detailing. It’s not just a crawl space — it’s a genuine large attic. At the rear of the house is a coach house, which is really neat. You don’t find many of those left. It was built before there were automobiles. It housed a horse, carriage, and there’s a hay loft.

INDEX: Was there any restoration work done to the carriage house?

WALKUP: That’s as is, except we jacked up one of the walls to level things out a little bit. It is in good shape. Also an interesting detail, the Tulip tree out front. We were told by the great-nephew of Alvin McIlvaine that the Tulip tree was planted by him at the completion of the house being built. So the tree is as old as the house. It’s healthy. It’s huge, but it’s healthy. I have it regularly looked after by a certified arborist.

INDEX: How long has there been an effort to create a historic district in the Wedge?

WALKUP: Well, an application was submitted last summer. But I think the actual work began in 2007. [Wedge resident and Landmarks Preservation Commissioner] Ross Buffington started to kind of re-activate the Wedge. What really triggered the re-activity in the Wedge was First United Methodist Church being torn down. That was a big warning because it was so close to us. That just triggered fears.

INDEX: What has been your interest and involvement in the historic district process?

WALKUP: Well, I actually did not participate in the application. Several people went ahead and did most of the research. One thing that stopped me is I’m not online yet. So I did not participate in this historic district nomination. I appreciate that the Wedge is seen as having historic value. I appreciate that Historic Tacoma is backing this effort.

INDEX: One recent development related to the historic district’s proposed boundary is a recommendation by City staff to exclude a row of old homes along the 500 block of South L Street. What is your opinion of that recommendation?

WALKUP: Those houses are not in the residential zoning, for starters. Visually, I like the historic houses. But I think that would be a real uphill battle. One individual who owns four or five houses is against the designation. I concur with that decision.

INDEX: What is the demographic of the neighborhood today?

WALKUP: Right now, on my block, it’s just yoHunger people, working people. I’m probably one of the few people on this block right now who is semi-retired. A family just bought the house right across the street from me, which I’m absolutely thrilled about. They specifically bought in this neighborhood because they like the old houses, researched the history, they know the Wedge is involved in trying to preserve this block. They bought with the expectation these houses over here, on the east side of M Street, stay. I’m very happy to have them here. On the corner lives a woman and her child. There’s a family two houses down from me.

INDEX: There will be a survey in May to gauge residents’ support or opposition to the historic district plan. From my own experience reporting on the issue, I see the same small group of people from the Wedge at LPC meetings. Do you have any sense of whether the larger neighborhood supports or opposes the historic district proposal?

WALKUP: I think there will be support. I can’t predict exactly. I can’t say it will be unanimous. I just don’t know. It’s funny. I know you’re saying you see the same people at these meetings. It seems to be that’s the way it is in life. Certain people always show up. Other people may be interested, but they don’t have the time or the commitment to go to all the meetings. But I met a good number of people who attended some of the earlier meetings at Ross Buffington’s house [who supported the idea].

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Another opportunity to weigh in on Wedge historic district proposal

By Todd Matthews

May 21 2009

If you live in Tacoma’s Wedge neighborhood and care about historic preservation, you might want to check your mail closely next week.

The City of Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation (LPC) Commission agreed May 13 to release the nomination with proposed boundaries that would turn the neighborhood into an historic district. The LPC also scheduled a public hearing for June 24 at 5:00 p.m. to hear from property owners and residents about the plan. A public hearing notice will be mailed May 27 and include a postage-paid mailer soliciting comments from property owners and residents.

A draft of the mailer shows recipients will be asked, but not required, to anonymously answer questions related to whether they own or rent property in the neighborhood, live near the proposed historic district, and support or oppose the designation. The mailer also includes a map of the proposed historic district boundaries, as well as details on when and where the public hearing will be held.

“It’s not a vote. It’s not a survey,” said Historic Preservation Officer Reuben McKnight. “It will just give the commission some idea of the level of support or opposition. Part of this is putting out business reply mailers to get some engagement.”

According to McKnight, following the public hearing, the LPC will adopt findings and determine whether to make a recommendation to the Planning Commission.

The Wedge neighborhood is a part of Tacoma that boasts more than 50 homes dating back 80 years or more. It’s also where Tacoma pioneer Aaron Titlow, candy company entrepreneurs Frank and Ethel Mars, and Titanic survivor Anne Kincaid resided. And its ringed by Wright Park, the North Slope Historic District, and many of the city’s oldest churches.

