Moving the Montgomery House

The redevelopment of Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard at 26th Ave. will take place – but at least one of two large and venerable buildings in its path will be moved to safety thanks to a flock of angels.

Chief among the latter are Beth Bonness and Jeffrey McCaffrey. On December 2 they will move the Montgomery House from its current location at 2625 SE Hawthorne Blvd. to a 7,500 square foot lot they own two blocks away at 1404 SE 26th Ave. Developer Aaron Jones sold the McCaffreys the house for one dollar, but the move, via Emmert International, will cost “$150,000, maybe $170,000”, Beth McCaffrey says.

That it is possible at all is due to some other angels. Instead of moving the 5,000 square foot structure around two corners, it will be dragged on a straight line across the Rivermark Credit Union parking lot with the credit union’s permission. The move is set for a Sunday to minimize the disruption to credit union business. An outdoor kiosk will be moved out of the way temporarily. “They could have said no, and we wouldn’t have been able to do this,” Beth Bonness says.

They received other help as well. City staffers from several bureaus got together to cut some of the requirements and red tape that usually accompanies a move such as this.

For one thing, Bonness and McCaffrey, were relieved of paying $80,000 in System Development Charges. For another, they have been given a special exemption from zoning requirements for this house at this location. (Beth Bonness says the building, previously cut into 15 commercial spaces, will be remodeled into “six or seven” residential units.) They exemptions were approved unanimously by an enthusiastic City Council at a November 14 meeting.

“This shows how nimble the City can be,” Commissioner Dan Saltzman said. “It was an amazing effort by the City, the neighborhood, the developer and the McCaffreys. It took a lot of internal work in the City, but this is a great old house, definitely worthy of saving.”

Matt Grumn of the Bureau of Development Services, who presented the ordinance, gave credit to Matt Wickstrom of the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability and others, including Council staff. Joanne Holly, representing Rivermark, noted that the house was built in 1907 by early business woman Mary Montgomery. “It is truly a pioneer house,” she said.

Beth Bonness said that her husband “likes to build and remodel”. They bought the lot some years before with the intent of building row houses there, but “it was coming in more expensive than we first thought”, she says and the property languished.

Developer Jones bought the Montgomery House, and another beside it also in commercial use at 2625 SE Hawthorne Blvd., from Doug Adams on September 9.

The next day, to the shock of Adams and his tenants, Jones gave each of them 30-day eviction notices and announced his intention to redevelop. Bonness says she became aware of the situation through an e-mail thread in early October and the couple stepped forward.

“For whatever reason, there was a lot of good will going on about saving this house,” Bonness says. “It seemed that every time a road block came up, someone stepped forward, people were so invested in saving this.”

Buckman Community Association chair Susan Lindsay told Council, “There was such a sense of powerlessness when something so wonderful is threatened. It was absolutely gut-wrenching. This was an amazing response to a potentially devastating loss. I thank all of you for recognizing how important this is.”

She added, “We have fine historic residences that line the main streets” where the City proposes major new development.

Hosford-Abernethy neighborhood activist Linda Nettekoven told Council, “There are things we can learn from this for the future. This will happen again and again. Can we think about this in a pro-active fashion?”

Jones says he has contracted with the ReBuilding Center to de-construct the eastern house, recycling as much of the material as possible. He plans to begin construction in early December. His own project will be four stories high and contain 77 living units, 20 parking spaces and some ground floor retail.

“Hawthorne is going to be re-developed, like it or not,” Bonness says. On the outside, the Montgomery House is “absolutely gorgeous”. It is less well-preserved on the inside and will take extensive remodeling, she says.

Commissioner Amanda Fritz said, “Thanks to the neighbors, the developer, the owner of the new site and the staff. You had to come together very quickly. Thanks to the Buckman Community Association for your leadership.”

Moving the Montgomery House

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