A news blog for Seattle's Phinney Ridge and Greenwood neighborhoods

 

Arson mural re-installed in Naked City’s new beer garden

June 4th, 2013 by Doree

The mural that once covered the wooden fence where four Greenwood businesses were destroyed in a 2009 arson, has been reborn at Naked City Brewery & Taphouse’s new beer garden.

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The so called “arson mural” was created by local artists as a sign of hope and rebirth for the neighborhood, after more than a dozen arsons terrorized the neighborhood over the course of several months. The worst arson destroyed four restaurants next to Taproot Theatre, which owned the building housing those restaurants. Taproot built a fence to cover the scarred ground from view, and artists painted a mural depicting neighborhood scenes, such as the Greenwood Car Show and a firefighter saving a cat, plus a phoenix rising from the flames.

The mural was taken down when Taproot began work on a new building in that space. That new building will house a second theater, scene shop, offices and a cafe. Taproot’s addition will open late this summer.

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Taproot Theatre expansion on track for late-summer completion

January 30th, 2013 by Doree

Taproot Theatre’s expansion is coming along, as crews get the site ready for the modular construction building to be installed sometime this summer.

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The back side of Taproot Theatre’s existing building is on the right.

Taproot’s Producing Artistic Director, Scott Nolte, tells me the plan is for the new building to be finished in late summer. With modular construction, the building components are completed offsite, then installation and finish work takes about four to six weeks.

The expansion takes the place of the former Eleanor Roosevelt Building, which housed four restaurants and burned in the Oct. 23, 2009, arson. The new building will include a second theater, dressing rooms, offices, scene workshop and a café and wine bar at 208 N. 85th Street.

If you’re wondering about the huge mural that was installed along the construction fence two months after the arson, Nolte said it is currently in storage, waiting for someone to come forward with a new site for it. Nolte said the mural would likely need to be touched up by the artists first.

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The mural used to cover most of the length of the construction fence.

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Greenwood arsonist’s ex-wife and her brother awarded $18,500 for helping authorities arrest and convict Kevin Todd Swalwell

October 24th, 2011 by Doree

One day after the second anniversary of the arson that destroyed four Greenwood restaurants, the Arson Alarm Foundation and Liberty Mutual/Safeco Insurance rewarded two people for coming forward with information that helped in the arrest and conviction of Kevin Todd Swalwell for setting a total of 11 fires in 2009 – 10 of them in Greenwood.

One of those receiving the award was Swalwell’s former wife, Carol Iverson. She shared the reward with her brother, Robert.

Robert Iverson and his sister, Carol, hold the presentation check while sitting on the stage at Taproot Theatre.

Swalwell was arrested Nov. 13, just after setting fire to a warehouse in Shoreline late the night before. He pleaded guilty to 11 fires, blaming his actions on mental illness, and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Carol and Robert received the $18,500 reward this morning at Taproot Theatre, which was heavily damaged in the Oct. 23 fire, and which also owned the adjacent Eleanor Roosevelt Building, which was completely destroyed. Four businesses in that building on North 85th Street – Green Bean Coffeenouse, CC Teriyaki, Szechuan Bistro and Pho Tic Tac – were destroyed.

The Eleanor Roosevelt Building on North 85th Street on fire on Oct. 23, 2009.

Liberty Mutual/Safeco Insurance provided $15,000 towards the reward; the Arson Alarm Foundation, comprised of 11 insurance companies, added $3,500.

John Lewitt, lead investigator for the Seattle Police Department Arson and Bomb Squad, said that after the Iversons called in the tip, investigators had their eye on Swalwell for a while.

“It at least gave us something to go on,” Lewitt said. “Carol actually told me she hadn’t seen Kevin for at least 10 years.”

“I knew it was him right away,” Carol said.

She was married to Swalwell from 1994 to 2000 and divorced him while he was in prison for setting fire to their apartment building in 1995. When he got out of prison in 2002, he pounded on her door and she was very scared of him. She said as soon as she heard that the Greenwood arsonist was rolling up carpets and newspapers and shoving them under doors to light, she knew it sounded like her ex-husband.

But Carol said she was almost too scared to call police, and asked her brother to call instead.

