Mama’s Easily Wins Preservation “Playoff” — Next Stop: Superbowl


The City of Seattle Landmark Preservation Board last night unanimously voted to accept the nomination to designate Belltown’s iconic Mama’s Mexican Kitchen as a City Landmark (for background, see Seattle Times story here). The Board will next be scheduling a second public meeting to decide whether to formally designate the building as a Landmark or to deny it protected status.  That meeting will likely be held in January or February.

The nomination was actually what we call an “anti-nomination,” which is one that has been prepared by developers that wish to tear the subject building down.

The meeting began with a presentation led by the developer’s attorney, Jack McCullough, whom the Seattle Times called “one of the top land-use lawyers in the region.”  Mr. McCullough argued that the building was an unremarkable building in poor condition and that it didn’t meet the Landmark standards.

The developer’s architectural consultant spoke next, stating that the building is in poor shape and has been altered too much to qualify as a City Landmark. He also showed slides of similar buildings in Belltown — such as the building that houses the 5-Point — stating that these types of commercial structures are common not ony in Belltown, but throughout the country.

Tiffany Jorgensen (left) and Beck Prigot of Friends of Historic Belltown

During the public comment period that followed, Friends of Historic Belltown rigorously defended the building, noting that Belltown doesn’t have many fancy buildings, but rather that the community’s history is with working buildings for “the common man,” and that the Mama’s building embodied that history.

Brooke Best, Preservation Advocacy Coordinator of Historic Seattle, also argued in favor of the nomination, noting among other things that the building is adjacent to the Wayne Apartments, a City Landmark that was built in 1890.  That building was Landmarked after  the community rallied to protect it in response to a plan by developers to tear it down to build a 124-unit building on multiple parcels that contain the Wayne Apts and a string of Belltown’s favorite bars and restaurants, including the Lava Lounge, Rocco’s Pizza, Shortys, The Rabbit Hole, Clever Bottle, and Tula’s Jazz Club.

David Levinson — a member of the Belltown Community Council and longtime Belltown resident — stated that the restaurant portion of the building has been a gathering place for the community for decades, describing how members of Belltown’s once large labor union community likely met there regularly.

Chris Cody — owner of Herban Legends, Belltown’s first recreational marijuana store — also spoke in favor of the nomination, noting that the restaurant remains a well-loved, central feature of the Belltown community.

Evan Clifthorne — executive director for Project Belltown — urged the Board to move the nomination forward to a full vote.

No one spoke against the nomination other than the applicant’s representatives.

After public comments, the Board began deliberations, and it soon became apparent that the Board was much more in agreement with the community than with the developers.  One after another, Board members noted that the building is definitely more than the run-of-the-mill throwaway depicted by the developer’s legal and consulting team. While some noted the building’s alterations, all felt that much of the building remains remarkably intact.

Mama’s Mexican Kitchen is poised to be Belltown’s next historic Landmark

We are so happy and thankful that we have a Landmark Board that listens to the community and to the facts and the law, rather than bowing to pressure from developers.

And we’re also happy and proud to be part of a community that cares about its historic buildings.  THANK YOU TO ALL that attended the meeting and/or submitted comments via email!!!!!

And while we feel a bit bad for the developers, who had been working with the community to design a proposed development that fit in with the neighborhood, they really should have looked into the historic value of the building before they paid $4.5 million for the property.   It’s like buying property with a wetland and eagle’s nest on it — you can’t simply bulldoze it just because you didn’t know those features have public values that are protected by law.

We’re elated that the Board saw things the same way we do, and we’re looking forward to the next round — the Mama’s Superbowl – to establish our second Landmarked building on “the block.”

Stay tuned!!!


Mama’s “Playoff Game” Dec 7th


City Hall

WEDNESDAY, December 7

Room L 280 – Boards & Commissions

600 4th Avenue, Floor L2.


The Landmarks Hearing Board will be deciding the fate of Belltown’s beloved Mama’s building on Wednesday, December 7th (see Seattle Times). This will be the first of possibly two hearings the City will hold on whether the building meets the historic landmarking criteria.

