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Two historic Monroe houses at risk of demolition again

MONROE — A plan to relocate two of Monroe’s homestead houses to make way for a new development faltered last fall.
All the key players are still hoping someone will pick them up. A vacant property about a block away is being marketed as an opportunity to relocate them.
But the clock is ticking louder today on the historic Buck Houses, and fate will tell if they’re saved.
Where they stand at 135 and 143 S. Ann St. is being prepared to be a new mixed-use apartment building.
Tami Kinney, a past president of the Monroe Historical Society, said it would be a real loss if they’re demolished.
A plan in place to move them in 2021 evaporated.
Eric Cavanaugh, the president of Monroe-based contracting company James Company, got together with investors to buy vacant land at Fremont and Ferry streets and he commissioned an architectural design that fuses and repurposes the Buck Houses into a tidy commercial building.
Now that property will be on the market for $500,000 later this month, Cavanaugh said. He’ll sell the architectural design separately for anyone who wants to do the project.
Cavanaugh said what fell apart is that building owner Emanuel Popa wouldn’t commit to a time to release the houses for the move.
James Company moved on, and is now trying to liquidate and recoup what it sunk into the Fremont/Ferry project.
It puts the Buck Houses at the threat of time.
Popa said he’ll gladly give the houses away free to anyone who’ll pay the cost of moving them.
Industry professionals determined the houses are structurally capable to survive a move, Kinney and Cavanaugh both said.
Popa said that if he owned a property nearby, he’d have done it himself. “I wish I did,” he said.
For a few years now, he’s been putting together a larger, more profitable development on S. Ann Street.
In May, Popa applied with city planning to turn the site into a three-story mixed-use building with 16 apartment units upstairs and commercial space on the ground floor.
There are many permits Popa’s project will need before going ahead, according to city planning director Lance Bailey. These include a Boundary Line Adjustment, the site plan review and State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) permits.
“We need an investor or someone who will” move them, Kinney said. “In Snohomish, we talk about history and a lot of that is renovated homes.”
Cavanaugh said he isn’t in a position to restart the project that incorporates the Buck Houses at his Fremont Street parcel.
If nobody buys the property, his company will develop the corner into a bigger, multistory project, Cavanaugh said.
He is, though, sympathetic to preserving them. Historic homes can’t be recreated, he said.
“If there’s a person interested in historic preservation, this is an opportunity for them to take advantage of a good opportunity and save the Buck Houses and do some good in the community and make some money in the process,” Cavanaugh pitched.
The Buck Houses are older than anyone who’s alive today. Monroe pioneer Siralpha Buck built both: One for his family in 1901, and one for his son in 1903.
“Inside, they’re in great condition,” Kinney said.
Buck ran a shingle mill and created the Monroe Water and Light Company. Buck Island, inside Al Borlin Park, is named for him; at one time, the whole park was named for Siralpha Buck.
Popa’s development application is winding its way through the city planning department.
“I can assure you that city staff has worked, and will continue to work, with the applicant/owner of the property to allow the permits to get as far along in the process as possible without the actual removal of the existing buildings,” Bailey said by email.
No demolition permit has been filed.
A public hearing would not be required for the project.
Popa hopes construction could be spring 2023.
The project is called Riverside Station.
It would abut the larger River’s Edge Apartments. Decades ago, Buck’s shingle mill occupied the site of the River’s Edge Apartments.
If the Buck Houses don’t get relocated, they would be extensively salvaged, Popa said.

Provided graphic

The rendering of Cavanaugh's architectural design.



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