619 Western May Be No More
619 Western, the historic structure located in Pioneer Square, well-known for the over 100 artists who currently inhabit the building as a workspace or gallery, is set to be to evacuated over the next fifteen months, due to structural concerns related to the construction of the Alaskan Way viaduct tunnel.
At the moment, it is unclear whether the building will need significant reinforcement or will be demolished.
The news came unexpectedly last week when the Washington State Department of Transportation informed the tenants that regardless of the pending decision on the building's future, they needed to be relocated by March 2012.
One of the biggest concerns among the artists is the effect the move would have on the culture of Pioneer Square, which hosts the popular of First Thursday Art Walk and is still reeling from the loss of Elliott Bay Book Company last year.
"The fact that we all have to vacate in fourteen months was presented to us as a done deal," said tenant and visual artist Johnny O'Brady, "If the building is reinforced and then reopened after the tunnel is complete, it would be up to the building's owner to allow the artists to return."
Speaking with Ron Paananen with the Alaskan Way Viaduct Program by email, he stated that the project is currently working with numerous preservation groups because of the historical value of the building.
As for the artists, he stated: "We recognize the unique contribution that these tenants make as a group, and are going to work with them, along with the City of Seattle, in this effort. It is yet to be decided if tenants will relocate in the Pioneer Square neighborhood, but that is our goal."
A second tenant meeting will be held in January to provide further information to the building's residents. Until then, 619 residents have created a Facebook group to help coordinate their plans and WSDOT can be reached for further questions by email.
A final evaluation of the building's structural soundness will be determined later as the tunnel project continues to develop.