Last year, the Tacoma Wedge Association Historic Subcommittee submitted an application to McKnight seeking historic district designation for the area.

Five historic districts exist in Tacoma.

The LPC began to review the nomination Sept. 10. Since then, the commission has held a series of public meetings to discuss several elements of the application, such as district boundaries, buildings inventory, and the neighborhood’s historic significance.

The process is expected to continue through July. The city’s planning commission will also review the request. Earlier this year, commissioners met Wedge residents, property owners, and other interested parties for a walking tour of the neighborhood.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Wedge Historic District public hearing June 24

By Todd Matthews

Jun 19 2009

The City of Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) will hold a public meeting Wednesday to hear from residents, property owners, and historic preservationists on a plan to designate the Wedge neighborhood an historic district.

Last year, the Tacoma Wedge Association Historic Subcommittee submitted an application to the city’s historic preservation office seeking district designation for the area.

The Wedge neighborhood is a part of Tacoma that boasts more than 50 homes dating back 80 years or more. It’s also where Tacoma pioneer Aaron Titlow, candy company entrepreneurs Frank and Ethel Mars, and Titanic survivor Anne Kincaid resided. And its ringed by Wright Park, the North Slope Historic District, and many of the city’s oldest churches.

The LPC began to review the nomination last September. Since then, the commission has held a series of public meetings to discuss several elements of the application, such as district boundaries, buildings inventory, and the neighborhood’s historic significance. The process is expected to continue through July. The city’s planning commission will also review the request.

Earlier this year, commissioners met Wedge residents, property owners, and other interested parties for a walking tour of the neighborhood.

A public hearing notice was mailed May 27 and included a postage-paid mailer soliciting comments from interested parties. Recipients were encouraged to answer questions related to whether they own or rent property in the neighborhood, live near the proposed historic district, and support or oppose the designation. The mailer also included a map of the proposed historic district boundaries.

Five historic districts exist in Tacoma.

According to historic preservation officer Reuben McKnight, the LPC is tentatively scheduled to adopt findings and recommendations July 22 and determine whether to forward them to the Planning Commission.

The public hearing will be held Weds., June 24 at 5:00 p.m. at Tacoma Municipal Building North, Room 16, 728 St. Helens. For more information, visit http://www.tacomaculture.org/wedge.asp .

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Wedge residents share support for historic district during public hearing

By Todd Matthews

Jun 25 2009

Wedge neighborhood residents filled a conference room at City Hall yesterday to show their support for a proposal to designate their area an historic district. The residents spoke during a public hearing that was part of the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission’s (LPC) regularly scheduled meeting. It was the latest chapter of a process that began nearly a year ago.

Public comment largely consisted of concerns over the impact of a growing hospital campus that borders the Wedge neighborhood. Char Cooper told the commission she feared MultiCare Health System’s medical campus would expand into their neighborhood. “As the hospital encroaches, I have a fear of losing the neighborhood,” said Cooper

P. J. Hummel, a Wedge resident who lives in the 1926 Silas Nelson house and cottage, said she moved to the neighborhood in 1990 and has seen the neighborhood encroached upon by the hospital. “I’m happy to make this an historic district and once and for all get a boundary for residents and know where the hospital can expand,” she said.

“I’m in love with all the things that make our community historic,” said Wedge resident Laurie Hunger. “I’m excited about the whole process. We collected a lot of information and learned a lot of interesting things about our neighborhood.”

Gabrielle Scannell, owner of a 1917 apartment building bordered on three sides by MultiCare, said she supported the historic district, but asked that her building, which was purchased by her husband 20 years ago, be excluded from the boundary. “It’s a commercial investment,” she said. “Right now it is in the Hospital-Medical Zone and we would like to keep it that way.”

Two MultiCare representatives attended the meeting but did not make a public comment.

In addition, letters of support were submitted to the LPC from the North Slope Historic District Board of Directors and the North End Neighborhood Council.

Last month, the city’s historic preservation office mailed approximately 600 notices of the public hearing to Wedge residents and property owners, and other interested parties. The LPC will continue to accept public comment through July 8.

TWO KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

Two important issues exist as to what to exclude and include in the historic district boundary.

First, the designation would exclude a row of homes along the 500 block of South L Street. According to the Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer’s Web site, the block includes nine homes owned by five different individual owners. The homes date back between 1890 and 1906. Earlier this year, Paul Post, who owns four homes on the block, told the LPC that he and other owners opposed the historic district nomination if it included the block.

