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Inside Mercy Housing’s restoration of Building 9 at Magnuson Park

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The historic building—which was previously in pretty bad shape—will become affordable apartments

Steel beams fill in where a ceiling once stood between Building 9’s two main structures.
Sarah Anne Lloyd

The former United States Navy buildings at Warren G. Magnuson Park in Sand Point now host a wide variety of adaptive reuse projects, from art galleries to community centers to event spaces. More recently it’s been Building 9—a former barracks on the National Register of Historic Places—that’s been getting some extra attention, as affordable housing provider Mercy Housing Northwest, architecture firm Tonkin, and contractor RAFN convert the long-neglected building into apartments.

Mercy first announced the project back in November, and work is well underway—but the task was a little daunting. While the barracks were active through the early 1990s, after they were decommissioned the building fell into disrepair. In many places, the ceiling had deteriorated to the point of caving in, and had to be reinforced early in the process. Crews carried 75 tractor loads out of the property in the beginning, including asbestos and mold. After drainage was installed, crews pumped out 20,000 gallons per day from the basement.

“The fun thing about adaptive reuse,” said senior project developer Alisa Luber on a tour of the building last month, is that “you have to deal with the conditions you got.”

But in the process, Mercy found historic details they didn’t even expect. The building lived many lives before being decommissioned—barracks, courthouse, offices—and like archaeologists, building crews were able to uncover some original building components that had been long covered up. Vinyl flooring had been placed over terrazzo tile in the original mess hall. A utilitarian wall turned out to be hiding a whole bank of historic windows.

The exterior of Building 9.
A window bank unearthed during the restoration process.
The window bank surrounds a central area, which will one day be a community room. Roof reconstruction is underway.
This former mess hall will eventually be a resident services area, coordinating closely with Solid Ground.

Other details, crews knew they’d have to preserve. Boxbeam ceilings are being restored offsite, and will then be reconstructed onsite. Large, rounded doors, a historically significant part of the building, are being restored at Tacoma’s Legacy Renovation with funding from 4Culture. The building’s stairwells were also determined to be of historical significance.

Some elements won’t be part of the new project, but were still preserved. Stained glass windows from the chapel, for example, were donated to Friends of Naval Station Sand Point, although the chapel door is sticking around.

A historic doorway will eventually house a restored door, too.
A stairwell in Building 9.
This former mess hall will eventually be a sesident services area, coordinating closely with Solid Ground.
Upstairs, a former gymnasium also saw some ceiling cave-ins.

Fires had damaged the structure on the third floor, but the distinct ceiling shape was able to be restored—and will eventually make its way into residences.

A pocket of the third floor has gable windows.

This is as much a restoration project as it is an affordable housing project—and in some areas, apartments are starting to take shape. 148 apartments—32 studio, 47 one-bedroom, 60 two-bedroom, and nine three-bedroom—will be affordable to households making between 30 and 60 percent area median income.

Steel frames start to form apartments on the second floor of one building.

At least one of the two buildings contained within Building 9 should be ready for occupancy sometime next year.

Warren G. Magnuson Park

7400 Sand Point Way Northeast, , WA 98115 Visit Website