Residents With View Of Lake Fume Over Stacks
Six fake smokestacks were placed on top of the old City Light steam plant near the southeast corner of Lake Union last weekend, but with the ruckus they are causing in one neighborhood, you'd think they were belching black, sooty coal smoke as they did in the 1930s.
The 55-foot stacks were installed because the newly remodeled building is a historic landmark and the developers were required to install them to recapture the building's flavor.
Though there are six smokestacks instead of the original seven, and they are 20 feet shorter than the first ones, Peggy Reddy now looks west from her $200,000-plus condominium and sees not a "beautiful, pristine Lake Union," but smokestacks.
"This is landmark preservation in the most perverse sense," she said.
The smokestacks are directly in front of Reddy's Lakeview Boulevard East condo. And the stacks have in huge vertical letters: ZymoGenetics - the name of the biotechnology and research firm that will move into the building next month. The restoration and lettering were approved by the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board. Now Reddy's view of the lake is cut into neat sections, each framed by a light-blue smokestack.
"I want the world to know how mad I am about this. I'm going to organize the neighborhood," she vowed.
Two floors above Reddy in the same building, Bob George said, "I'm all for preservation, but I don't understand the purpose of putting up nonfunctional stacks . . . and they are destroying the view of everyone who lives on the hillside (east of the lake). It's affecting hundreds of people, not just a few."
Kathy Healy shares the view and the viewpoint. "I think it's terrible . . . and I don't like the lettering; it looks tacky and cheap."
Even though there have been public discussions of plans to reinstall the smokestacks, Reddy, George and Healy said they didn't know about the plans and bought their condos after the old smokestacks were removed in May 1991. Reddy is threatening to sue the real-estate agent who sold her the condo in 1991.
On the other side of the issue is Carol Eychaner, a former officer of the Eastlake Community Council, which pushed for the restoration, including smokestacks.
The building, constructed in stages from 1914 to 1921, was given its historical designation because of its industrial nature, Eychaner explained. "The steam plant is not supposed to be an ornamental building stripped of all its character," she said.
Eychaner said the smokestacks do not block anyone's view of the lake. "The stacks will be part of their view, but in no way do they block their view," she said.
Susan Boyle, an architect who nominated the steam plant as a historic landmark, says the building is an "urban-design presence in the city," like the Space Needle and the Smith Tower - a distinctive
landmark. "I think the stacks help recall the building's specialized use and its history," she said.
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