by Kirby Lindsay
When the Fremont Arts Council (FAC) sought space for their winter solstice party held in December 2009, they found more difficulties than they had before. “Basically, it’s like this,” explained FAC member Peter Toms, by e-mail, “there are tons of warehouses available,” but something in each vacant building won’t pass code - bathrooms, exits, sprinkler systems, seismic upgrades, fireproofing, etc. – and the process for getting a permit to gather has become time-consuming and expensive.
“I’m just frustrated that public entertainment comes down to huge sporting events and bars or nightclubs,” he said.
Toms gave credit, and his thanks, to Curt Pryde, of the development firm Pryde + Johnson, for providing the former Ballard Library building (at 5711 – 24th Avenue NW) for the FAC party. The FAC paid $1,000 for its use, and it had no heat, but Toms felt fortunate to find the space.
“The ability to get an extended permit doesn’t exist anymore,” explained Joe Whinney, founder of Theo Chocolate. The chocolate factory, located in a converted street car maintenance barn, has a large space on 34th Street that occasionally has had an event, or Circus. Yet, it needs seismic retrofitting to meet code, so they can get a temporary permit - sometimes.
“We’ve learned the hard way how to do it,” Whinney said. They have to apply to both the City Department of Planning and Development and the Fire Department for a permit. They’ve also learned the process for every event takes significant time and money. “We would be interested in having FAC events,” he said, “if we could have them be cost-neutral.” Renovations, security, and permits all cost money and “by the time you do all this,” Toms went on, “it’s so expensive that you can’t do small events.”
Or Find A Way?
“I think it’s needed,” Michael Suzerris said of Om Culture. He has converted a warehouse in far east Fremont (also known as Wallingford) at 2210 North Pacific Street, into a gathering place for dances and classes. “I want to have a place where parents can bring their preschool kids to run around and be physical,” he explained, “and allow parents to roll around with them.” He wants to create a space where adults can play, and “all ages can come together and have a good time.”
Suzerris, who found the space while seeking a third location for his YogaLife studios (already at Greenlake and Queen Anne), makes plans while he awaits his final permits. “I come at it from a business perspective,” he explained, and intends to charge rates that pay. He also wants, when possible, to charge a percentage on promising events, “like a for-profit community center.”
“Maybe it’s just me,” Toms finished, “stuck in another time when warehouse parties were cool. Maybe we just can’t do that anymore.” It may never have been that easy. According to a 2001 article in The Seattle Press, Fremont business person Dwayne Edwards went looking for a place to hold a birthday party and ended up starting the Fremont UNconventional Centre, or FUNC. In a warehouse where Red Hook once cooled their kegs, FUNC hosted a great number of fabulously funky parties, as well as the Outdoor Cinema beer garden, before closing about a year later.
Fremont does have space for rent – History House, the Lake Washington Rowing Club, Fremont Baptist Church and the Fremont Abbey Arts Center – for more modest gatherings. Moisture Festival has done well thanks to Mike Hale who converts his warehouse into Hale’s Palladium, with a temporary permit. Large events can also use Fremont Studios, with its incredible amenities, at a higher price.
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.