The Theodora building in northeast Seattle, located on 35th Ave NE closest to the corner of NE 68th Street, is going through a transition to new use. The Theodora Home was formerly low-income housing operated by the Volunteers of America, which had been on the site in a series of buildings since 1914. The present Theodora, built in 1965, has been sold to a private developer who will renovate it as a regular apartment complex.
The sale of the Theodora was finalized in March 2015 and the building has been designated as a historic landmark under Seattle’s historic preservation program. The nomination report, describing the building and its design, can be read here.
The present Theodora, built in 1965, was designed in an architectural style called Northwest Modern, with its use of exposed wood, overhanging roof and clean lines. The horizontal lines of the structure and its projecting form toward 35th Ave NE makes the building appear to float. The exterior includes stained wood, with strips of windows at the first and second floors, heavy timber beams that project from the building face at both floor levels, and a flat roof with projecting eaves. The Theodora is nestled in its site by plantings on all sides to give the feeling that the building is an organic element in harmony with its outdoor areas trees and patios.
Along 35th Ave NE at the intersection of NE 68th Street the Theodora is adjacent to two buildings by premier architects of the style of Northwest Modernism, the Northeast Branch Library (designed by Paul Thiry) and the University Unitarian Church (Paul Hayden Kirk). The Northeast Branch Library at 6801 35th Ave NE is the only other Northwest Modern structure along 35th Ave NE which has been designated in the historic landmarking program (2001.)
The architects of the Theodora were Grant, Copeland & Chervenak. In 1964 this firm designed the Forest Sciences Laboratory at the University of Washington in Seattle, with exposed wood beams and glass screens similar to those on the Theodora.
At the June 17, 2015 meeting of the City of Seattle’s Landmarks Preservation Board a presentation was given by the Clark Design Group, the architects for the renovation of the Theodora. Portions of the Theodora which have been “landmarked” include the primary façade: the exterior along 35th Ave NE with its distinctive horizontal form and contrasting glass screens. Some portions of the interior will also be preserved, including the atrium, fireplace and lounge. As these areas are renovated, geometry and materials must match the original.
A proposed addition to be built at the southern end of the complex must match the original Theodora buildings in style and in scale. The site itself with its plantings has been reviewed, with exceptional trees marked for preservation and an overall site plan to refresh the landscaping. The site plan includes more lighting to be installed on walkways, patios and entries around the building on all four sides.
At this writing the Clark Design Group is applying for permits for construction at the Theodora, including interior renovations. The proposed construction of an addition at the south end of the property must meet with approval of its design both by the City of Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board, and by the Department of Planning & Development for permitting.
Things are changing along northeast Seattle’s main arterial of 35th Ave NE. In 2012 to 2015 the Future of 35th Ave NE Project, a cooperative effort of the adjoining neighborhoods of Bryant, Hawthorne Hills, Ravenna, View Ridge and Wedgwood, worked to put together a plan for “having a say” as buildings along the commercial corridor age and are replaced. The Final Report which summarized the findings was presented to Seattle City Council with a request for a “legislative rezone” of the commercial intersections along 35th Ave NE at NE 65th, 75th, 85th and 95th Streets. Some effects of the proposed rezone would require that buildings in these zones (commercial intersections), have street-level retail, restaurants and services to create a pedestrian-friendly area with residential units on the upper floors.
The next step in the Future of 35th Ave NE process is a meeting called by Seattle’s Department of Planning & Development (DPD). DPD is assessing the possible changes in zoning on 35th Ave NE at the intersections of NE 65th, 75th, 85th and 95th Streets to create a well-thought-out plan of development for business spaces. The meeting hosted by DPD will be held across the intersection from the Theodora, at Congregation Beth Shalom, 6800 35th Ave NE on Wednesday, June 24th. Update: Here is a summary of what was presented on June 24th during the discussion about zoning along 35th Ave NE.