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A saved tree, a symbol of hope

There’s only one tree to gather around in the Greenwood section of Seattle this Christmas season.

The Exceptional Western Red Cedar that was slated for removal after the property on which it has stood for more than 100 years was sold, has been saved.

Neighbors fought to save the tree from being cut down to make room for two, 3,000-square-foot homes being built by prolific developer Andy Duffus. A small farmhouse has stood on the property since 1904.

Anthony Maschmedt, a principal at Dwell Development, decided to ask Duffus if he could buy the half of the lot where the tree stands. He plans to build a smaller house and save the tree.

Maschmedt is an investor in Duffus’ Blueprint Capital, so that made things easier — Duffus even gave him an easement on the lot so he could move the house’s footprint over to give the tree’s root system a safe margin.

“There’s an opportunity here, and it wasn’t just about saving the tree,” Maschmedt told me. “How do we change this into something positive for the community and developers and growth in Seattle?”

Saving the tree was also a way to counter the belief that developers are turning Seattle’s green into the sheen of big new homes and tall towers.

“What we’re doing as developers isn’t all bad,” Maschmedt said. “This is a win-win for everyone. And it’s just the right thing to do.”

Kim Brotherton, one of the neighbors who appealed the city’s approval of the Duffus development, is overjoyed. In settling the appeal, the neighbors negotiated a covenant that will protect the tree ad infinitum, and prevent future owners of the property from cutting it down, unless it becomes diseased and/or unsafe in some way.

“Now we celebrate,” Brotherton said. “As Joan Baez said, ‘Action is the antidote to despair.’?”

Cynthia Brothers, founder of the VanishingSeattle Instagram and Facebook accounts that chronicle the ever-changing face of Seattle, has taken action, too, by opening a temporary pop-up shop so that she can engage with followers and newcomers.

Brothers has partnered with Eighth Generation gallery in Pike Place Market to open an interactive exhibit featuring a 15-foot photo display of ”Seattle places loved and lost” and a pop-up shop featuring branded Vanishing Seattle buttons, shirts and bags; books about Seattle’s neighborhoods and subcultures written by local authors and the work of local street artists NoTouchingGround and @besoSeattle. (Proceeds will fund an upcoming Vanishing Seattle documentary film.)

Brothers’ display includes the question: “What Do You Miss About Seattle?” and a pile of Post-it notes on which people can write — then attach — their responses.

The answers are wide-ranging, from “The SuperSonics”  to one who simply wrot: “Seattle,” and another who asked “Where can I start?”

“It’s not just places, but bigger themes,” said Brothers, 36, who works as a nonprofit consultant focusing on immigrant rights.

“People have written ‘Affordability.’ ‘Feeling safe,’ ” she said. “So it’s not just about commerce or consumption. It’s about the lifeblood of our community and culture.”

Eighth Generation owner Louie Gong, who grew up in the Nooksack tribal community, said Vanishing Seattle “has a lot of overlap” with his space, and the art and attitude within.

“We’re reminding folks of Seattle’s rich cultural history, before it was colonized,” Gong said of Eighth Generation. “When people can see where we’re from, it gives them a better sense of direction as we’re moving forward. The knowledge of history acts like a rudder.”

In order to offset the “gloom and doom” of Seattle’s recent boom, Brothers has highlighted places that have survived: The Sheridan Apartments in Belltown and Scarecrow Video, which just celebrated its third year as a nonprofit.

“People want to see examples of people rallying together and actually having a win,” Brothers said. “Of people being heard.”

Add the Exceptional Western Cedar tree to that chorus.