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 that same site in a series of buildings since 1914.
The Theodora, built in 1965, was sold to a private developer who will renovate it as a regular apartment complex. (Read through to the end of this article to see all of the updates, including the renaming of the building to “The MOD” which opened in August 2016.)
The sale of the Theodora was finalized in March 2015 and the building was designated as a historic landmark under Seattle’s historic preservation program. The 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 by an arborist, 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.
As of 2015 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 (DPD) for permitting.
Update: As of September 17, 2015, DPD approved the application for modifications to the Theodora and an addition to be built at the south end. These modifications/additions are within the parameters allowed by the historic-landmarking process.
A new era of denser development along 35th Ave NE
Things are changing along northeast Seattle’s main arterial of 35th Ave NE with greater density created by new buildings which will house more people, who in turn will support local businesses. In 2012 to 2015 the Future of 35th Ave NE Project worked to put together a plan for “having a say” as buildings along the commercial corridor age and are replaced.
One of the chief goals of the Future of 35th initiative is to get what we want along 35th Ave NE: a walkable commercial environment. In other words, instead of blank townhouse walls, we want the zoning to require retail storefronts and public amenities such as sidewalk spaces with canopies and courtyards. The zoning request is also called a pedestrian zoning plan because it will make the commercial district attractive for walking and shopping.
The Final Report of the Future of 35th project 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 the corners of NE 75th and 85th Streets. Some effects of the proposed rezone would require that buildings in these zones (at the commercial intersections), have street-level retail, restaurants and services to create a pedestrian-friendly area with residential units on the upper floors.
A meeting called by Seattle’s Department of Planning & Development (DPD) was part of the concluding discussions of the Future of 35th plan. DPD will assess the possible changes in zoning on 35th Ave NE at the intersections of NE 75th and 85th Streets to create a well-thought-out plan of development for business spaces.
The meeting hosted by DPD was held across the intersection from the Theodora, at Congregation Beth Shalom, 6800 35th Ave NE on Wednesday, June 24th. 2015.
Updates: Here is a summary of what was presented on June 24th, 2015, during the discussion about zoning along 35th Ave NE. In 2016 new Seattle City Councilman Rob Johnson, representing District 4, is chairman of the City’s Land Use & Planning Committee. CM Johnson has said that in 2017, Seattle City Council will hear the request for Wedgwood’s pedestrian-zone plan at the commercial intersections.
August 2016 Update: The final step in the “landmarking” process took place this month with approval by City Council. Historic landmarking of the Theodora building allowed the addition of new buildings on the south end of the property.
Landmarking does not restrict the naming of a building. As the Theodora has undergone remodelling into a “regular” apartment building, the owners have decided to rename it The MOD. Apartments began to be occupied in summer 2016.