City council will consider historic status of old monorail

The ruling means that the Preservation Board must issue a Certificate of Approval before any significant changes or alterations can be made to the original monorail's Alwig cars, the original concrete beams and pylons and the 1962 elements of the Seattle Center station.

A Certificate of Approval is not required to make any changes to the beams and pylons built in 1988 for the Westlake Mall stop, according to the decision. Approval is also not required to make changes to the Seattle Center ticket booths, the sky bridge to the Seattle Cen-ter and late improvements made at the station.

The monorail was nominated for historical designation last winter by Seattle architects Susan Boyle and Andy Phillips, and its preservation could potentially derail the Seattle Monorail Project's plans to tear down the old line to make room for the new one on Fifth Avenue.

The issue now moves on to the Se-attle City Council for consideration. The council has the ultimate authority over the fate of the old monorail, and council members could approve the landmark ruling, disapprove it or approve some parts of it, said Newell Aldrich, an aide to council member Nick Licata. Licata chairs the Neighborhoods, Arts and Civil Rights Committee, which will hold a public hearing about the issue in the Seattle City Council Chambers, 600 Fourth Ave., 11th floor, at 5 p.m. on July 9.

The committee is expected to discuss the issue and possibly vote on it on July 22, said Aldrich, who added that the full city council is expected to vote on the question later this summer.

City Council member Richard Conlin, who chairs the Transportation Committee, is less than impressed with the Preservation Board's decision. "I guess my feeling is that I don't think preserving the columns and beams is a very good idea," he said. "I think the cars themselves clearly have to be preserved." Seattle Monorail Project planners agree, according to spokesman Paul Bergman.

"The cars, we viewed them as a featured part of the route," he said, adding that they could be memorialized in a number of ways. "We've heard from the Museum of History and Industry; they're interested in them," Bergman said of one example.

As for the beams and pylons, monorail planners have said in the past that memorializing the route is the important thing, not saving the infrastructure.

"Really, nothing's changed about our position," Bergman said.

Seattle Center spokesman Perry Cooper said the existing monorail is owned by the Seattle Center and the city.

"We're not taking a position one way or they other," he said of the Preservation Board decision. "We're kind of seeing where the process goes and being open to whatever happens."

Staff reporter Russ Zabel can be reached at

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