By John Liu
Northwest Asian Weekly
Approximately 40 people from the public and the International District business community met in the Bush Hotel on Oct. 28 to discuss the future of the Louisa Hotel owned by the Woo Family. On Christmas Eve 2013, a fire in the western half of the building severely damaged the structure, roof, and the brick wall along Maynard Alley. The infamous Wah Mee Club, where 13 people were killed, was also significantly damaged. The cause of the fire was never determined. The top two floors held 120 single-occupancy units that have been vacant for 55 years.
The Woo family’s main construction goal is to preserve as much of the building’s original architecture as possible and have it be an asset to the community. This meant forgoing condos and settling on workforce housing. The number of units will be decreased to 87. The basement will be redesigned into a parking garage with 25 spaces. A penthouse is also being planned on the roof. Maria Barrientos, Development Manager, Barrientos LLC, stated they were still open to suggestions on how to handle the alley retail options.
The stabilization delay is due to a number of financial factors. Tax credits are based on keeping or restoring the historical interior features, e.g. corridors, walkways, windows, doors, and other special features. The Eastern Hotel, Milwaukee Hotel, Publix Hotel, and Bush Hotel are just a few of the International District buildings that received historical tax credits in the past. The approval process can take many months because a building is reviewed on the local, state, and national level. Final approval is expected by December 2014.
The building committee hopes to stabilize the building as soon as possible by rebuilding the damaged areas. This will open up the street parking and sidewalks around the building. The Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority will be a stakeholder for seven years for compliance purposes. (end)