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Proposal for the Site Change of Highline Heritage Museum to Create Maximum Impact on Cultural/Economic Future of the City of Burien.

Burien is a relatively young city which incorporated 15 years ago. The community has been around much longer, and has a rich history. Burien is, however, experiencing the beginning of a revitalization, which requires careful thought and planning. The planning of a city for a viable future can be a complicated process. There are many differing views on what makes a city successful. A city’s needs are met through a complex system that, when properly managed, create a functioning and livable place for it’s citizens. A thriving economy, and accompanying tax revenue, is what brings, and keeps, the people and services in the city. The city’s governing body is charged with having the vision to vote on and approve a solid plan of action. Without a long-term plan for the success of small and large businesses in a city the city will stagnate, awaiting a time when a new set of visionaries step in to create a new plan for success. The city must create the conditions under which commerce can thrive, creating conditions that support residents, and draw people from other areas to come and spend their money in the city. What is the formula for planning, and implementing this plan, for a successful economic future of the city of Burien?
It has been shown that a strong cultural center, or district, is one of the, if not the, most important ingredients in an economically successful city, culture being defined by the celebrated heritage of the residents, the history of the area, and a celebration of the arts, including fine arts, theatre/performance, dance, film, and literary arts. A city can use these elements to create a high-quality destination, and unique sense of place by planning in such a way that each of the areas defined are visibly represented in a general central location, a district. This thoughtful planning is designed to increase the quality of life for the residents, and to bring visitors, and their dollars, to the city. The influx of visitors has the effect of bringing new and varied customers to the surrounding businesses, causing businesses to compete for customer dollars by increasing the quality of services and goods, creating a higher level of commerce, which in turn draws more people to spend their monies. In the end, this raises the cities tax revenues and feeds back into the community.
The importance of the cultural district of a city to its’ economic success has been studied, and many cities plan their future with an emphasis on arts and culture. Just recently, the Bloomberg administration of New York City implemented a couple of programs to help artists become better business people in order to retain the artist population in the city. The following excerpt is taken from the New York Times:
“The city’s cultural sector ‘attracts very, very creative people who have incredible ideas, but they don’t always know how to turn their ideas into financially sustainable entities,’ said Seth W. Pinsky, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation. His agency is spending $50,000 on this program and a similar one being run by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, with Creative Capital.
It is harder than it used to be to live as an artist in New York City, given the cost of housing, studios and rehearsal space, and the Bloomberg administration does not want artists to leave the city. Culture is a magnet for tourism and a major reason why people in other professions, (and often high tax brackets) want to live here. Ergo, two city-financed courses devised to help artists help themselves.” ‘Creative Types, Learning to be Business-Minded’, Kate Taylor, New York Times, June 18, 2010.
In the current economy it is easy to overlook culture as a way to sustain an economy. It can seem to be a luxury, and an extraneous part of a city’s budget. It is often one of the first items to be cut from the budget. It doesn’t feed, clothe or house the people. Arts and culture can seem not as important as other services or budget-saving strategies by those who don’t have a personal connection or interest in art or culture. But, as is being discovered in the schools, and most pressingly, in our district, the Highline School District, culture and the arts help establish important pathways deep in the mind, and in the community. Looked at in a holistic way, creating a sense of community, of a rich cultural setting that values its’ own mixture of heritage, culture, and artistic endeavors, establishing the setting, setting up the structure wherein these are celebrated, will take Burien a long way towards solid fiscal stability.
The first step towards creating a Burien Downtown Cultural District is to relocate the Highline Heritage Museum to the northeast corner of SW 152nd St and 4th Ave SW (Current site of The Dollar Store):

The site of The Dollar Store, at 4th SW and SW 152nd, is being proposed as a new one for the Highline Heritage Museum.

There are a number of reasons why the site at the Northeast Corner of SW 152nd Ave and 4th Ave SW is a stronger site for the Highline Heritage Museum then the currently planned site at the SW corner of 152nd Ave and Ambaum. First, but not foremost, is the question of architectural and social history. An historical society razing an historic building, that was photo-documented in a WPA project in the 1930’s, to make way for a contemporary building in an historic district (Olde Burien) seems illogical:

The current site of the new Highline Heritage Museum, at the corner of SW 152nd and Ambaum Blvd. SW.

