Patrick Robinson
The Alki Homestead has been boarded up and deteriortating since a fire caused by Christmas lights did extensive damage to the historic building in 2009. Now a meeting between the owner and historical preservation groups is scheduled and may lead to a clear resolution of what to do with the building.

Meeting set to determine the future of the Alki Homestead Aug. 28

Owner will meet with state and city historic preservation experts

A meeting that will be a major turning point in the potential future for the Alki Homestead has been set to take place Aug. 28 at the Stimson-Green Mansion on Capitol Hill.

The Homestead's owner, Tom Lin will meet with historic preservation experts from the state of Washington and City of Seattle to discuss issues related to a path forward for the 108 year old building.

The purpose of the meeting is to "get everyone on the same wavelength and get things done," said Lin speaking exclusively to the West Seattle Herald.

The meeting will be between Lin and Nicholas Vann (Historic Architect) Allyson Brooks Phd. (State Historic Preservation Officer) both with the Washington State Dept. of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, Karen Gordon (Historic Preservation Officer, City of Seattle Dept. of Neighborhoods), Kathleen Brooker (Director, Historic Seattle), and Jennifer Meisner (Director, Washington Trust for Historic Preservation).

As the Herald has reported previously, the building, damaged by a fire in late 2009, has sat dormant and awaiting some sort of resolution. A series of plans have been developed by Lin, his architects, and others but none have been able to surmount the roadblocks of the historic preservation review process and the money required to make the building a viable commercial entity.

In our story from June 20, we reported:
"Homestead owner Tom Lin was made aware of the potential to gain a federal income tax credit by gaining certification of being part of the National Historic Register. Lin met with Allyson Brooks, Ph.D. Agency Director and State Historic Preservation Officer for Washington, and Nicholas Vann, Historical Architect and Tax Act Program Director, both of whom work for the Washington State Dept. of Archaeology and Historic Preservation. They inspected the Homestead and indicated they felt the project was worth pursuing."

Vann and Brooks brought in national expert Dr. Harrison Goodall whose extensive restoration background includes work on more than 1600 historic structures.

This led to the need to meet with the local historic preservation groups.

What may happen following the meeting is a meeting between people Lin prefers to work on the project, structural engineer Todd Perbix and log home expert Mark Fritch, and Dr. Goodall who have so far expressed different views on a way forward for restoration. Fritch and Perbix believe the building must be deconstructed and rebuilt, with a new foundation and roof. Goodall, who is admittedly not an engineer has said he believes it is possible to essentially restore in place, shoring up areas of structure and restoring it section by section. Lin will have to make the final determination but that's also a decision overseen by the Landmark Preservation Board and the Department of Planning and Development.

Lin believes that the involvement of the historic groups, and the 20% tax credit he could get if approved by the Archaeology Dept will potentially move the project through to approval more quickly than in the past.

"This meeting is for people to understand our true intentions," said Lin. "A lot of people have been speculating that I want to build a hotel, or a homeless shelter or another kind of restaurant but my true intention is this. I want the Alki Homestead to come back and I want Mark Fritch to be the person restoring it or rebuilding it. Mark has worked with me for over five years. He has the best of intentions and he has been an expert in log construction for years."

As a side note and a remarkable circumstance Lin wanted to remind people that it was Mark Fritch's great grandfather Anton Borgen who actually built the Fir Lodge/Alki Homestead originally with Fred Fehren. For Lin it seems to be a perfect circle to have the great grandson of the original builder be in charge of its restoration.

Lin has done the numbers for the building and is forthright about his beliefs. At $2.5 million he could break even, "provided I throw in the money for the land." He thinks that any restoration or rebuilding plan must result in a financially viable building but not necessarily a profitable one. "Even breaking even we have longevity," he said, "I want it to be an icon. I'd like to own something that means something."

Lin has said previously he would like to bring the building back as a restaurant but given the 5000 square foot size if the restoration costs exceed $2.5 million it can't make enough money to secure financing.

At the request of those who set up the discussion, no media, or others will be admitted to this private meeting.

For more details on the tax credits, and the involvement thus far by the State of Washington see our story from June, 20, 2012.

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