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Nokomis building razed to make way for proposed five-story residential structure

The old Nokomis building was torn down Friday afternoon. - Courtesy of Joe Townsend
The old Nokomis building was torn down Friday afternoon.
— image credit: Courtesy of Joe Townsend

Construction crews tore down the old Nokomis building at 16210 N.E. 80th St. in downtown Redmond on Jan. 8.

The building, which was constructed in 1933, was previously the original location for the Redmond Library and once housed the former Greater Redmond Chamber of Commerce and McDonald’s Book Exchange.

In an earlier story, one reader shared his memories of the building while growing up in Redmond.

"I used to spend half my day in this building, reading books and meeting friends while waiting for my mom to get off work to give me a ride home," he said.

Since it became known that the building was being slated for demolition, the Nokomis Club of Redmond and other members of the community had been working to preserve the building.

Efforts were taken on two fronts: the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) determination for the site and the site plan entitlement.

AN APPEALS PROCESS

Alexa Munoz, president of the Nokomis Club, led the efforts to preserve the building. As previously reported, in addition to the building’s history in Redmond, another reason for them wanting to preserve the building was because it was one of the few buildings that was built by women.

Part of the process Munoz and others went through in trying to preserve the old Nokomis building was an appeal, which was held last summer before a hearing examiner. The examiner ruled in favor of the city on both fronts.

On Dec. 1, 2015, another hearing was held at the Redmond City Council’s business meeting as appellants — led by Munoz — challenged the hearing examiner’s decision.

Each side had 10 minutes to make their case but no new material, evidence or information was allowed to be introduced during the hearing.

Redmond planning director Rob Odle said the purpose of the hearing was to see if the hearing examiner made a mistake in her decision or otherwise misapplied the code.

In the end, council voted 4-0 to uphold the examiner’s decisions.

Prior to the proceedings, Mayor John Marchione and former council member Tom Flynn recused themselves from the hearing as they are board members on OneRedmond, which had previously owned the building. In addition, council members John Stilin and Hank Myers recused themselves. Council President Hank Margeson said Stilin stepped back because his wife sits on the board of the Redmond Historical Society, which has been involved in the preservation efforts, and Myers stepped back because of comments he brought up on the topic about a year ago.

All four left the room when the hearing started.

“They had no participation at all in the hearing,” Margeson said.

Margeson said one of the constraints they had as council members was to look just at the evidence presented at the hearing and to set aside their personal feelings. Based on this, he said nothing pointed to the hearing examiner making any sort of errors in her decisions.

Following council’s decision last month, Odle said there was one final opportunity to reconsider the decision at last week’s meeting on Jan. 5.

“No one showed up to speak to the issue,” he said. “So the topic never even came up.”

AN ALTERNATIVE OPTION

In addition to Munoz and others’ work to preserve the building where it was, there were talks in the summer of 2015 of possibly moving the Nokomis building to one of the parks in Redmond. As previously reported, Arthur Johnson Park and Martin Park were possible sites for the building’s potential relocation.

Odle said the offer to relocate the building was made in July 2015 and people had six months to raise money for the move but no money appeared to be raised and that six-month period expired last week.

“While I’m disappointed that the Nokomis Club and the developer were not able to find a path forward to relocate the building to one of the sites the city offered, I am pleased that the developer has committed to preserving historical elements of the building to honor the Nokomis legacy,” said Marchione.

MOVING FORWARD WHILE RESPECTING HISTORY

The developer is Natural & Built Environments (NBE), a Kirkland-based development company committed to sustainability.

Owner and CEO Robert Pantley said they plan to build a five-story building that will house residents as well as a possible coffee lounge, meeting room and art walk. He added that the building will be LEED Platinum certified, the highest certification available in green building.

Pantley said NBE also plans to incorporate some elements from the old Nokomis building into the new building. He said they carefully packaged the windows in wood frames and put them into storage for future use. NBE also saved the bricks from the old building’s chimney to be reintroduced into the new building. And finally, Pantley said they saved a section of the old building’s front porch and are looking at ways to integrate that into the new proposed building.

“Our goal here is to do it very respectfully,” he said.

Regarding Munoz and others who wanted to see the old building preserved, Pantley said, “I think they’re good people with a different opinion.”

ABSORBING GROWTH

As previously reported, Munoz said in addition to wanting to save the building, they were concerned that a five-story building would lose the human scale in that part of downtown, which contains mostly one- to three-story buildings. She said a five-story building can have people feeling overwhelmed.

This sentiment was echoed on the Reporter’s website and Facebook page in response to this story. A number of readers stated that they are not happy to see so many apartment buildings and other multi-family buildings being developed in downtown Redmond.

Margeson said according to the Growth Management Act, a state law, every county in the state must figure out a way to accommodate the growth coming into the area. Within King County, cities throughout the Eastside — not just Redmond — are looking at how to accommodate the anticipated influx of people.

“You can’t just say no,” Margeson said. “That’s not an option.”

In Redmond, he said they have decided to urbanize downtown and Overlake rather than build multiplex units in the middle of the city’s established residential and single-family neighborhoods such as Grass Lawn and Education Hill.

“It’s not easy to do,” Margeson acknowledged about the change.

DEMOCRACY IS A VERB

Although people are voicing how upset they are about the old Nokomis building being torn down after the fact, Munoz said “the democracy we live in is a verb that requires appropriate action by the people” and it “respects our ability to think and act accordingly in a way that allows individual freedom of choice.”

“Retention of that freedom requires the personal responsibility to respond to the shared values of the community when action is required,” she said. “While the (Jan. 1) survey in the Redmond Reporter indicates that 82.9 percent of the respondents wanted to save the Nokomis building, what responsibility did you take to assist in retaining the building?”

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