Similarly, MultiCare wrote a letter to the commission arguing the 500 block of South L Street should be left out of the Wedge Historic District since “it is apparent that the owners of the majority of the properties therein are absentee/investor owners and do not wish their properties to be a part of the Historic District.”

The city’s historic preservation officer, Reuben McKnight, has recommended excluding the houses because of the opposition and its disconnect from the rest of the neighborhood. “The commission can reasonably expect that a majority of owners will oppose the nomination,” writes McKnight in a memo to the commission. “[T]his block is isolated from the core district, making it difficult to rationally connect with the core district.”

Second, the recommended alternative would include a block bordered by South 4th and South M Streets. Four homes on that block are owned by MultiCare: three are vacant, and another is leased to a single family. The homes are located at 1216 So. 4th St. (built in 1925); 1218 So. 4th St. (built in 1923); 417 So. M St. (built in 1905); and 407 So. M St. (built in 1908). The block also includes three other homes not owned by MultiCare. One resident, Diane Walkup, owns two homes on the block and has strongly supported the historic district designation.

MultiCare has asked that the four heritage homes be excluded from the proposed district boundary. In a Feb. 2 letter from MultiCare to the LPC, MultiCare Senior Vice President of Community Services Lois Bernstein expressed the hospital’s “concerns about the Wedge Historic District application, its boundaries, and its potential impact on our long-term ability to continue to respond to the growing health care needs of the region.

“It is our position that the Wedge Historic District should follow current zoning boundaries and exclude any MultiCare-owned properties,” added Bernstein. “As such, we believe the Wedge Historic District should not include any areas that are currently zoned as Hospital Medical and should also be redrawn so as not to include any MultiCare-owned properties.”

But McKnight recommends including the homes. “MultiCare’s stated position is that it does not want properties within its ownership included in the district,” writes McKnight in the same memo. “However, the subject properties are also predominantly historically intact.”

In March, Historic Tacoma, a non-profit organization that aims to preserve Tacoma’s architectural legacy through education and advocacy, submitted a letter to the LPC “applauding” the historic district. “Overall, we are in agreement with the staff memorandum regarding district boundaries provided in the Commission packet for the March 25 meeting,” wrote Brett Santhuff, Vice President of Historic Tacoma’s Board of Directors. “We . . . recommend including the 400 block of South M Street to the alley which is intact, cohesive with the proposed district, and is primarily zoned [residential].”

According to MultiCare spokesperson Todd Kelley, the company supports the residents’ wishes to create a historic district, but it wants some flexibility and control over the properties it owns. “Now that the houses have been included, we have to wait and see,” Kelley told the Index earlier this year.

“The homes have no historical significance,” said John D. Barline, an attorney representing MultiCare, referring to the four MultiCare homes included in the working boundary. “They’re not like the Titlow Mansion or the Mars residence. These are just old homes. They qualify because of their age.”

A NEIGHBORHOOD SLICE OF HISTORY

The Wedge neighborhood is a part of Tacoma that boasts more than 50 homes dating back 80 years or more. It’s also where Tacoma pioneer Aaron Titlow, candy company entrepreneurs Frank and Ethel Mars, and Titanic survivor Anne Kincaid resided. And its ringed by Wright Park, the North Slope Historic District, and many of the city’s oldest churches.

On June 27, the Tacoma Wedge Association Historic Subcommittee submitted an application to McKnight seeking historic district designation for the area. Though the neighborhood is zoned for residential use (R2SRD — Residential Special Review District), the nomination aims to further preserve the neighborhood’s character and history, and prevent any unforeseen instances similar to the demolition of nearby First United Methodist Church. Three years ago, the congregation sold its 1916 church building to MultiCare for $8 million; it was later demolished to make room for a hospital expansion. The building was located one block from the Wedge neighborhood’s eastern border.

According to a cover letter prepared by the subcommittee and included with the application, the group is requesting district status for residential properties, and has asked that commercial and non-residential buildings be excluded should the area receive the designation.

“We believe that the Wedge area has historic relevance and should be considered to have merit in the establishment of a Tacoma Wedge Historical District,” the letter states.

Five historic districts exist in Tacoma. Three are listed on the local Tacoma Register (Old City Hall, Union Depot / Warehouse, and North Slope); four are listed on the National Register (Old City Hall, Union Depot / Warehouse, North Slope, and Stadium / Seminary); and four are listed on the Washington Heritage Register (Old City Hall, Union Depot / Warehouse, North Slope, and Salmon Beach).

In 1999, an effort to create a historic district in the city’s Old Town neighborhood failed after some homeowners feared the designation would limit their abilities to modify or develop their properties.

In 2007, a small group of homeowners in the city’s Whitman area began an effort to create a historic district in their neighborhood (see Tacoma Daily Index, “Status Seekers,” 07/03/07 — http://www.wahmee.com/tdi_status_seekers.pdf ).

Last year, Historic Tacoma included the Wedge neighborhood in its list of nine architecturally, culturally and historically significant sites on a “Watch List” of endangered historic properties.

A LONG REVIEW PROCESS

The LPC began to review the nomination Sept. 10. Since then, the commission has held a series of public meetings to discuss several elements of the application, such as district boundaries, buildings inventory, and the neighborhood’s historic significance. The process is expected to continue through July. The city’s planning commission will also review the request. On March 4, commissioners met Wedge residents, property owners, and MultiCare officials for a walking tour of the neighborhood. For more information, visit http://www.tacomaculture.org/wedge.asp .

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Opposing sides emerge in Wedge historic district nomination

By Todd Matthews

Jun 30 2009

For the past nine months, Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) meetings where commissioners discussed the proposed Wedge historic district have drawn the same core group of people.

The regulars include Jean Carter, Char Cooper, and Laurie Hunger — three Wedge residents who co-wrote the nomination and submitted it to City Hall last year; Diane Walkup — a Wedge resident who wants her property included in the district boundary; a trio of MultiCare Health System representatives who want the hospital’s properties excluded; and, ahem, the editor of a small legal newspaper.

That changed during a public hearing June 24. The people who jammed a conference room at City Hall during the meeting provided the first opportunity for landmarks commissioners to hear from people outside that core group. The hearing also brought the first sign that two camps are emerging over the issue: residents who support the proposal, and residents who do not.

The Wedge neighborhood is a part of Tacoma that boasts more than 50 homes dating back 80 years or more. It’s also where Tacoma pioneer Aaron Titlow, candy company entrepreneurs Frank and Ethel Mars, and Titanic survivor Anne Kincaid resided. And it is ringed by Wright Park, the North Slope Historic District, and many of the city’s oldest churches.

According to historic preservation officer Reuben McKnight, in late-May approximately 600 postage-paid mailers were sent to Wedge property owners, residents, interested parties, and people who live near the proposed boundary in hopes of collecting feedback on the proposal. The mailer included a drawing of the district’s proposed boundaries and information about the public hearing.

The mailer also posed questions under three categories:

1. Please check the best choice below:

(a.) I own a home in the proposed historic district;

(b.) I rent a home in the proposed district;

(c.) I reside near the proposed area but not within the proposed boundaries;

(d.) Other.

2. Do you support the proposed historic district being established?

(a.) Yes

(b.) No

(c.) Neutral

(d.) I don’t have enough information

3. Additional comments for the Commission?*

*Additional comments may also be submitted in letter or e-mail form.

Materials from the June 24 meeting indicate 31 mailers were returned to City Hall.

Sixteen respondents own homes; 4 rent homes; 7 reside near the proposed district; and 3 are classified as “other.”

Twenty respondents support the plan; 5 oppose it; 1 is neutral; and 4 say they don’t have enough information.

Additional comments include the following:

— The alley between M Street and L Street is a natural boundary to keep the neighborhood intact;

— Creation of an historic district will be a big step forward for the Wedge;

— I would also like to see a historic district west of the North Slope;

— I own an apartment building in the district. Please take my building out of the historic district;

— Would upgrade of my building and land prices go up?

— We live in the North Slope Historic District and have appreciated the benefits of a historic district;

— I do not want to be a part of the historic district;

— This district is being requested by a small group of people with a personal agenda. I don’t want my home included in this district;

— I support this only if it involves South M Street;

— Long overdue. I totally support.

The meeting materials also included six letters of support and opposition. Here are those letters:

I. Mark Bardwil, Chair, North Slope Historic District Board of Directors

We enthusiastically endorse the creation of the Wedge Historic District with its proposed boundaries as Division Avenue to South M Street to Sixth Avenue, and to Sprague. The Wedge is a intact neighborhood of historic single and multi-family homes dating largely from the 1890s to the 1930s. It encompasses architectural gems such as Ambrose Russell’s 1906 chalet house (1318 S. 4th) and the 1927 Creso Court (1512 Sixth Avenue), a fine example of a bungalow court, as well as houses associated with early Tacoma leaders such as the Aaron Titlow house (410 S. Sheridan). The many buildings within the proposed boundaries meet the criteria for individual inclusion on the city’s historic register. However, listing the entire Wedge as a historic district will preserve another of Tacoma’s early streetcar neighborhoods.