“Because I thought he was going to come after me,” she said of Swalwell.

“Our public safety rests on you for stepping up…and having the courage to come forward and stop these Greenwood arsons,” said Karl Newman of the Arson Alarm Foundation. “Our heartfelt thanks.”

Lewitt said that while interrogating Swalwell, he went from having a very specific alibi the morning of the Oct. 23 arson, to saying he was just a lookout for the Nov. 9 fire that burned Olive You. Swalwell first pleaded not guilty, then later changed his plea to guilty.

The 11 fires that Swalwell was convicted of setting:

He was also convicted of second degree burglary for breaking into the Green Bean Coffeehouse just prior to setting it on fire.

The 10 Greenwood fires caused more than $2.2 million in damage.

Carol said she didn’t know anything about a reward until several months after he was arrested. The Iversons plan to use the money to pay some bills and maybe go out for a nice dinner.

“I’m proud of her,” Robert said of his sister.

“Don’t be afraid to do something,” Carol said. “Don’t be afraid to do what’s right.”

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Seattle woman and brother to receive award for helping authorities convict Greenwood arsonist

October 21st, 2011 by Doree

A Seattle woman and her brother will receive $18,500 for helping police arrest Kevin Todd Swalwell, who was convicted in a string of arsons in Greenwood two years ago, including the massive fire that destroyed an entire building housing four restaurants next to Taproot Theatre.

From the SPD Blotter:

A Seattle woman and her brother will receive an $18,500 award for giving authorities information that helped lead to the arrest and conviction of the Greenwood Arsonist. NW Insurance Council and Arson Alarm Foundation will present the award in partnership with the Seattle Fire Department and the Seattle Police Department on Monday, October 24, at 10:30 a.m. at the Taproot Theatre Company, 204 N. 85th St. Seattle.

Key Officials Attending: Paul McDonagh, Assistant Chief in Special Operations, Seattle Police Department; Chief John Nelson, Fire Marshall, Seattle Fire Department.

In May of 2010, Kevin Todd Swalwell pled guilty to setting 10 fires in Greenwood and one fire in Shoreline. A judge sentenced him to 30 years in prison. A tip led authorities to arrest Swalwell. Between June 19 and November 9, 2009, 19 fires were set in the Greenwood area causing an estimated more than 2.2 million dollars in damage. At that time, an Arson Task Force was formed between the Seattle Fire Department, The Seattle Police Department. Swalwell could only be connected to 10 of these fires. One of the fires caused $2 million in damage to the Taproot Theatre and four restaurants on Oct. 23 and one person suffered non-life threatening burns during one of the fires.

The Arson Alarm Foundation offered a large reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the arsonist. The reward led the brother and sister to come forward with information that assisted investigators in solving the case. “Arsonists hurt all of us by destroying lives and property and by driving up insurance rates,” said Karl Newman, NW Insurance Council president. “We are pleased to award citizens who come forward to help investigators solve these damaging and potentially fatal crimes.”

Arson is a deadly and costly crime. Nationally, arson kills hundreds of people each year, injures thousands and destroys hundreds of millions of dollars in property while putting firefighters at needless risk. Arson also is a difficult crime to solve. FBI statistics show only 17 percent of all arson offenses result in arrests. Anyone with information about an arson or suspicious fire is urged to call the Arson Hotline (800-55-ARSON) or local authorities. Callers may remain anonymous and could be eligible for an award. NW Insurance Council and Arson Alarm Foundation offer an annual $10,000 Arson Award Fund for Washington residents who provide tips to authorities that result in the arrest or conviction of arsonists. The Arson Alarm Foundation has awarded more than $100,000 to Washington citizens over the past 12 years. NW Insurance Council and Arson Alarm have sponsored the Arson Award Fund since 1978.

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Taproot Theatre applies for Master Use Permit to replace neighboring building destroyed by arson

October 5th, 2011 by Doree

Taproot Theatre is edging closer to replacing the neighboring Eleanor Roosevelt building, which was destroyed by an arsonist two years ago.

