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First United Methodist sanctuary spared in land deal
By MIKE BARBER
P-I REPORTER

In a unanimous decision at an all-church meeting Sunday, members of the downtown First United Methodist Church voted to sell their property to Nitze-Stagen developers to build an office building in a deal that spares the sanctuary.

The vote caps a plan ironed out last September in which the century-old, domed, Beaux Arts-style brick and terra cotta church sanctuary, at the heart of a long fight to preserve it as a historic landmark, will remain untouched. A 40-story office building, meanwhile, is planned for the rest of the block.


Mike Kane / P-I file
First United Methodist Church.
The church membership, which originally sought to sell the property at 811 Fifth Ave. to provide cash to continue helping needy people, approved going ahead with plans to purchase a new home near the Seattle Center, the Rev. Kathlyn James, church pastor, said Sunday.

"It's a momentous decision. It is a win, win, win situation for everybody and pleases everyone," James said after the vote by at least 120 church members.

"We wanted to try to preserve the sanctuary; it will be preserved. We wanted to sell our property to mostly fund a new church. We have found another place to go and are in the process of purchasing it. It fits everything we hoped for to carry on our ministry downtown. It all worked out well. It just feels totally wonderful," she said.

Because purchase of the church's new home is still in process, its location was not publicly disclosed. Property on Third Avenue between Wall and Bell streets was discussed during a church membership meeting last September.

Remaining in the downtown area, however, retains the church's primary goal of continuing its homeless ministry as well as charitable food and shelter programs in Belltown.

The vote caps two decades of dispute over the sanctuary's fate. Church members fought long court battles to protect their right to prevent the building's listing as a historic landmark in order to preserve their right to demolish it.

The courts ruled consistently that, as a church, it was exempt from government efforts to declare it a landmark.

Church officials had argued that their mission of serving needy people, as well as their future financial security, would be compromised by the cost of maintaining the crumbling building, which has been a constant drain on resources.

The structure's maintenance and repair costs grew when it was further damaged during the 2001 Nisqually Quake, and the church was too small to support the $350,000 in repairs.

The church also lacked parking and other conveniences.

Nitze-Stagen, which in 2005 saw an offer rejected by the church, was greeted almost as a white knight when its president, Kevin Daniels, pitched a $23.2 million cash offer.

The deal involved buying the property and preserving the sanctuary, a site in Belltown for a new church and a $1 million grant from a historic preservation group toward the new church building, if the old sanctuary was preserved.

The company has a history of bringing neglected buildings back to life. It restored the vacant Sears warehouse in Sodo, now Starbucks' headquarters, and the old Union Station railroad terminal, now an office building and headquarters for Sound Transit.

First Methodist Church, according to historians, is a descendant of Seattle's first downtown church, the simple wood-frame First Methodist Episcopal or "White Church" built in 1855.
:banana:
 

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WAY TO BE.
This is excellent. Save the church AND get a 40 story tower. I love seattle.
 

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In trying to learn a bit more about this project I came across this church newsletter article at http://www.firstchurchseattle.org/ It provides a specific location for the new sanctuary. I'm imaging the old historic sanctuary could be a great lobby for the tower (a little like Union Station space) or would that be a desecration? Anyone know more? renderings?

