A model of what the Garfield Exchange will look like once redeveloped that was on display during the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 19.
A model of what the Garfield Exchange will look like once redeveloped that was on display during the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 19.

Chris Faul came one step closer to restoring the Garfield Exchange Building in Queen Anne and developing more than 20 new apartment units in the historic structure when the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board approved of the project during its meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 19.

Project architect Matt Aalfs with BuildingWork said he and Faul have been working to gain the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board’s support for the building’s restoration for nearly two years.

The board issued the certificate of approval for the project after unanimously approving the project on Dec. 19. Aalfs said they are now waiting for their master use permit and building permit to be approved.

“They are in process, they’re close,” Aalfs said. “It’s been a long process. We’ve been in the process for 18 months … that’s approximately how long it takes in Seattle. We have done traffic studies and a SEPA review … and they are nearly done being reviewed by the city.”

The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections cleared the project on Dec. 10, allowing Aalfs and Faul to add a fourth-floor addition on top of the building. Aalfs said the addition will serve as multiple “penthouse” apartments.

“There will be 25 units total,” Aalfs said. “Penthouse is an architectural term. It’s a top floor that is set back. It doesn’t imply anything about the cost of rents. They are nice units, they are large units, they are loft units, which means they will have extra height.”

The Garfield Exchange Building is located across the street from the Seattle Public Library’s Queen Anne branch at 1529 Fourth Ave. W. The historic building was constructed as the Pacific Telegraph and Telephone Garfield Exchange in 1921. The top story was added to the building in 1929. It served as a space for switchboard workers until 1976, when the telephone company gifted the building to Seattle Public Library. The library used the building as storage up until the sale to Faul, who bought the building from the library for $2.5 million in early 2017.

The Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board meeting included a lot of talk about preserving the historical accuracy of the building, including conversations about color schemes and accents. Aalfs said there is a running list of ways his company is preserving the history at Garfield Exchange.

“Everything we are doing is to preserve the building,” Aalfs said. “The entire facade, the brick and terracotta we are cleaning and preserving. The front stair is a key element that we are going to great lengths to restore. The front stairs are crumbling and falling apart, and we are putting it back together.”

Aalfs said the front stairs is not up to code for the Americans with Disabilities Act, so his company is also creating a second entryway that will include a ramp.

“Another thing is we are restoring is the cornice,” Aalfs said. “It was taken off in about 1970, so we are building a new one and replacing it. We are not only going to be preserving what’s there, but we are going to bring back some things that were gone.”

The original windows are one-pane, opaque glass with metal frames, and tested positive for lead paint and asbestos, and were deemed unsuitable for residential use.

“In this case these windows in their current condition won’t work for residential use,” Aalfs said. “You can’t see out of them because the building was designed for industrial use for the telephone company. So they didn’t want people looking in; they just wanted the light. So much of the glass is obscure.”

The project also includes residential parking in a new underground parking garage.

Members of the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board said they were impressed with Aalfs and Fauls’ efforts to reach out to try and address some of the original concerns neighbors had about the project.

Queen Anne Historical Society member Leanne Olson spoke in support of the project at the meeting.

“We are impressed with how responsive the owners have been to feedback,” she said. “We are hesitant about the window replacements, but we understand your reasonings. The Queen Anne Historical Society is in full support of this project.”

Aalfs said they haven’t been able to sway everyone into loving the project, but he thinks it’ll make a great addition to the neighborhood.

“I know that there are people who dislike this project vehemently because it’s not a single-family home project,” Aalfs said. “Some people just don’t want (multifamily housing) in this neighborhood. I think the project is a wonderful example of both historic preservation and meeting the housing needs of Seattle. Seattle is in a housing crisis and really needs options for people to live that are not single-family homes. We can’t accommodate the thousands of people who are moving to Seattle. And often to build multifamily housing we are tearing down buildings, but in this particular project we are able to do both historic preservation and creating housing, which is a win-win.”

Since the project still needs a building permit and a master use permit from the city, Aalfs said they don’t expect to have the units ready to rent until 2020 at the earliest.