Apartment in Disputed Everett Neighborhood Historic Area
Apartment in Disputed Everett Neighborhood Historic Area
A rendering of the proposed layout.
EVERET — The historical commission said no. The planning director canceled and said yes.
And the neighbors of a small apartment building project along the northern hillside of Grand Avenue have opposed it from the very beginning. They say approval of this project undermines why Everett has historic preservation areas meant to protect long-standing architecture and character, and erodes why people have bought homes in those historic areas. .
Now a few neighbors are considering filing an appeal, a neighbor said last week.
Planning director Yorik Stevens-Wajda has agreed to redevelop 2115 and 2117 Grand Ave. October 31.
Planning staff believe the 1925 home at 2115 Grand Ave. is too far to rehabilitate it without great expense. The house at 2117 Grand Ave. was built in 1967 and is considered too recent to be historic.
The six-plex apartment building slated to replace those two homes went through multiple design revisions and a few hours of debate by the Historical Commission to get there, Stevens-Wajda said in an interview.
Apart from the need for special permission for the roof, this project meets all other codes, he said.
“I’m definitely conscientious, every decision we make is a loose precedent,” Stevens-Wajda said.
At its last meeting on October 25, the Historical Commission clung to how the design still treats the flat roof as one large usable space.
He’s asking for a waiver to set nearly 50% of the roof — 3,042 square feet in this case — as a common space platform when the city’s maximum is 30%. The architectural drawings call it a rooftop terrace and even envision a recreational lawn and a bathroom.
The validity of a deviation is based on how the proposed design is perceived, and this opinion is based on whether the request would yield an “equivalent or better” result when compared to meeting the standard rules, in this case a roof at 30%.
The commission was disheveled. “It looks like we have rules, but if you ask for ‘a waiver’ you don’t have to follow them,” Commissioner Teresa Gemmer said.
In a 7-0-1 vote, he recommended rejecting the design due to the deflection of the roof. In an 8-0 vote that took place later, he denied giving his consent to tear down 2115 Grand Ave. as a historic house.
Stevens-Wajda wrote in his endorsement overriding their recommendation that “(the) proposed roof terrace area is intended to be integral to the design and architectural character of the building and to appear as unobtrusive as possible and well integrated into the existing structure”.
A few neighbors, however, have taken to calling it a “party deck” which gives the three-story building a de facto fourth floor.
Linda Stern, for example, pointed out how atypical roof terraces are. “There’s not a single family home or a multi-family home in Everett that has a deck like this,” she said.
A rendering of the back of the building, facing the east driveway, with people using the roof. Parking is at this driveway.
Allowing this design sets a precedent in the city for allowing a terrace on the highest roof of a dwelling, Stern said.
“I will be able to look out the window and wave at those people on the roof,” Wilma Jones said.
It compromises neighbors’ privacy, said a person named John D., who did not post his last name during the Zoom meeting.
Stevens-Wajda reiterated last week that overall the project was up to standard.
“I know some might be disappointed with the planning director’s decision on one aspect: the roof terrace,” he said.
This raises a question for the historical curators. At the meeting, commission chair Amy Hieb said the design of this project has “a host of precedents that could unravel the historical overlays.”
Stevens-Wajda doesn’t think this endorsement sets a boilerplate precedent. If a project meets historical overlay standards and “if we had the same situation or the same set of circumstances, I think we would approve it again,” Stevens-Wajda said in an interview.
“I am aware that there are further potential developments in this historic overlay and other overlays, and we take great care” to adhere to historic regulations and codes, he said.
Cancellation of the historical commission has happened before. Retired planning director Allan Giffen canceled the commission 10 years ago regarding the redevelopment of a historic home at 1102 Grand Avenue.
An earlier prototype for the Grand 2115 and 2117 project prominently used its flat roof as a living room for the building’s residents. In 2019, Giffen denied this design as failing the test to allow deviations. He retired in 2020 after 34 years with City.
Only a small percentage of the Everett map is below a historical overlay area. The zones were formalized in 1993 and include the locations of Everett’s earliest neighborhoods: around Norton Avenue, around north Grand and Rucker Avenues overlooking Port Gardner Bay – where this project is located – and in the Riverside neighborhood.
These areas have a special rulebook. In it, he states that preservation goals should not impede new development.
Historical Commission members debated the same thing about 2115 and 2117 Grand Avenues: They don’t want to lose the historic homes, but they don’t want their role to stifle redevelopment.
Additionally, the city is undertaking a citywide update of its planning guidelines, under the trade name “Everett 2044”. Stevens-Wajda said those adjustments could include careful consideration of potential changes to historic overlays, but none are intended to disrupt the appearance of historic districts.
Of these, “I would be cautious to expand the allocation of ‘missing middle’ housing in historical overlays,” Stevens-Wajda said.
Everett’s interest in a broader mix of housing types did not influence the approval of the Grand Avenue sixplex, Stevens-Wajda said.
The developer is Capricorn Investments Inc., a company owned by the directors of Capricorn Safaris, a popular safari operator in Botswana and neighboring African countries. Capricorn Investment owners Adam and Brigitte Hedges were unavailable for an interview before press time, a paralegal at the law firm representing the company told a reporter.
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