From the Senior Pastor…
THANKS BE TO GOD! WE’RE ON OUR WAY! I tell you, if I didn’t already believe in the Holy Spirit, I would now! Through the twists and turns of the past eight years, we have finally been led to the threshold of a new church home. Sunday, May 20, marked a milestone in the life of First Church, as we voted in our All-Church Conference---unanimously!---to sell our current property and purchase a new church site. Our next church building (the fourth in the history of FUMC) will be located on the north side of Denny Way, between 2nd and Warren, next door to the Pacific Science Center. This is a thrilling outcome for everyone involved. In the big picture: Our congregation will be moving to a new church site that is the best we’ve seen for what we hoped for: a highly visible downtown location, surrounded by a residential neighborhood, with great light, water view, transportation accessibility, mission possibilities, and the potential for an income stream through our parking garage. Our historic domed sanctuary will be preserved and restored, and will continue to serve our larger community for years to come. (And we are receiving a $1 million grant from the National Historic Trust as a result.) Our present ministries with the homeless, including the Church of Mary Magdalene and the MENS Inn, will be housed in the new space, larger than their present space in our building, and will have their own entryway on street level. (And we are receiving a total of $1 million in grants from both the City of Seattle and King County to help with this.) We will be able to stay in our current location (although consolidated into the sanctuary/Blaine portion next year) through all or most of the two-year period needed for the permitting, design process, and building of the new church. We have received a good price for our property, and a good cost for the new site, meaning that along with the grants and the $2 million we hope to raise in a capital campaign, the difference will cover the cost of the new building. As I look back over the eight years in which I have been part of this journey, I am amazed and humbled by what has transpired. Not one step we have taken in this process---including the four court cases, the sale of Camp Indianola, and the three-year process of obtaining the Master Use Permit (doubling the value of our land)---has been wasted. Each step was necessary in bringing us to this day. God is faithful! You, the people of First Church, have been faithful, too. You have been valiant, daring, and incredibly patient. You have been generous and loyal with your time, talents, and resources. And you have “been the church” throughout this long process, never losing sight of your core mission to be the Body of Christ in this particular place and time. Your leaders on the Building Advisory Board have also stayed the course through good times and bad, weathering setbacks and dashed hopes as well as unexpected blessings along the way. They have attended countless meetings, given superb leadership, and given each other grace again and again. Other participants in this process have also appeared at the right times and given just the help we have needed, especially: our real estate consultants, Mike Hassenger and Steve Trainer, of the Seneca Group; developer Kevin Daniels, President of Nitze-Stagen; Marilyn Brockman, of Bassetti Architects; representatives of both our city and county governments; and our own United Methodist leaders at the district and conference levels. I remember a day several years ago when I was feeling overwhelmed by our church’s uncertain future, and by the mountains we would have to climb to get to where we are today. Driving to church, I said to God in prayer, “This is too hard for me!” In my heart, I heard God’s response, “Yes, it is too hard for you, but…it’s not too hard for me.” I am so grateful to God, and to all of you, for bringing us to this day.

Blessings to you,
Kathlyn
 

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Interesting. Right next to Expo62. Is it a 1/6 block or 1/3, i.e. the whole frontage of Denny between Second and Warren, or half that frontage? Both 1/6s are small commercial buildings with surface parking.

The god damn Parcel Viewer isn't working right now. What crappy technology that thing is.
 

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The god damn Parcel Viewer isn't working right now. What crappy technology that thing is.
Nah, He didn't damn it, he was just tired, didn't you read what Kathlyn said?

And no, I don't think that an office lobby/restaurant or anything else would be a desecration of a sancturary. God isn't about a building. There are nightclubs in former church's, so I don't think an office lobby will be too much.
 

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I'm pretty sure god damned the Parcel Viewer. Why else would it suck so bad?

I don't see where the article answered my question.
 

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OK a few feet away from Belltown? Anyway, extend a warm welcome to more homeless folks in Belltown and the Seattle Center. This church seems to take its charity mission pretty seriously I just wish they focused on getting people into real shelter and not food give aways. I expect they do help with housing but just like people who give money to panhandlers at the Seneca street offramp from 99 (or others) ARE YOU HELPING THAT PERSON OR JUST EASING YOUR OWN MIND? - I always feel like asking.
 

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I agree. Handouts are all about the donor making themselves feel good. The right thing to do is give to organizations. Examples: Plymouth, LIHI, or HRG.

Manning a soup line is just as bad. People do it to make themselves feel good but it's worthless. If there's a line of people standing there, why can't one of them ladle the god damn soup? Same with helping cook -- aren't some of them trying to improve their positions, and willing to do a couple hours of work?

While the street population in my neighborhood will probably grow due to the church, I'm ok with it. First, the numbers probably won't be huge. Second, it's a net reduction of street people in the Financial and Government Districts.
 

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i'm with you crazy about cities religious people have no right to be in a downtown setting. come on i thought the point of striving to be a world class city was so that everyone would be welcome. not just the ultra liberal, ultra white or asian, and ultra non-religious
 

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Why do we need more churches in downtown Seattle? We have way more than enough! :bash:

I am living really near to two churches called The City Church and Christ of Sciencelogy (sp)... OMG! These people are very annoying and won't leave me alone by trying to brainwash me to join their cult groups. I hope one day, the developer will purchase both properties and just get rid of that crazy churches with luxury condo towers. I don't think I can handle third church in my neighborhood! Call me NIMBY. :eek:hno:
 

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i live really close to a church and have been in the area of city church when it is letting out. no one from the church has said anything to me about god, they've just minded their own business.
 

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Thanks for the rendering. It might be nice to do a modest cantilever of office space over the historic building. Kind of like the building at the NW corner of 6th and Pike (I don't think it's a real obvious cantilever) or the much more obvious overhang of WaMu Center over the old SAM.
 

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I can think of way worse thing to have more of downtown then churches. I say the more diversity the better, let them come and do their thing. The only religious people that bother me are the Taliban and those crazy southern freaks that run around screaming “all **** are going to hell.”
 
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