We need your support because even though we feel the building easily meets the Landmark designation criteria,  we KNOW that the owners of the building have hired consultants and attorneys to argue that the building is “nothing special,” as they have called other historic buildings in Belltown.

So we need to show that the community loves this building and supports this nomination.

So if you can, PLEASE ATTEND THE MEETING on December 7th. You don’t have to speak at all. Just being there will help. But people who wish to speak will have one minute to comment.


The board does not like off-topic comments (e.g., the city is changing!  I don’t like new buildings!)….so PLEASE FOCUS ON THE BUILDING AND CRITERIA.

What Happens Next????

This first meeting is like a playoff game. The Board will decide to either “approve” the nomination to move forward to a second designation meeting. Or it may decide right then and there to not move forward, in which case, the building’s 90+ year season would be over — and it would very likely be torn down within a year.

If the nomination is approved, the Board will set another meeting in about a month to hold a formal vote on whether to approve or deny the designation. This will be the Superbowl.

But to get to the Superbowl, we need to win this first playoff game, and that is why we are asking for your help to show that the community supports this nomination.

Note that even if the building is landmarked, the property will still likely be developed.

But if it is designated, the brick facade would likely stay — OR, if the facade cannot be retained due to condition and/or costs — the landmark designation may require that the developer mitigate for the loss (e.g. help the community in its efforts to retain 2nd Ave history, character and culture).

The Domino Factor

dominoesWhat’s more important — if the Mama’s buidling is not designated a landmark, then we fear that the owners of the Landmark Wayne Apartments (Roco’s and Lava, next door to the Mama’s building) will have an easier time getting a pass to tear down that building — and with that goes block.

So in some ways, our beautiful line of buildings on 2nd Ave are like dominoes. When one goes, the rest may follow soon after.

the-blockThat is why we fight, using our strongest and most valuable assets — the facts, the law and — our strongest and most valuable asset of all the awesome community that is 2nd Avenue!!!





How to Make an Effective Landmark Comment

EMAIL comments to by Tuesday, January 17th at 3:00 pm


The key to an effective comment – either via email or in person at the meeting — is to focus on the six designation standards (also called criteria) listed in 25.12.350 – Standards for designation.

Specifically, describe why you feel the building meets the standards.

Here’s a template/example:

Dear Ms. Sodt

I support the nomination of the Mama’s Mexican Kitchen building.  I am (DESCRIBE YOUR CONNECTION TO BELLTOWN, SUCH AS RESIDENT, BUSINESS PATRON, WORKER, VISITOR, ETC).

I believe the building meets criteria C, D and F.

I believe it meets criteria C because…

I believe it meets criteria D because…

I believe it meets criteria F because…

Closing statement (e.g., thanks for protecting this key historic building in the heart of Belltown).

Note that you don’t have to hit every one of the standards/criteria.  Perhaps just note the ones that resonate most with you (see criteria details below).

You can also just say something as simple as:

I love this building. It is distinctive and is important to me as part of the neighborhood character. It is the signature building on the block of 2nd Ave.


The key is to focus on the building.

For in-person comments at the meeting, you will only have one minute — so you must be very brief!!!

Of course — feel free say anything you want — but the board tends to get turned off by “off-topic” comments (e.g., “Amazon is ruining Belltown” or “I loved Mama’s burritos and cheap tequila shots“).

Therefore, please focus on the building and the criteria! Thanks!!!

For details about the building, please look directly at a PDF of the nomination here  or a summary description here.



We believe the building meets Standard C (association with local culture), D (distinctive architectual style of a 20’s-era auto garage) and F (importance of place — in the HEART of Belltown).

Below are the definitions of standars (also called criteria) C, D and F and details about why we feel the building meets criteria C, D and F.

Remember that each comment doesn’t need to contain all of this info (and probably shouldn’t)!!! Focus in on what is most important to you about this building….based on Criteria C, D or F.  


mama2Is the building associated in a significant way with a significant aspect of the cultural, political, or economic heritage of the community?