Since the 1990s when the North Slope Historic District began to take shape, property owners from the Wedge neighborhood have discussed with us the possibility of a historic district there. Just as with our own neighborhood, we have long thought that a Wedge Historic District was the best way to prevent further demolition and encroachment there. We have met with and encouraged Wedge property owners to pursue that goal. We are very pleased to see that their hard work has finally come to completion. We urge the Landmarks Preservation Commission to forward Wedge Historic District nomination on to the Planning Commission with a “do pass” recommendation.

II. Gregory M. Loy, Wedge resident

I am a resident of Tacoma. I purchased my home approximately 20 years ago and it has been my primary residence since. I am vehemently opposed to my home being included in the Wedge Historic District and would like to go on the record as such. If you have any questions or need further explanation you may contact me at the information below.

III. Michael and Gabrielle Scannell, Wedge property owners

This letter is in regards to the property we own in the proposed Wedge Historical District. I had the pleasure of meeting you and other attendees of the March 25th meeting that my husband and I attended. We were alerted of this meeting not by residential community members but rather by the offices of MultiCare. Since we don’t live at the property, a six-plex called the Stringfellow and originally known as the Nason, we may not have heard about this meeting, as the Wedge residents nor the City saw it necessary to notify all property owners/taxpayers about the proposal.

While we are very much in support of efforts and enthusiasm to celebrate Tacoma’s heritage and improve its future, and are certainly not against a historical district being established in the Wedge area, we are strongly against including our parcel in the confines of the district. We are currently in the designated Hospital/Medical zone and wish to retain that designation.

This property was purchased by my husband almost 20 years ago, as a commercial investment property, back when you couldn’t get a pizza delivered there and there wasn’t much appreciation for the area’s heritage as an historical residential community. As owners we have strived to retain our building’s character out of respect for its beauty and history, and will continue to maintain it as such. We feel that it is this kind of dedication to a property that allows for proposals such as this one. But we do not want our commercial investment, surrounded on three sides by MultiCare property, in a designated Hospital/Medical zone, to be included in this district.

IV. Rev. Dr. M. Lynn Smith?Henry, Congregation of Celts

I live within the Wedge and represent the Congregation of Celts.

I have been watching the events related to the meetings between the City of Tacoma and the minority of individuals in the Wedge who are advocating for an historic district.

Such districts represent an egregious and abusive disregard for the rights of property owners by taking away their ability to efficient[ly] and economically improve their property consonant with the most cherished of traditions of our society and as guaranteed under constitutional law.

There is no compelling history in this neighborhood which warrants such an historic district. The fact that one (possibly two) historic individual(s) lived in this neighborhood is not at all a justification for considering such a designation. Therefore, it would be hard to make a case that the “history” of the community would be jeopardized or credibly damaged by individual property owners making modifications to their properties within this neighborhood. The zoning is presently very restrictive — it was rezoned in the 1990s — and need not be more so.

The voice of the few should not be allowed to speak for the many. I urge the city to disapprove of this proposed district or make provisions for owners within the proposed district to “opt out.”

Should this district be approved, we will legally challenge the validity of such a district. Further, it appears from the meeting notice received via USPS that there are certain properties within the proposed district that will be granted exceptional provisions which amounts to unfair and unequal treatment. This is a bad idea. The City of Tacoma has other historical districts — aplenty in fact. We do not need another in a neighborhood which is at best a transition community between the North and South end and really does not have any significant history of which to speak.

Once again, I want to reiterate that this district is being promoted by a few individuals who have a personal agenda and who are not happy with the nearby presence of the MultiCare system and any possible expansion by them into the neighborhood. To keep any such expansion from happening, they are sadly willing to place financial burdens and restrictions on the properties of others in order to carry out their personal agendas. I want to go on record that I and my organization stringently oppose a creation of an historic district in this neighborhood. This is a sadly misguided effort with a few individuals who have a personal agendas and it should not be allowed to succeed.

V. Julie and Jay Turner, Wedge residents

As neighbors of the Wedge, we would like to support the nomination to form an historic district in that neighborhood. The structures represent an important part of the history of our city — an area where the builders and workers of Tacoma lived in the early years of our city. Please pass the nomination.

VI. Jonathan Phillips, North End Neighborhood Council

The purpose of my e-mail is to inform you of the North End Neighborhood Council Board’s enthusiastic support of the Wedge Neighborhood in their application to be designated as an Historic District.

A letter of support will reach you in the next two days, but I wanted to e-mail you so you would know of our support immediately. Please inform the Landmarks Preservation Commissioners of our support for this new Historic District in the North End Neighborhood.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

More voices weigh in on Wedge historic district proposal

By Todd Matthews

Jul 21 2009

The City of Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) this week will continue to review a request to designate the Wedge neighborhood an historic district.

According to the agenda for the LPC’s July 22 meeting, the commission is expected to recommend the city’s Planning Commission “review and concur with the establishment of a historic special review district overlay zone for the Wedge Neighborhood, and recommends the same to City Council.”

The recommendation follows more than 10 months of review by the LPC, including a walking tour of the neighborhood, public hearing, and an informational mailer sent to 600 Tacoma residents.

Last summer, three Wedge residents submitted the historic district nomination to City Hall. According to the nomination, the Wedge neighborhood is an area of Tacoma that boasts more than 50 homes dating back 80 years or more. It’s also where Tacoma pioneer Aaron Titlow, candy company entrepreneurs Frank and Ethel Mars, and Titanic survivor Anne Kincaid resided. And it is ringed by Wright Park, the North Slope Historic District, and many of the city’s oldest churches.

The proposed district stretches north to south from Division Avenue to Sixth Avenue, and zig-zag in several places along the eastern border: the alley between South L Street and South M Street; the alley between South M Street and South Sheridan Avenue; and a portion of South M Street near Sixth Avenue.

The LPC will discuss the issue Weds., July 22 at 5:00 p.m. in the Tacoma Municipal Building North, 728 St. Helens, Room 16.

On June 24, the commission held a public hearing to collect comments and public testimony on the proposal. Last month, the Index published some of the letters (both in support of and opposition to the designation) submitted to the LPC (“Opposing sides emerge in Wedge historic district nomination,” TDI, 06/30/09 — http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1579134&more=0 ). Today, the Index continues that dialogue by publishing some of the public testimony collected during the June 24 hearing.

I. Caroline T. Swope, Preservation Consultant

I just wanted to briefly recap the history of this district, which is so small, and yet it was the home of Ethel and Frank Mars — as in M & M Mars Company. That is where they started their candy empire.

We have the Creso Apartments, which currently serves the Salvation Army for families in distress. That is an early example of a Bungalow Court apartment, which is sort of a Pacific Northwest phenomenon. There are not very many of them left. It might be the only one in Tacoma. It’s the only one that I’m aware of.

There are a number of working class Craftsman cottages in the neighborhood that are in superb condition.

There is the Silas Nelson house, which got quite a lot of national acclaim both for the house and for the little cottage that he built to live in while he was working on the house.

There is the Titlow Mansion owned by Aaron Titlow. There are quite a few larger houses, which represent really the movers and the shakers of that community as it was coming together.

But then there are also a few apartment buildings, which really represent early commercial apartment structures in the city. There is the Berg Apartments, which was constructed by Gust Berg who also lived on M Street.

You have a lot of people that not only lived in that neighborhood, they worked in that neighborhood. You see the same contractors over and over. A lot of Scandinavian carpenters worked in that neighborhood. The Swedish were known for their fine woodworking skills. You have examples of that in the one Wedge house that is currently on the historic register on Fifth Street. It is definitely a good time to become more familiar with some of the history. There is a lot of great stuff in that neighborhood.

II. Bill Sawaya, Wedge resident

My name is Bill Sawaya and I’ve been living [in the Wedge neighborhood] with my wife and two kids and one on the way for about 10 years now. We’ve enjoyed the neighborhood. When we first moved in, the area was kind of sketchy. The City has done a great job in cleaning up the crime and the other things that go on around there.

I, too, was an employee of MultiCare. We moved into that area because of the hospital. Since being an employee I have seen MultiCare growth, which is good for the City and for the area. It serves as one of the best trauma centers for Pierce County and the region. But their growth has also encroached onto the neighborhood. I would encourage you to forward this to the City and recommend us becoming a historic area. We need to set boundaries. Now is the time to do that. I implore you to make that decision.

III. P.J. Hummel, Wedge resident

I am a long-term resident of the Wedge area; we moved in there in 1990. We bought the Silas Nelson house, he was a local architect, he built our little cottage in 1926. It was listed in House and Garden as a “tiny tot of a house with all of the amenities that you would need.” The main house, built in 1930, was voted one of the “10 Beautiful Homes in Tacoma” in 1930. My husband and I bought the house because it was very untouched. It was in beautiful condition. We’ve worked as good stewards to try to restore it and to keep it in good condition.

In the last 19 years, I have watched the neighborhood, you know, flex. It has been encroached on by the hospital development. I think it was about 10 years ago that they wanted to build a parking garage and it was going to disrupt the flow from Fifth Street to the park. We were told it was always going to be left open for residents and that we would have access; that turned out to be a parking garage elevator and a urine filled stairwell that you wouldn’t want to bring your dog down to get to the park. Right now, it is totally inaccessible. A beautiful church in our neighborhood was torn down.

I’m hoping we can make this an historic district and once and for all set the boundaries of what is for residents and where the hospital might expand.

IV. Mary Martin-Caporeya, Wedge residents

My name is Mary Martin-Caporeya. My husband and I are new residents, so please don’t hate me for what I am about to say. We are new residents, we haven’t had an opportunity to work on our house, which desperately needs some exterior changing. We are also both MultiCare employees, so that pays our bills. We love our employer. We understand growth in the community and things that need to be done for the community.

What we are asking is for more clarification. We don’t support this currently because of a lack of information. We have not had the time frame as everyone else has had. But, we do believe our neighborhood is beautiful and so we’ll go with what the final decision is made but we just ask for a little bit more time.

V. Paul Bert, 13-year Wedge resident

I would encourage the council to go ahead and endorse this because our neighborhood needs protection. We have the hospital sneaking in on one side and we’re kind of in between two very busy streets. We need some kind of protection from the hospital. Immediately south of us there are a lot of derelict properties that don’t seem to be changing at all. I think we should be an historic district.

VI. Diane Walkup, Wedge resident

I live on M Street. It is a very special block and the last residential block before the MultiCare campus. I live right behind a surface parking lot. Now, in the years since I’ve lived there I’ve seen a lot of houses torn down. In their places are either buildings or parking lots.

I think it’s time to take a stand. This has been a difficult decision. I have considered many things. Sell to MultiCare, get rich. I made a bunch of money one time selling to a developer which enabled me to get out of debt. But it is interesting. It didn’t bring me happiness. What really brings me happiness is a feeling of community. And I get a lot of that from my neighborhood. Very special people live here. We really feel like a cohesive unit. I think as such with our great gifts we have to offer, huge heritage trees, and historic houses that offer MultiCare a lot since we are contiguous to their campus. That is an asset for MultiCare.

I ask that MultiCare support this historic landmark designation of the Wedge. I think they actually have a lot to gain. It shows there can be a new relationship going forward. MultiCare said in writing they want to have a cutting edge relationship. Here is a wonderful way to manifest that. I can even see them, if they decide not to sell and put the four homes [they own] back on the market, three of which have been vacant for three years, I can see a use for them, for MultiCare to use those historic houses.

It is only the outside that needs to stay historic. You can remodel inside. I could even see that you could have a little Bed and Breakfast place for patients’ families. You could have a museum. I just see a lot of positive scenarios.

There is an apartment building at the end of my block which I love. That is an investment for the owners, and I honor that. That apartment building is zoned differently. It is zoned hospital-medical.

I can see the value of that building actually increased if it were to be included in the historic district. I really care about those people and I love their tenants and a lot of them have been my good friends. I guess I just want to point this out because I support the historic district and I support those people too because they have been wonderful landlords.

— SIDEBAR ARTICLE —

Stats show support for Wedge historic district

According to the city’s historic preservation office, a postcard mailer was sent May 27 to approximately 600 recipients with notification of a public hearing June 24 and a business-reply postcard questionnaire regarding a proposal to designate the Wedge neighborhood and historic district.

Here are statistics related to the mailer:

— The LPC received 36 responses to the postcard mailer. Of these responses, approximately 58 per cent were received from owners of residential property owners, 22 per cent from residents outside the proposed district, eight per cent from renters, two per cent from business owners, and the remainder from those who self-identified as “other.”

