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Almost 10 years after an aging homeowner famously refused to sell her tiny bungalow in gentrifying Ballard to a Bellevue-based developer, the house could be on the move. The nonprofit OPAL Community Land Trust hopes to ferry the so-called Up House to Orcas Island and spruce it up for a new owner. Here’s how they’ll do it.


This is the house that inspired Pixar’s Up, right? 

No, but the similarities are eerie. In 2006 KG Investment Properties offered Edith Macefield nearly $1 million for her home at the corner of 15th Avenue Northwest and 46th Street, hoping to develop the corner. She declined, so KG built the mixed-use Ballard Blocks around her.

Oh, that’s right. Good for her; she stuck it to the man. 

Nah, Macefield didn’t have an antiestablishment streak. She just wanted to live out her final years in the home she’d occupied for more than 50 years. And she got that wish: Macefield passed away two years later at 86.

What’s happened to the house since then? 

She willed it to a construction superintendent working on the project, who then sold it to a motivational speaker, who went broke and lost the house to the bank. It’s been in limbo ever since.

And what does OPAL hope to do with it? 

Assuming the org can raise the $205,000 necessary to transport the house to Orcas and renovate it, OPAL will sell it to a low-income family. And that family, should they one day decide to move, will be required to sell for an artificially low price, thereby ensuring it will always be affordable.

Given the home’s history, that’s only fitting. 

Yep, Edith would no doubt approve.
 

How Do You Move a House?

OPAL will hire Everett-based Nickel Bros, which has relocated a staggering 10,000 buildings since 1956. The house weighs roughly 35 tons, but no structure is too heavy. Nickel Bros recently moved a 500-ton home.  

Step 1: Two-foot-by-two-foot holes are jackhammered into the sides of the foundation, into which long steel beams are inserted. After the bolts that secure the house to its foundation are severed, the house is jacked up over two or three days, while wood timbers are placed beneath it for support.

Step 2: A hydraulic transporter truck backs up to the house, and the steel beams are connected to the truck to become its bed. The transporter begins its trek down city streets and on to a waiting barge, usually at no more than one to two miles per hour.

Step 3: At its final destination the house is lowered onto a wood support structure like the one built at the origin site, where it will sit for 60 to 90 days while a new foundation is poured. Once the concrete has cured, the home will be lowered and bolted into place.

The moving process is so steady, Nickel Bros president Jeremy Nickel claims he can leave a glass of wine on a counter and not spill a drop.

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