Taproot, at 204 N. 85th St., has applied for a Master Use Permit for the new building at 208 N. 85th St. Taproot had rented the building next door to four restaurants: Pho Tic Tac, Szechuan Bistro, Green Bean Coffeehouse and CC Teriyaki. Arsonist Kevin Todd Swalwell was sentenced to 30 years for setting the early-morning fire on Oct. 23, 2009, that burned down the building, as well as several other fires.

The new two-story, 12,200 square foot project needs an environmental review, design review, and liquor license approval. The public can comment on the plans through Oct. 12.

The building will be LEED certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), and will include a large lobby with a café that will be open seven days a week and into the evenings, a scene shop, a second theater with 120 seats, and staff offices upstairs.

The new building will be about 88 feet long, with a wall of storefront windows on the ground level, and “punch-out” windows (with no glass) on the second floor with a small garden.

Revised drawing of Taproot Theatre’s new building. By The Miller Hull Partnership.

“There’s a lot of light; a lot of steel and a lot of light,” Producing Artistic Director Scott Nolte says. “We’re calling it neo-Greenwood.”

That second theater is what they’re calling a “black box theater,” with collapsible seating that goes into the wall, opening up the space for rehearsals and events. The seats will be arranged in six rows of 20 seats. The grade of seating between rows is much greater than in Taproot’s Mainstage theater. Seats will be padded with armrests, and motorized to collapse.

Taproot doesn’t even have a true scene shop right now; they use the backstage area to build new sets for the mainstage and the touring company.

“They can’t really start working on things until our current show closes,” Nolte explains. “That means the turnaround time between shows is really, really frenetic.”

Nolte says having a dedicated scene shop will give them more time to build, and allow flexibility in scheduling.

“It means the turnaround time between the plays doesn’t have to be three weeks, it might be 10 days,” he says. “So if there’s a play that’s going especially well, let’s add another week to it.”

And the lobby café will serve theater patrons and passersby alike, during the day and evening.

“It especially serves us when there’s a play happening, but also during the rest of the week,” Nolte says of the cafe. “There are way too many storefronts for lease in downtown Greenwood. And after 6 o’clock at night there’s not a single building that’s lit up on that corner.”

Nolte says the theater is waiting for a final bid from its builder. Taproot is still conducting its $3.3 million fundraising campaign to pay for the new building, retire the mortgage on the current theater, and put some money into an emergency reserve fund. The current building’s mortgage has about $170,000 remaining.

“The whole thrust of the campaign is to really make sure we’re on solid financial footing,” Nolte says.

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Greenwood vehicle fire on Friday was arson

July 11th, 2011 by Doree

Seattle Police say a truck fire in Greenwood late Friday night was arson. From the SPD Blotter:

On July 8th at approximately 11:35 p.m. an officer on patrol in the 300 block of Northwest 95th Street noticed smoke emitting from the front cab of a work truck parked on the street. After trying to determine if anyone was inside the truck, the officer used her patrol car’s fire extinguisher to put out most of the flames. SFD responded and totally extinguished the fire. The owner of the truck was located and interviewed. The Fire Marshall responded to the scene and made a preliminary determination of arson.

Nobody was injured as a result of the fire and there are no suspects at this time.

Anyone with information about this incident or who may know the identity or whereabouts of any suspects is asked to call 911 or Seattle Police and refer to this incident.

SPD Arson/Bomb Squad detectives will now be responsible for the active and on-going investigation.

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Phinney house fire on Dec. 16 was intentionally set

January 11th, 2011 by Doree

The Seattle Fire Department says the Dec. 16 fire in a vacant house at 321 N. 77th St. was intentionally set.

After determining that the fire was set outside in the rear of the home, SFD turned the investigation over to Seattle Police. SPD notified neighbors of the investigation the following day.

Unfortunately, SPD hasn’t been able to gather any more information or evidence, and the case is now inactive, pending further information.

“I’ve spoken to everyone I can think of,” Det. Donna O’Neal of SPD’s arson and bomb squad said. “I have no physical evidence.”

Since the fire happened in the middle of the night, neighbors were not awake to see or hear anything suspicious.

“Most people had no idea it had occurred until they woke up, or they woke up to sirens,” Det. O’Neal said.

She passed out her business card to neighbors, and people spread her contact info around by email, but so far she hasn’t received any helpful information.