There is also the practical issue of the lack of conveniently available parking at the current site:

There are only a handful of parking spaces designed into the site-plan. This negatively impacts the current businesses in Olde Burien, straining the current parking situation. In the current economy, these businesses are already struggling, and don’t need the extra strain. There is a lack of thoughtfulness when an architectural design with so much potential is forced onto a small lot to fit an outdated concept. Especially when the design is an asset to, and makes more sense in, another part of Burien. The contemporary qualities of the design of the Heritage Museum would beautifully complement the new Burien Library/City Hall. And there is plenty of room to take into account the parking needs of a soon-to-be prominent museum at the proposed site. There will need to be practical and safe access for school and tour busses, and plenty of non-invasive parking for museum patrons. There is no need to put Olde Burien businesses at a disadvantage when there is a better option for all concerned.
Another reason the Highline Heritage Museum would be best placed at the NE corner of 152nd and 4th Ave SW is that placing it at that location would be the next logical step in the creation of a downtown cultural district. The process of creating a cultural core was begun when the Burien Public Library/City Hall was built on the NW corner of 152nd and 4th Ave SW. Public access to knowledge, including culture, history and art, housed in a contemporary structure that is placed in a key central location is a strong beginning on the path towards causing Burien a to flourish. From there, more in the same vein is needed. Already planned and ready to go is the Highline Heritage Museum. This would be a perfect second component to the Burien Cultural District. The Museum and all of the work that has been put into it, including a permanent rotating exhibit from the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C., will bring a note of prestige, tourists, and as a result, more money to Burien. It also acts to anchor the corner across from the Library/City Hall. (There is a Children’s Museum in the works that would beautifully complement the property, tied together with landscaping that flows over to, and ties into, Town Square.)
As Burien continues to grow, being thoughtful about designing and creating a downtown with a cohesive vision, rather than the current hodge-podge manner, will go a long way in creating a serious and respected city. Placing another contemporary structure in the downtown core will help Burien continue down the path of being a city that could be a contender with Seattle and Bellevue. We want to bring money to Burien; thoughtful design and holistic, visionary planning assists in that goal.
In order for Burien to develop into an economically flourishing city, the citizens and local government must take Burien’s long-term future into serious consideration, looking to larger cities like Seattle and New York as examples of already successful cities with experience and reputation, By creating an atmosphere conducive to arts and culture they set the example showing how this is key to developing an economically successful city. The first step in this direction is to begin planning a Downtown Cultural District where the citizens of Burien, and people from outside the area, come together to celebrate and enjoy local, national, and international entertainment and exhibits, and bring their monies to spend throughout the business districts. Town Square is in place as an outdoor performing space, and space for the community to gather and play. The City Hall/Public Library building functions to tie together learning, and community, with civic presence. Now we must add the first serious building of culture in the Downtown Cultural District, the Highline Heritage Museum.

Conceived and written by:

Shelli Park
Kelda Martensen
Gerald Robison
Lance McIntosh

So…what do YOU think? Please take our Poll below, or leave a Comment. Thanks!
[poll id=”58″] ]]>

Since 2007, The B-Town Blog is Burien’s multiple award-winning hyperlocal news/events website dedicated to independent journalism.

28 replies on “LETTER: Site For Highline Heritage Museum Should Be Moved; Take Our Poll”

  1. Nice idea but. The Highline Historical Society is a PRIVATE organization and it owns the land at 152nd and Ambaum. The PRIVATE property where the Dollar store is is not for sale.

  2. While I’ve never liked the look of the building they are planning for the site – it doesn’t fit with the theme of Olde Burien – Ed is right – they are a private organization that already owns this land I believe. You are asking a lot of them to sell – if they even could – and relocate – even if the new site were for sale.. I doubt it is something they can afford to do or even want to do. Parking, however is an issue they will need to address.

