Art building adds to evolving intersection

By Brian Soergel | Jul 20, 2017
Courtesy of: Tracy Felix Mary Olsen and graphic designer Matt Verzola work on logo designs for Graphite, to be housed at Second Avenue South and Main Street in Edmonds.

One of the city’s most recognizable intersections will soon have a new look, replacing one that for years has been an eyesore to locals and those streaming off the ferry to visit Edmonds.

In February, the wrecking ball came down on the nondescript Edmonds Post Office, a dated relic of the uninspired architecture of the 1960s. Developer Doug Spee plans to replace it with a 26-unit apartment complex with three commercial tenants, lush landscaping and outdoor seating areas.

And demolition is expected to start soon on Mar-Vel Marble across the street, which takes up half a block on the southeast corner.

The original building on the corner of Second and Main was for years the home of Bacon’s Garage. The current showroom was added later. Mar-Vel Marble will be moving its showroom and manufacturing to another location.

The new tenant will be called Graphite, a multiuse art center from Mary Olsen and Tracy Felix. The two founded Art Start Northwest in 2015, a nonprofit dedicated to arts education. Graphite will be the home of the nonprofit.

The city’s Architectural Review Board recently approved the design for Graphite.

“The building will be completely replaced, as it is in very poor condition,” Felix said. “The Graphite building will transform this prominent corner in downtown Edmonds, creating a gateway to the downtown core from the west end of Main Street. Our community is getting both a jewel of a new building and a place for the arts to flourish.”

As reported in the Beacon in February 2016, the 24,000-square-foot property will be the home of a new arts education center, featuring about 20 artist studios and lofts, a gallery, a cafe, a library of art books, classrooms, a dark room and a kiln.

“We’ve taken our time gathering all the elements to take this dream and make it a reality,” Olsen said. “A very important part of this is the name. ‘Graphite’ acknowledges the fundamental nature of all ideas, sketching in graphite. Drawing is often the beginning. Graphite will offer many people access to learning and expressing their own creativity.”

Scott Miller of Scott G. Miller Design Services and Robert Gregg of Gregg Property Associates are handling Graphite’s design.

“Now when people come off the ferry heading into Edmonds, they will see this new, beautiful building beckoning them to stop and take a look,” Gregg said.

“The creative workshop space inside will provide many artists a place to work and many more residents and visitors a place to visit, watch artists in action, view local artists’ works in the gallery, and have a bite to eat at the café.

“This building will quickly become the spot to meet and gather in Edmonds.”

The exterior design is a combination of large windows and Corten panels. Corten is a steel panel that oxidizes over time, changing colors similar to copper. But instead of turning green (like the Statue of Liberty), Corten turns a variety of brown hues.

“The building itself is a transforming piece of art,” Felix said. “The goal is for the building to evolve its look over time to remain constantly interesting. Graphite is also specifically designed to provide the maximum amount of natural daylight.

“The large windows, skylights and two-story central atrium will bring natural light deep into the building. The structural design strives to promote a sense of strength and permanence, while the materials reflect a Northwest warmth and invitation into the spaces within.”

Construction is expected to begin next year.


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