— Of the above, 67 per cent of the responses were supportive of the proposed district, 14 per cent opposed, with 11 per cent indicating that there was not enough information to decide, and six per cent neutral;

— Twenty-three postcard responses were received from property owners within the proposed boundaries. Of these responses, 61 per cent were supportive, 22 per cent opposed, with 13 per cent indicated a need for more information, and four per cent were neutral;

— A total of 15 written comments were received before, during, and after the public hearing, in both letter and email form. Of these comments, five were generally in support, four were generally in opposition, and six related to specific policy areas in the proposal, such as boundaries;

— Twelve people provided testimony on record at the Commission’s public hearing June 24.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Key meetings ahead for Wedge Historic District proposal

By Todd Matthews

Feb 16 2010

http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1717406&more=0

Residents of Tacoma’s Wedge neighborhood could learn this summer whether their part of town will be designated as an historic district. Before then, however, a series of public meetings will be held at City Hall beginning next month.

According to Tacoma City Manager Eric Anderson’s most recent public policy calendar, which is included in his weekly report to City Council dated Feb. 11 ( http://cms.cityoftacoma.org/cityclerk/Files/CityCouncil/CMOWeeklyReport/2010/WklyReport20100211.pdf ), the city’s planning commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing March 17 to collect feedback on whether or not to recommend the special designation. In May, that recommendation will be forwarded to City Council, which is tasked with making the final decision. Similarly, the council’s neighborhoods and housing committee will receive an update on the proposal May 17 and make a recommendation to the full council. From there, City Council will hold a public hearing on the issue June 29 and could introduce an ordinance in July.

If approved, the Wedge Neighborhood will become the fourth historic district in Tacoma, and the second residential historic district, according to the city’s historic preservation office.

The proposal has worked its way through City Hall since June 2008, when three Wedge residents submitted the historic district nomination to the city’s historic preservation office. According to the nomination, the Wedge neighborhood is an area of Tacoma that boasts more than 50 homes dating back 80 years or more. It’s also where Tacoma pioneer Aaron Titlow, candy company entrepreneurs Frank and Ethel Mars, and Titanic survivor Anne Kincaid resided. And it is ringed by Wright Park, the North Slope Historic District, and many of the city’s oldest churches.

The proposed district stretches north to south from Division Avenue to Sixth Avenue, and zig-zags in several places along the eastern border: the alley between South L Street and South M Street; the alley between South M Street and South Sheridan Avenue; and a portion of South M Street near Sixth Avenue.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) began reviewing the nomination Sept. 10. Since then, the commission has held a series of public meetings to discuss several elements of the application, such as district boundaries, buildings inventory, and the neighborhood’s historic significance.

Last year, the LPC met Wedge residents, property owners, and other interested parties for a walking tour of the neighborhood.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Public can weigh in on proposed Wedge Historic District

Mar 09 2010

http://tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1729797&more=0

Should the Wedge neighborhood become a historic district? At 5 p.m. on March 17, the public will have an opportunity to provide feedback on the matter to the Tacoma Planning Commission.

The area of the proposed district extends from Division Avenue to South M Street to Sixth Avenue and to Sprague. The North Slope Historic District — established in 1994 and listed on the Tacoma, Washington and National registers of historic places — borders the proposed Wedge District.

In June 2008, the Wedge area neighbors made a request to the City to be considered for historic district status. Following a year of due diligence and a public hearing, on July 22, 2009, the Landmarks Preservation Commission recommended creating of a new Wedge Historic District and a Wedge Conservation District to the Planning Commission. The Wedge Conservation District provides a buffer and transition from the proposed historic district to adjacent areas.

The next step in the process will take place on March 17 — the Planning Commission will conduct a public hearing on the most recent version of the Wedge Historic District and Conservation District boundaries that were recently proposed. Interested individuals may testify in person on the proposal, or submit comments in writing to the Planning Commission by e-mail ( planning@cityoftacoma.org ) or via fax (253) 591-2002. Written comments will be accepted until 5 p.m. on March 26.

Following the public hearing, the commission will consider making a recommendation to City Council on the proposal. If the City Council approves historic district status, a new “historic overlay zone” and a conservation overlay zone would be established, which would introduce a design review requirement for projects in the district, protect historic buildings from demolition and make historically contributing buildings eligible for local tax incentives.

The public hearing will take place in the Council Chambers of the Tacoma Municipal Building, 747 Market St., first floor. For more information on this proposal, visit http://www.cityoftacoma.org/planning (click on Wedge Neighborhood Historic District).

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Related Stories