Redmond, Wash. - The site of Redmond’s first library may soon become a live-work space for artists - a development that angers preservationists, who seek to stop the project.
The 9,685 square feet of land was once owned by the Nokomis Club of Redmond, a group of women who started the city’s first library and funded the building of the structure in the 1930s.
It is among only a handful of buildings in the state of Washington that were developed by women, according to Alexa Munoz, the Nokomis Club of Redmond president.
“They hired an out-of-work carpenter, and they built this first little building right here,” Munoz showed KIRO 7. “It was really a desperate time because of the Depression.”
Decades later, the library moved, and Munoz said the Nokomis Club owed back taxes on the property.
The women sold the property to the Greater Redmond Chamber of Commerce, which used the space.
A couple of years ago, when the chamber dissolved and merged into One Redmond, the building became empty. One Redmond decided to sell.
“Now it’s an asset that can benefit One Redmond in its move to provide economic development across our entire area,” said Eric Scroggins, the board president of One Redmond.
The group had a contract with a developer, but plans fell through. In a second attempt to sell, the group sold the property to Natural and Built Environments, a company owned by one of One Redmond’s board members, Robert Pantley.
Pantley said, “What I said is, if you’re interested in me buying it, you guys all meet separately. I won’t be part of it. And you tell me yes or no.’”
Pantley plans to make a five-story live-work space for artists, with 25- square-foot units and lots of common space.
Munoz objects to the small apartment-like units and the scarcity of parking to ostensibly promote more use of transit.
But moreover, she said she simply would not approve of touching the building in its current place at all.
One Redmond and Pantley have said they support the idea of moving the structure to one of two city properties, at a cost of $150,000 that Pantley is willing to pay.
But Munoz dislikes that plan, because after the building is moved, it is far less likely to be accepted as a historical landmark.
Pantley expressed frustration that no one from the Nokomis Club reached out to him during the yearlong process of getting the project off the ground.
But Munoz told KIRO 7, “I did talk to the CEO of One Redmond on Feb. 28 of 2014, before it was approved to sell it to Mr. Pantley.”
Scroggins with One Redmond said they did not know anyone was interested in preserving the property.
Munoz has filed two appeals to try to stop the project. The Redmond City Council will hear the issue on Dec. 1.
“It’s preventing us from having funding and resources to continue our mission in the way that we would like to,” Scroggins said.