Neighbors tell us the house has been alternately vacant and a rental since it was sold in 2007. One neighbor tells us she saw someone working on the home’s front yard the day before the fire.

If anyone has any information about this fire, contact Det. Donna O’Neal at 206- 684-8974 or donna.oneal@seattle.gov.

Thanks to Mike V for the daylight photos of the house.

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Taproot Theatre expansion Design Review Board meeting tonight

December 13th, 2010 by Doree

Just a reminder that the city’s Design Review Board is meeting tonight to discuss Taproot Theatre’s proposed expansion plans. The theater plans to build a 12,000-square-foot building where the adjacent Eleanor Roosevelt Building was, before being destroyed last year by arson.

Rendering by the Miller Hull Partnership.

The proposal is for a cafe, a second performance and rehearsal space, new scene shop and offices.

Tonight’s meeting is at 6:30 p.m. at the Ballard High School Library, 1418 NW 65th St.

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Taproot releases rendering of proposal to replace building burned by arson

November 17th, 2010 by Doree

Taproot Theatre just released a rendering of the building it proposes to build in the place of the Eleanor Roosevelt Building, which was destroyed last year by an arsonist.

Rendering by the Miller Hull Partnership.

The new building along North 85th Street would have a cafe, a second performance and rehearsal space, new scene shop and offices.

Honoring the neighborhood’s distinct historic style, the proposed design complements the building’s surroundings while incorporating some modern touches. The 12,000 square foot building will be engineered and constructed by Pacific Modular, using LEED certification guidelines and state-of-the-art techniques. The proposed design goes to the Northwest Design Review Board on December 13 at 6:30 p.m. If all goes according to schedule, the new building could be built and open for business in less than one year.

Taproot Theatre Company purchased the ERB in 2000 with plans to expand. The initial expansion plans hovered in the range of $20 million, so the theatre maintained a long-term vision for the future while leasing the building to several small businesses. However, the arson on October 23, 2009, changed everything. In the months that followed, Taproot conceived a $3.2 million project that would both advance the theatre’s future and accommodate the abbreviated timeline, providing a timely restoration to the neighborhood.

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Design Review meeting set for Taproot Theatre’s addition

November 7th, 2010 by Doree

The city’s Northwest Design Review Board will meet on Dec. 13 to discuss Taproot Theatre’s permit application to replace the adjacent Eleanor Roosevelt Building, which was destroyed by an arsonist last year.

The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 13. The location is not set, but Design Review meetings are usually held at the Ballard High School Library, 1418 NW 65th St.

Taproot’s application is for a 12,000 square foot building. The Eleanor Roosevelt Building held four restaurants. Last month, Taproot’s Producing Artistic Director, Scott Nolte, said the theater was looking at a new building that would include a larger lobby for the theater, offices, and a restaurant of some kind.

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Day in the Life photos

October 27th, 2010 by Doree

Last week we put out a call for photos of a Day in the Life of Greenwood, as a way to celebrate the neighborhood making it through the one-year anniversary of the massive arson that destroyed four businesses in downtown Greenwood.

Here are a few photos we received. While they weren’t actually taken on Saturday – the anniversary of the fire – they do nicely capture a few things about our neighborhood.

Laura sent this picture of Greenwood Elementary’s 100th year celebration.

Jonathan sent a picture of the recently reopened King Falafel Grill.

And DumDumDugan sent a photo of the rebuilding of the house at 108 NW 84th St. that was one of the many targets of last year’s arsonist. That’s a new foundation in there.

After sitting dormant for a year, once the teardown occurred it has been a beehive of activity. They’re making great progress.

If you’ve got more photos of happy happenings in Greenwood, please email us.

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One year since Greenwood devastated by arson

October 22nd, 2010 by Doree

Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of the event that devastated Greenwood – the arson that destroyed the Eleanor Roosevelt Building on North 85th Street, housing the Green Bean Coffeehouse, C.C. Teriyaki, Pho Tic Tac and Szechuan Bistro. The Oct. 23, 2009, fire also severely damaged several other businesses, including the neighboring Taproot Theatre, which owned the ERB.

At the time, the arsonist had already struck the neighborhood several times and would set several more fires before being caught. Kevin Todd Swalwell eventually pled guilty and is now serving 30 years in prison.

It’s been a tough year for the neighborhood, as several nearby businesses have closed, perhaps due to the economy, or maybe due to losing foot traffic from the restaurants that were destroyed.

But, Taproot Theatre is celebrating the anniversary in an important way. After being forced to find a new stage for the last week of the play “Enchanted April” after the arson, and having to scrap plans for the premiere of its Christmas show “Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol,” this Saturday Taproot will stage closing night of this season’s final show, “Wedding Belles.”

Left to right: Taproot’s Director of Finance & Operations Rick Rodenbeck, Producing Artistic Director Scott Nolte, Director Karen Lund, and Director of Development Zach Brittle, on the set of “Wedding Belles.”  Brittle started working at Taproot just two days before the Oct. 23, 2009, arson; Rodenbeck had been hired but not yet started when the arson hit.

Producing Artistic Director Scott Nolte plans to address the audience before the show, acknowledging the incredibly difficult – yet ultimately uplifting – past year.

“It’s really been a terrific year in so many ways,” Nolte said earlier this week. The theater was lucky to have good insurance and was able to repair the theater in just three months, in time for the 2010 season opening on Jan. 29.

As with many tragedies, the Greenwood community, as well as the Seattle theater community, rallied around. The community set up a Greenwood Fire Relief Fund for the four businesses, “Enchanted April” finished its run last October with a spare set at Seattle Children’s Theatre, and Taproot staged two readings of “Sherlock Holmes” at Seattle Pacific University.

“Whatever you guys need, let us know,” was the theme of nearly every conversation Nolte and his staff had in the days and weeks after the arson. “So we really felt the love and support of so many people, some of them strangers,” Nolte said.

Subscriptions for Taproot’s 2010 season jumped by 10 percent, and the theater exceeded its attendance goals for January’s “The Great Divorce” by a whopping 30 percent.

“This could have been a make-or-break year,” Nolte said. “But it’s been a year of triumphs.”

Now that the theater is repaired and the 2010 season completed (except for “Sherlock Holmes,” which runs Nov. 19-Dec. 30), Taproot is earnestly working on the replacement for the Eleanor Roosevelt Building. Nolte said they’d like to expand Taproot’s tiny lobby, and would love to move their administrative offices from the corner of 85th and Greenwood into the theater building. But they also want some kind of restaurant or coffee shop there, to give theater patrons a dining option, and for parents waiting to pick up their children after acting classes.

Some of Taproot Theatre’s staff, left to right: Box Office Manager Sarah Madson, Director of Finance & Operations Rick Rodenbeck, Production Stage Manager Anne Hitt, Costume Shop Manager Sarah Burch Gordon, Communications Manager Daytona Strong, Development Associate and actress Anne Kennedy, Producing Artistic Director Scott Nolte, Director Karen Lund, and Director of Development Zach Brittle.

Two months after the arson, three local artists donated their talents to create the colorful Phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes mural that now stretches the length of what was the ERB. It was designed both as a safety measure to keep people away from the hole in the ground, and to beautify the space until a new building is built.

“That’s 89.3 feet of just blank space right now,” Nolte said. “While we’re really proud of the mural, it doesn’t really light up the night.”

So Taproot is working on what Nolte calls “a game changer approach.” The idea is a building that will be lit up day and night, seven days a week, to create vibrancy, not only for the theater, but for the community in general. He cites a dearth of businesses open and lit up at night from Aurora Avenue North to downtown Greenwood.

“You can drive nearly three-quarters of a mile and see just Jack in the Box and a gas station, and not see storefronts lit up at night. So literally from Aurora to Greenwood, there is nothing lit up, and then it’s very spotty from Greenwood to Third. That is not very lively,” Nolte said. “It doesn’t feel like we have a thriving business neighborhood…that is inviting or safe.”

So Taproot is talking to city and state cultural organizations about grants and other resources that will bring something beautiful and useful to the neighborhood.

“I tell them it’s about crime recovery, it’s about safe streets, it’s about economic development, and it’s about jobs,” Nolte said. “We need to reclaim this bit of real estate here and get it lit up.”

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