Historic home may give way to Ericksen Ave. development

Relocation of the 1903 home is still an option.

A small house on Ericksen Avenue is the subject of a heated debate on historical preservation on the island.

The home, constructed in 1903, is one of six remaining houses on Ericksen that were built from timbers provided by the Winslow Shipyard.

Local historical activists and the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation have weighed in on the house, which was part of a qualifying application for the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

A design plan for the site would remove the old home and replace it with a 2,075-square-foot commercial building. Behind that building, a pre-approved three-unit, 3,400-square-foot condominium structure would also be built.

On Monday, the Design Review Board (DRB), a citizens group that advises the city Planning Commission and the Department of Planning and Community Development on commercial and mixed-use land use applications, recommended the denial of the application based on the proposed building’s conformance to its surroundings.

At two previous hearings, the DRB had recommended denial of the project because it would require the demolition of the historic home.

“At this point (the DRB) understands we are beyond looking at the historical aspect,” said city planner Bob Katai. “Verbally, (DRB) explained how the development didn’t have a pedestrian scale and it was a lot more massive than existing surrounding buildings.”

DRB’s recommendation and other factors relating to historic preservation will be weighed by the planning commission, which will make another recommendation before plans are either approved or denied by the city’s Planning Department.

Cook said that legal counsel from attorney Rosemary Larson, who was contracted by the city, indicated there was no justification to mandate the saving of the structure.

“The planning department’s position is that our regulations don’t mandate the preservation of that home,” Cook said. “The DRB was asked to look at the site plan itself, to take the issue of the older home out of the picture.”

Jon Quitslund, a board member on Bainbridge Island Historical Society, has been following the journey of the home at 216 Ericksen Ave., and is still holding out for an option to save the structure.

“I believe there is a basis for saying these historic buildings should be preserved, especially if they are usable buildings which contribute to the character of that road,” Quitslund said.

The denial recommendation could give preservationists more time to mount efforts to save the building if site plans have to be revised to fit the neighborhood character on Ericksen.

The owner of the parcel, Bruce Brunton, said that proposed buildings would be more energy efficient and provide ADA accessibility as well as off-street parking. He also has some doubt as to the historical significance of the home.

“There has been no person or event of historical significance that happened there,” Brunton said. “And there is no ordinance that requires us to preserve the building unless we register it as a historical site.

“I’m sure in the meantime some people will attempt to try to delay my plans for the site.”

Brunton has offered to provide the house, free of charge, to any organization who wants to move and preserve the structure.

Quitslund finds that offer promising, but doesn’t know how practical it would be.

“Moving the house would solve a piece of the puzzle, but what do you put in it’s place?” Quitslund said. “This is part of a row of six homes, removing this building would be like knocking out the front tooth – the smile doesn’t look the same.”

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