KEY to CRITERIA C: Explain why you feel the building reflects Belltown’s cultural and economic heritage

The Mama’s building is significantly associated with auto-oriented businesses, a significant aspect of the social/economic heritage of early Belltown and Downtown Seattle.

As stated in the“Belltown Historic Context Statement and Survey Report” by Sheridan (2007), Belltown has two types of buildings built during the 1920’s were “particularly notable:” the film industry and automobile garages. We have several film industry buildings landmarked, but no auto garages. We need this!!!

According to the 2006 Historic Resources Survey, “the storefront on Bell Street is one of downtown’s most intact examples of an auto repair garage.”

While the owners may argue that the building is “nothing special,” it is this exact simple and utilitarian nature of this building that makes it qualify for landmark status under Criteria C. This IS Belltown’s history!

Criteria D. architectural style

alleyDoes the Mama’s building embody the distinctive visible characteristics of an architectural style, or period, or of a method of construction?

KEY to CRITERIA D: Explain why you feel the building embodies the distinctive visible characteristic of a 1920’s-era auto garage

The Mama’s building’s intact wood sash windows along the alleyway and Bell Street present the distinctive visible characteristics of a classic 1920’s automobile garage. It is the best remaining example of an auto garage remaining in Belltown and perhaps the best remaining example in all of downtown Seattle.



Is the Mama’s building an easily identifiable visual feature of its neighborhood or the City and does it contribute to the distinctive quality or identity of the Belltown neighborhood or the City due to prominence of spatial location, contrasts of siting, age, or scale?


KEY to Criteria F: Explain why you feel the building’s visibility and location make it worthy of designation under Criteria F

posterThe building’s prominent corner location makes it an easily identifiable future that contributes to the distinctive architectural character of this portion of 2nd Avenue.

The building’s bright and decorative brick facade is distinct and very visible.

The building is known and loved due to its long-time association with Mama’s

The building is located next to an existing historic landmark: the Wayne Apartments!wayne

The building’s location is prominent, with three sides exposed to the public — TWO OF WHICH ARE ADJACENT TO PUBLIC PARKS.


centralThe Mama’s Mexican Kitchen builidng is a significant building in a significant location 

Mama’s Building Owners Postpone Public Meeting


We just heard that by request of the owner, the public meeting scheduled for September 7th on the fate of the Mama’s building HAS BEEN CANCELLED.

A representative of the Landmarks Preservation Board said they will likely reschedule for a date in October. Please let us know if you have any questions!


What’s a Belltowner to do?


2nd 6

There’s been a twist in the ongoing story of what’s going to happen with the old Mama’s building.

…and it may require a twist to our community strategy for the landmark nomination hearing on September 7.

Friends of Historic Belltown met with the Mama’s Building owners’ rep and architects on Tuesday, and while they definitely want to take down the existing building, they also want to work with the community to make a cool project worthy of this location. They want to do something that has something in it for the locals (i.e., the 2nd Ave crowd).  They want to meet with the locals to develop specific designs.

And while nothing is specific yet, they are very open to several other suggestions we had, such as:

  • providing workforce housing units for artist/restaurant industry folks
  • including a floor with artists’ workshops (for residents and maybe even available for rent by the community)
  • a downstairs music venue instead of parking (the Belltown Underground)
  • a woonerf in the alley (which could include alley seating areas for 2nd Ave bars)
  • other ideas the 2nd Ave community may have
A Woonerf
A Woonerf

In short, they said they wanted to do this project right – to be an example of how to build in Belltown in a way that builds on and improves the character of the block we love — not that tears it down.


But now – after having such a promising meeting with them — we’re in the conflicting and awkward position of having to be adversarial at the landmark nomination hearing on September 7.

It’s a tough spot to be in.

We’re trying to figure out a way to not burn an opportunity, while at the same time not turning our backs on this iconic building in the center of the Belltown universe.

We’re thinking the City process may force us to play both hands: fight for the nomination, while working with the owners’ group and design team.


We’d love to hear any suggestions or comments — so please let us know on the Saving Second Avenue Facebook Page.  And as always….STAY TUNED!




Mama’s building landmark public meeting is September 7th!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016 3:30 p.m.