  3. That building is ugly as sin.Why they never decided to make it more architecturally appealing to the surrounding historical area is beyond me. It should not be built on that property. I agree 100% to have it in another location. It sure would be nice if it could be built on the 152nd and 4th property but this will most likely never happen. Parking is already a major issue in Olde Burien and this would make it even worse. Dont get me wrong a Museum honoring our history would be a great addition to Burien. I just wish they would have made it more “historical” than modern.

  4. Of course one of the propsers is a Burien Councilman Elect, so maybe the City has something in mind>>> Gerald is there something in the works?

  5. I’m echoing Ed’s comments— this move makes all kinds of sense but is there something that the regular citizens should be anticipating or expecting in order to transfer this into action or support? Is this letter part of the 20 Year Vision process that the city put the RFP out for? I am really encouraged by what the authors say here and the data they give to benchmark from (though am wondering if besides NYC and Seattle there are cities more like Burien that have gone thru this and have some data that we could learn from)…would really, really support city efforts to develop a long range vision –and a plan that operationalizes it– that not only brings people here to spend money, but brings them here to live and start businesses and pay taxes here and put their kids in and get involved in the local (public) schools and be active in supporting a great community.
    Can the authors maybe share some ways that people can take part in or keep abreast of this sort of thing? I know there are planning commission meetings, but I’ve not ever gone becaue the SMP isn’t really relevant to me whereas this long range vision and planning is something that would seem to be important for everyone in Burien to debate about, learn from each other about and shape. So, to echo Ed, what is up or headed our way that we can be ready for and be helpful to as interested citizens?

  6. Shouldn’t the group be talking to the Historical Society’s Board of Directors instead of laying this all out in the news media?

  7. I agree with Mr. Boscarine. This is a very unusual approach for such a suggestion. I suspect there is an interesting story here regarding motivations.
    I’m scratching my head as why there is any value to the existing building that the museum will replace. It’s ugly, ugly, ugly!

  8. Since there hasn’t been enough money for the project so far and the construction of the building is quite far off knowing the speed things move around here, I propose moving it to the Moon, since it’s all just talk we might as well aim high.

  9. Ok so the building is ugly on the outside but have you been inside? My wife Anne has put in an incredible amount of work with the help of many friends to create Karuna Arts Yoga Studio. What ever happens to this building, I’ll always be proud of what she’s brought to this community. And if it wasn’t for her vision with the studio The Tag Zone would not exist. Not only has she brought in a holistic feel to this “ugly” building but many kids leave here every Friday and Saturday HAPPY! We have brought commerce to our neighbors in Olde Burien as well. I applaud Shelli, Lance, Kelda and Gerald for drafting this editorial.

  10. I will start off by agreeing (sort of) with the idea that the current location is not the best one. First, this is a private endeavor to the best of my knowledge, and if so should be handled that way. The City should not get involved. Second, I completely believe that if a few of the greasy people that run the City {as well as those who speak in their ears} have their way, The Dollar store building will be condemned, and torn down. I could see the property as a gravel pit, sitting idle, unproductive, and a worse blight to the corner than the current building. This of course, under the guise of
    ‘public good’. This is private property, and if the owners are contacted about the interest in the property, and if they do not want to sell, LEAVE THEM ALONE!!! The City is not GOD, we have rights in this country, and property rights are part of those. Full disclosure; I am still upset about Mealmakers. I do not think anymore buildings should be torn down, or construction started, unless the foundation has the true financial footing to complete the project. Last, I fully support the Historical foundation. I hope only the best for this organization, including building wherever they can fairly and honestly acquire property to build.

  11. I first want to say that the city of Burien is not involved with this proposal. And as far as I know, there is no conspiracy to “acquire” that property. This is a proposal brought forth by citizens of Burien who want to see the city planned and developed in a thoughtful way for a successful future. The proposal is not only about the Heritage Museum, but about establishing a cultural district in Burien. As stated in the proposal, the Highline Heritage Museum is a valuable asset to Burien, but many agree that it would be better placed elsewhere, for many reasons. The property that the Historical Society owns is an asset to the Society no matter what they do with it, whether they end up building on it or not. We are not asking them to sell it, just not locate this very important Museum on it. I have communicated with the Historical Society about this proposal, and have been met with silence. I have not brought it to the whole board, but have contacted board members.
    I do think that a partnership between city and cultural organizations would go a long way in establishing Burien as a contending city. It has begun taking that direction, and we should be interested in how that can happen in a successful way so that all, not just the developers and property owners, benefit.
    This proposal does not go into financial details on how this could work. There are many options, if one was to think creatively. I leave the details to the Historical Society, the city of Burien, and other cultural organizations, and relevant land owners.
    There will be a time and place when the community can have input.
    We are all impacted by the development of Burien.

  12. I 100% agree with the authors of the piece. The conceptual plans for the museum do not fit within the “Olde Burien” scheme.
    I have not idea if there are other mitigating factors regarding this groups stance (political or othewise), but the thoughts mentioned are very valid.
    The proposed museum would be very out of place at the corned of Ambaum and 152nd. A modern building such as that would tie-in much better with the Town Square/ Burien Library-City Hall sites.
    Beyond the “Dollar Store” site, perhaps the museum could be located on the soon to be vacated Burien Fire Station site. The new fire station is going to be built at 9th Ave SW and 146th Street, and I would imagine they (the fire department) would sell the building/land. Just a thought…

    1. Just curious – what is the “Olde Burien scheme” to which burienite refers? I know that the “”Discover Burien” group has created a marketing committee to promote their “Shop Olde Burien” program, but I hope that does not preclude other ‘looks’ and purposes on 152nd in that area. I would hate for this area to become a Disneyland where all is carefully monitored as to how it looks to support a specific theme.
      I do not see that the “Olde Burien” look excludes other looks and purposes. I can see shoppers popping into the museum as a little excursion, A different use will give the area more flavor and interest.
      Do not get me wrong – I applaud efforts to create a vibrant and alive downtown Burien where people spend money and keep the city economically healthy. I just do not think it is our place to determine the style of architecture and use of private property.
      Each of us has different likes and dislikes of both style and purpose but those likes and dislikes should not rule out what the Highline Museum has been working toward for years. Why now? They were planning all this long before “Olde Burien” became so ‘chic’ and ‘cute’!

  13. Although the Historical Society received this proposal a number of months ago and the entire board read it, our project has received tremendous community support and is something we are preparing to build. We are always happy to discuss the Highline Heritage Museum with individuals or organizations that have questions or concerns. A Trustee or staff member can be reached through our website or at editor@highlinehistory.org.

  14. Ask dollar tree to relocate? Run another business out of Burien, that`s all it needs.
    I remember going into Burien one time and I may be wrong, but it seems like there was a building there with a whole bunch of space, I think they called it the burien square.
    seems like there was a lot of empty condos on top and a whole heap of space down below and there was even an open lot out behind a library,, But God forbid one try and build something where there is nothing but concrete and dirt already.
    Maybe one of those people who feel so compelled to ask dollar tree to give up thier space would like to “relocate” themselves and see what a burden it is.

  15. Being new at all of this, maybe someone can clarify some points for me.
    1. Hasn’t this plan been around for a long time, so why all of a sudden is there this interest to move it. change it, get involved in the politics of the city of Burien?
    2. Is the Highline Heritage Museum private or not? If they are and they own the property on the corner, as long as they have the proper permits and all, why is this an issue for people not involved in the original process for the museum?
    3. No, the parking is not ideal, but I see a large part of the people visiting being walk ins as they stroll around the shopping.
    4. The issue of razing a 1930’s WPA historical building seems truly bogus. The building is not attractive from the outside. Just because it was built by the WPA and was in pictures from the 1930’s does not make it an historical piece of architecture worth saving simply for the fact it is 80 years old.
    5. Why is this becoming a public news forum issue? Again, if the museum is private and has a board, it would seem the only way to deal with this is through that board. Whether someone likes the way the board deals with this or not, that is the protocol, not jumping into the public news.
    Color me confused to be able to figure out what is really going on here. Are there motivations or incentives for groups of people to take up this cause to move a private museum? I wish someone would help me understand why this issue

    1. Elizabeth 2 and tripC: You two bring to this blog (as I also provide with ALL my comments) common sense, rational thought and valid inquiries. How dare we bring those sensibilities to this blog!
      Keep up the good work! Our voices will not be silenced….but in this town, they may be censored.

  16. I agree with Elizabeth 2 above – the location or whether you like or don’t like the design isn’t open to a public forum.

  17. If people think the museum should be relocated, are they willing to raise the additional funds needed for the new site, the re-design, permitting process and building cost. I’m sure the Heritage Museum Board would be more than happy to discuss this with community leaders willing to make the financial commitment.

  18. Editor:
    I am very frustrated by the title of this post! It implies that the purpose of our proposal is to interfere with the Highline Historical Society Museum, rather, our goal is to encourage the development of a cultural center for our city. The Museum is mentioned in our proposal primarily because it is a major cultural project currently under consideration.
    What we hope to achieve with our proposal is to encourage the citizens and public officials of Burien to take a long-term view for our community and, for the arts, by establishing a central cultural district, and for future cultural projects to be located in that vicinity.
    I grew up here, and it’s been very exciting for me to see all the positive growth that has occurred in Burien, especially in the last ten years, and I hope we continue to see thoughtful development in the future.

    1. Lance –
      As Editor, I spend a considerable amount of time trying to write headlines that capture the essence of a story, or in this case, a Letter to the Editor. The fact of the matter is that what was sent to me was entitled:
      “Proposal for the Site Change of Highline Heritage Museum to Create Maximum Impact on Cultural/Economic Future of the City of Burien.”
      That specific headline was too long for us, so I shortened it to:
      “LETTER: Site For Highline Heritage Museum Should Be Moved; Take Our Poll”
      The gist of the letter is focused on moving the location of the Heritage Museum.
      I just don’t see how you can be “frustrated” by what I chose – it’s not much different than what was used in the Letter.

      1. Scott, I understand your position, and I do appreciate your running our letter. Perhaps our proposal should be retitled, but condensing it as you did changes the emphasis of the proposal. Hopefully folks will read through the entire letter and get a clear idea of our intent.

  19. The Historical Society have put in a lot of work over time to create a museum for our area. New ideas of merit should be considered. The location at 150th and 4th SW seems to be a more fitting placement for several of the reasons already suggested by readers. Certainly more information on the economics and cooperation of the interested participants would be necessary to acquire that property while satisfying both the owners of that property and the potential uses and income of the Society. Location does make a great deal of difference in usage and relation to surrounding spaces, businesses and related activities.

  20. “The city must create the conditions under which commerce can thrive, creating conditions that support residents, and draw people from other areas to come and spend their money in the city.”???
    Excuse me but I thought that people usually spent their money when they shop. Shoving around an active business to plop down a cultural center appears to be encouraging just the opposite. I would guess the Dollar Store is just as or more busy than nine tenths of the enterprises in Olde Burien so the concept of increased money coming into the city, because of where this new, non-retail building is placed, simply doesn’t hold water. Anyone who runs a business in Burien can tell you that this town is an extremely expensive city to run a store in and to shove one more source of tax revenue out of the middle of the shopping district would be bad judgment, to say the least.
    I personally don’t think the city of Burien, nor its residents, should be passing judgment on a private museums design and the placement of that building on private property.
    Do I think the new museums design is “Olde-timey”? No. Is my personal opinion important? No.
    I agree with some of the other posters that this proposal hints of ulterior motives and I would guess that the Dollar Store’s lavish parking lot is a good deal of its appeal.
    1,600 words. Good grief.

  21. Along with the Highline Historical Society being a private organization, may I point out that this will be the “Highline” Heritage Museum – it is not the “Burien” Heritage Museum. The intersection of Ambaum & 152nd has more traffic and is a much more visible site than 4th & 152nd. AND I like the design. It is a definite improvement over what is there now.

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