Wallingford's Guild 45th Theatre approved for landmark status

SEATTLE — On Wednesday, the Seattle landmarks preservation board approved the Guild 45th theater in Wallingford for landmark status, for both the building’s exterior and interior.

The Guild 45th was nominated by the owner. The theater is currently owned by Landmark Theatres, based in Los Angeles, which owns many theaters around the country.

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Sarah Sodt, a Seattle landmark preservation board coordinator, said in general, many business owners try to find out if a building is a landmark before putting it up for sale.

KIRO 7 asked Landmark Theatres whether it intends to sell, but the company spokesperson said only the CEO could comment and that he was out of town.

Sodt said acquiring landmark status could benefit the owners in several ways.

Most typically, landmark status would be given to a building’s exterior. There would then be zoning code relief for the inside to be used in different ways.

“That gives the city officials the ability to approve a use that might otherwise not be allowed in a building,” Sodt said.

A second benefit is receiving a tax break.

“They’re assessed and taxed on a lower assessed value for 10 years, and it’s an incentive that can be used multiple times,” she said.

If the owner of a landmark building spends at least 25 percent of the assessed improvement value, he or she can subtract whatever was spent from the total assessed value. The owner will then be taxed on that new, lower amount.

The King County property assessor has valued the Guild 45th land at $1.4 million and its improvements at $1,000. So if the Guild 45th becomes a landmark, the owner needs to spend at least $250 to get the tax break. The more that is spent on repairs, the more that is subtracted from the taxable value.

On the other hand, if the landmark preservation board does not approve the landmark status, Landmark Theatres could hypothetically sell the valuable property without restrictions.

"We'd prefer that it wasn't sold. There's obviously – you never know what it's going to be turned into," said Trevor Marsh, co-owner of the Octopus Bar next door.

Marsh said they get a lot of foot traffic from movie goers and always tell their customers that they’re located in between the two Guild 45th theaters. The second theater was built much later.

“They’re definitely older, but that doesn’t change the movie-going experience. It’s what gives it its charm,” Marsh said.

Sam Zinner told KIRO 7 he moved to the Wallingford neighborhood in part because of the Guild 45th building and other similar ones.

“Little by little, I just see the erosion of these things,” Zinner said.

Wallingford’s commercial area has been largely untouched and still sits at about two stories tall along North 45th Avenue.

“It’s one of the living landmarks in this neighborhood, and in Seattle – and in that era in the country. I would hate to lose this,” Zinner said.

The landmark preservation board meets to consider the building’s status on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. at 600 4th Ave., Floor L2, Room L 280.

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