The Good Shepherd Center is the large, five-story building set back in a campus at N 50th St and Sunnyside Ave N. It is just east of Meridian Playground. Both the large building and the park were part of the Home of the Good Shepher, operated since 1906 by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd as a safe place for young women who were having problems with their families or without a family. It provided not just shelter and stability, but also education. One of the main sources of income for them was a contract with the railroads to do the laundry for the Pullman cars, which ended in 1970.
Facing a declining population and declining revenues, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd sought to close down and sell the property. A developer proposed to rezone the property and build a strip mall. The Wallingford community protested loudly enough that City Hall listened. Within a few years they found the funds to purchase the land and buildings. Historic Seattle was given the responsibility to operate the buildings as a “community center”.
The Good Shepherd is now home to the Wallingford Community Senior Center, the Tilth Alliance, Alliance Française, a dozen other non-profit organizations, two exercise/therapy studios and six counselors/therapists. The independent Meridian School occupies a newer building on the north side that was built in the 1950’s as a school for the young women the Sisters were helping.
The main building of the Good Shepherd Center is a type of masonry construction called Unreinforced Masonry (URM). This type of construction is at risk of dissolving into a pile of debris in the event of a major earthquake. Because there are many people in the building most days, it is considered a Critical Risk. This calls for extensive retrofit of the building with special structural elements to reinforce the building and tie it all together.
Being newer the north building is considered seismically safe. The older south building is also URM but it is more safe than the main building because it is only one story. It does have a unique roof where the laundry was hung to dry that will require attention.
Historic Seattle has already completed a preliminary review of the building structure, including cutting into the building at many points to see just exactly how it is constructed. This gave enough information that the next study can develop detailed plans for how to reinforce the building. BuildingWork, an architectural firm, is developing the plans and permits. They have extensive experience with earthquake retrofit to historic buildings, such as the Green Lake Branch Library and Town Hall. The work is expected to begin before this summer.
Their approach is to strengthen the building to the level of “Life Safety”. This would allow the building to survive with moderate damage while the structure remains stable. It would not be safe to immediately reoccupy nor would the utilities and fire safety equipment necessarily be operational. The building could be eventually repaired at a reasonable cost and returned to service.
The work will include connecting the main building floors and roof to the walls and reinforcing the floors, particularly at the Chapel. The work this year will be completing about 70% of the floor-to-wall connections. On the north and south faces of the building cross brace frames would be installed on the inside of the walls. Connections would be made that can transfer earthquake motions across the building to absorb shaking. It is also proposed to place reinforced concrete beams to strengthen the foundations. In the south building the ceiling would be attached to the walls. All in all, this work is expected to cost about $5.5 million.
It will take several years to complete all the work. The availability of funding will be the main determinant of just how fast it can go. There are several possible sources for the funding, including an existing appropriation in the State Capital Budget, a hazard mitigation fund of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and a similar State fund. Historic Seattle has already applied to the State for funds to work on the south building and will be applying for funding for the work on the main building. Some of the funds will have to come from private and community sources.