Patrick Robinson
The historic Alki Homestead is up for sale after years of being dormant and many ideas, meetings and plans. The owner, Tom Lin, is hoping another investor with more financial resources will be able to restore the building in the way he believes it should be.

Alki Homestead is going on the shopping block; After spending $1.4 million the owner wants out

The saga of West Seattle's Alki Homestead has taken another turn that some might have expected. Owner Tom Lin, after spending more than $1.4 million dollars over the last few years on loan payments, engineering, maintenance, architectural fees, consulting and taxes is calling it quits.

The Homestead, also called the Fir Lodge, was built in 1903 and was declared an historic landmark for the City of Seattle in 1997.

He is putting the now dilapidated building at 2717 61st Ave. S.W. up for sale for $1.85 million. It will be listed with Paragon Real Estate Advisors and the marketing packet is in the process of being prepared.

Lin has tried for years to pursue restoration of the structure which suffered extensive damage in a fire on January 16, 2009. He has hired architects, log building experts, and even gone so far as to enlist the aid of the Washington State Department of Archaeology to help with tax credits. Through dozens of meetings he maintained his desire to restore if possible or rebuild if necessary the building that came to mean so much to people in West Seattle.

But in the end he ran out of time and money to make it happen.

"I have been at it for four and a half years and I am running out of resources to get it done. I want to hand it off to someone who is more capable of getting it done than I am," Lin said in an exclusive interview with the West Seattle Herald.

Beyond the financial burden, "It has put a drain on my lifestyle and my emotional attachment to the project has worn me down," he said. "I need to be emotionally removed from it. I'm too attached to it."

He has regrets. "There's a tremendous amount of sadness, no doubt about it. That's why I've been holding out for so long because I don't want to give it up. But there's a point in time where either you give it up or decide to keep fighting for 3 more years or 5 more years." He said he grew frustrated with a process of historical review that seems designed to retard the process of historic preservation rather than advance it. "In those 4 and a half years I spent $1.4 million in carrying costs, permitting and taxes, that money just went down the tube. If we could have applied that money in a shorter term process, we would have had a better shot at getting it done."

"The ideal buyer is someone with deep pockets who has a longer term vision than most bankers or investors. I'd like to sell to someone who has passion and a vested interest. It will pay off."

He's not opposed to a coaltion making the purchase, that might include those with historical organization ties. "Historical people may still be the best because they can get grants. I can't get grants because I'm a private enterprise. I've spoken to Allison Brook (Wa St. Dept. of Archaeology) and she said there's no grant money for a project like this. It's my understanding there's no funding for a project like this right now. It has cut back so much."

Still for a private investor, Lin believes that if the building were to sell for his asking price of $1.85 million, and then be restored at an estimated cost of $2.6 million more, the investment could still work over time and have benefits beyond the financial.

With a $400,000 insurance rebate paid upon restoration, that total cost comes to $4 million. "With 7200 square feet and a new building in the back (for ADA bathrooms, kitchen and storage) and the market could go up to $500 a foot. It's not there right now but it could go there." He also puts great value on the potential of restoring a community landmark.

Lin said it would likely require that any new investor would have to sustain it for at least two more years regardless though the groundwork he's laid with building analysis, and plans makes it much easier for someone new.

Lin owns other real estate in West Seattle, including properties right on Alki Beach. Those are not for sale. "I have obligations to my tenants. There are ten businesses here that I helped get going and I have obligations to them," Lin explained. He will remain in West Seattle as a resident.

He said he still thinks preserving the building and bringing it back as a community asset is, "very important."

In the meantime, Lin has made investments elsewhere in the area including in Des Moines and Greenwood but those are no longer part of his portfolio. Instead he is serving as a business advisor to an internet startup dealing in used jeans/clothing retailer called ThriftThreads.com whose revenue has doubled every month claimed Lin.

The building as it stands, Lin claims, is secure. "I boarded all the windows from the inside, put on a temporary roof, but any building without heat and usage is not the way it should be. I've protected it as much as I can."

For Lin it's been a long, expensive road but he's comfortable with his decision. "I'm glad I've been able to be associated with it. I'm glad I've been associated with a landmark. Financially for the past couple of years it's been pretty bad but if we had begun the process of restoration four years ago I would have had $1.4 million more to bring it back."

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