3:30 p.m. in Seattle City Hall

600 4th Avenue, Floor 1, the Bertha Knight Landes Room. 

Remember the public hearing for the Wayne apartments?

…when all of Belltown’s 2nd Ave faithful marched down to City Hall to speak up for the block?

And remember that it worked?

Well, the time has come again for another discussion with City Hall about the significance of historic buildings on the block. This time, it’s about the Mama’s building, a cornerstone at the heart of Belltown’s cultural center: 2nd and Bell.

Like with the Wayne, the owners and their attorneys and hired experts will argue that the building is not historic.

mama 6

And (we hope) like the Wayne, the community voice will be strong enough to show that this building is significant to our neighborhood identity and is worthy of designation as a City Landmark, per City Standards.

But the case is not as clear as it was with the Wayne. This time, we don’t have a close association with the first Denny Regrade Project — a fact that was central to the successful designation of the Wayne.

So this time, community support for the landmark nomination is even more important than it was for the Wayne.

We need to show that the 2nd ave community cares about its buildings — that it cares about THIS building and its “prominence of location” at the heart of Belltown.

In short — we need you!!!

Specifically, we need people to attend this important meeting and show community interest and support. YOU DON’T HAVE TO SPEAK.  Just you being there is a vote for the significance of the building.

For more information, contact us at and STAY TUNED FOR UPDATES on this website and on Facebook (Saving Second Avenue)



Quick Update on Mama’s, the Wayne and the Franklin



Mama’s building to go to Landmark hearing

As far as we know, the owners of the Mama’s building are still planning to demolish the existing brick building — built in 1924 — and construct an 8-story apartment building on the site.

oringinal plan for site
Developer’s initial redevelopment concept for the “Mama’s” building.

As we have been expecting, the developers have submitted a nomination to designate the existing building (at 2234 Second Ave) as a historic Landmark (not yet available online, but FHB has obtained a copy).

However, we’re pretty sure the developers don’t actually want to have the building designated. If all goes as expected, the developer’s attorney and architect (the same one that prepared the nomination) will argue against the nomination in front of the Landmarks Board.

That is why it’s so important for the community to come together and support this nomination, just as it did for the Wayne Apartments.

The nomination hearing is not yet scheduled but will probably be sometime in August.

We are expecting that the public hearing for this much-loved building will be a major activator of the Belltown community, so stay tuned!  

Save-Our-Belltown-poster_artThe Wayne

We were sad (but not surprised) to hear that the owner of the Wayne Apartments has requested that the Landmarks Preservation Board grant an economic hardship exemption so that he can tear the building down (or sell it to someone who will).

We have a few leads and other strategies we are pursuing, so all hope is not lost and the story is not yet over.  Stay tuned for updates!

frankThe Franklin

The owners of the Franklin Apartments (4th and Bell) are working with the Landmarks Preservation Board to try to tear down the Franklin Building (except for the two street-facing facades).  They propose to build a 24-story apartment building on the properties between the Franklin and Belltown’s historic Fire Station 2, the oldest working fire station in Seattle.

We see this entire block as a critical part of Belltown’s character, look and feel, and we hope to be able to work with the City and the developer to create a project that will ADD to Belltown’s character and values, not take away from it.

We are participating in the applicant’s discussions with the Landmark Board and are also working on a letter to request the City begin early review of the proposed action under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).

The proposed 24-story apartment building will greatly change 4th Ave. We’re hoping to convince the developer to at least include some cool affordable units for downtown workforce housing.

2nd Ave Community Block Party

Friends of Historic Belltown has been contacted by the great folks at Under the Needle to support their annual 2nd Ave Community Party and Art Show proposed for Saturday, August 20th between Blanchard and Lenora.The event will include artists, performances, and wrestling (yep!).  Under the Needle is a keystone Belltown business that we think contributes greatly to our block-party-coverBelltown culture, look and feel, so we’re all in on helping them with this project.  Check out this artsy video they made from the 2015 event here.

logoAs always, if you have any questions, comments, gripes or suggestions: please contact us at: