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Demolition of a nearly-new Seattle tower

Demolition begins on the garage of the McGuire Apartments tower, in Seattle.
Keith Seinfeld
Demolition begins on the garage of the McGuire Apartments tower, in Seattle.

One of the most prominent demolition jobs since the Kingdome imploded is underway in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood. This time, there will be no explosion, and the building is private instead of public. 

The 25-story McGuire Apartments saga is a sad one, says Doug Lo, a Belltown resident who was snapping photos with his phone, from across the street, at 2nd Ave. and Vine St.

"It's a nice building, and in this modern age, you'd think they would have built it correctly, from the get-go," he said.

The apartments, and ground-floor retail, opened just in 2001. But, the building was doomed by construction defects. They failed to properly seal the underlying structure, and the steel started to corrode inside the concrete. There was no way to repair it.

The demolition started on April 28th, with the massive parking garage attached to the side of the main tower. Two machines that look like giant excavators – or, if you have a bit of imagination, like mechanical dinosaurs -- with long hydraulic arms have been attacking the garage. At the end of each arm is a pincher. And they are pinching away walls, ceilings, floors.

This time-lapse video was shot by a neighbor and posted on YouTube (by homerdudes):

Once the rubble of the garage is gone, a tall crane will go up, and they’ll take down the main tower, starting at the top, demolishing one story at a time. Most of the demolition work is confined to weekends, according to a city of Seattle permit, with cleanup and hauling happening during the week.

Ironically, the project was partially owned by the Carpenters Union-Local 131, which sold its headquarters to make way for the apartments. Local-131 was recently dissolved and merged into a larger regional union.

The current owners, represented by Bentall Kennedy, are not talking to reporters. But a news release says their goal is to salvage or recycle 95% of the building.

A year or so from now, the site will be a gravel lot ... until the owner figures out what to build next.

Keith Seinfeld is a former KNKX/KPLU reporter who covered health, science and the environment over his 17 years with the station. He also served as assistant news director. Prior to KLPU, he was a staff reporter at The Seattle Times and The News Tribune in Tacoma and a freelance writer-producer. His work has been honored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Knight Science Journalism Fellowships at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.