Boom Stadium District
As residential density increases downtown, new Seattle neighborhoods will rise up alongside the old ones, and with recently announced developments near Qwest Field, a stadium district appears to be taking shape. Approximately 1,000 residential units will be built over the next few years — “That’s a brand new neighborhood,” said King County Executive Ron Sims, who held an informal press conference Monday morning to present the projects to reporters.
I’ve got pictures coming, but first here’s the statistical picture: The big project on Qwest Field’s north parking lot will be 956 residential units, with the majority portion being apartments, 140 of which will rent as affordable housing, within the price range of people making roughly $35,000. The market-rate condos will cost $500 - $600 per square foot. There will be 34,000 square feet of retail and roughly 1,000 parking stalls. The small project is the renovation of the Johnson Building, a storage facility at 1st Avenue South, Occidental Avenue and Railroad Street. There are 69 units planned, including three live/work lofts on12 of which will be affordable to people within range of people making up to 115 percent of Seattle’s mean income, which is roughly $63,000 for a single person.
Before he got into these specifics, Sims talked about the cities that in his opinion represented the best integration of sports stadium and neighborhood — Yankee Stadium in the Bronx; Fenway Park in Boston; Wrigley Field in Chicago. Kevin Daniels, president of Nitze-Stagen, which has a hand in both projects, drew his inspiration from San Francisco, where AT & T Park (formerly PacBell Park) complements the Mission Bay neighborhood.
Sims talked about how in those cities and others, cameras showing nationally telecasted sporting events would venture outside the stadium to show distinctive parts of the neighborhood surrounding the park. “Impressions of a community are always drawn by what you see on TV,” said Sims, who imagines more pedestrians in the blocks circulating through the stadium and through brightly lit stores and restaurants. “That’s a shot that you can’t pay enough money for.”
Today, if a cameraman were sitting above the north end zone of Qwest Field, and he whirled around to look for an outside-the-park shot, here’s what he’d see:
Photo courtesy Weber + Thompson
Acres of asphalt: Not much of a “money shot.” It’s even more offensive from a bird’s eye view:
The project planned for the north lot does not completely eliminate that parking lot blight, but it drastically reduces it. Here is a computer graphic that shows how it would look if we were hovering above I-5, again looking north.
Graphic courtesy Weber + Thompson
Now let’s switch to an artist’s rendering of the new mixed-use project, from the same perspective but closer:
Courtesy Weber + Thompson
[A dozen pictures after the jump, along with consideration of the projects’ impact on Pioneer Square and the opinions of downtown real estate mogul William Justen.]
It's a little hard to see the detail, but there are two 150-foot towers, one on the corner of South King Street and 1st Avenue South, the other at the corner of South King and 3rd Avenue South. On the ground floor the plan calls for rowhouses, townhouses, parking, and 34,000 square feet of retail -- a restaurants or cafes at the corners on King, plus a small grocery market at King and 3rd.
The floors above will be condos -- roughly 400 of them, and they'll sell at market rate, which according to Daniels is between $500 - $600 per square foot. Some of the condos will have three bedrooms and Daniels is intent on marketing the units to families.
The two smaller buildings in the middle -- each of them are 7 stories tall -- will be apartments. In all there will be more than 500 of them, 140 of which will be developed by Seattle Housing Authority and rent to people who make 60 percent or less of Seattle's mean income, which comes out to about $35,000, with monthly rent ranging from $875 - $1,020, according to Tom Tierney, SHA's executive director. Those smaller buildings will face 2nd Avenue South, which is likely to become a pedestrian esplanade. (Note: the 150-foot towers are contingent on passage of the recommendations by the South Downtown planning project, which calls for a height increase in Pioneer Square.)
Here is a blueprint of the ground floor:
Courtesy Weber + Thompson
A computer graphic, from the perspective above Pioneer Square:
Graphic courtesy Weber + Thompson
Back down to street level, this is an artist rendering looking east down South King toward Union Station.
Courtesy Weber + Thompson
The rowhouses are an interesting wrinkle. The architect, Blaine Weber, of Weber + Thompson,, says the rowhouses "will bring a new flavor of housing to Seattle," adding that they've worked well in Boston and Vancouver.
There will be four levels of parking, one of which will be below grade -- the water table restricts the amount of underground parking. The roughly 1,000 stalls will be enough to make up for surface parking spaces lost to the project.
For all of Sims' talk of neighborhood creation, these residents will surely be adopted by Pioneer Square, where both businesses and residents want "stakeholders" -- permanent, socially responsible folks invested in the neighborhood's safety, appearance, and economic vitality.
There are scores of new condos planned north of downtown, but Daniels says that's "not a significant issue" and doesn't think they'll compete for his project's buyers and tenants. "This is a different neighborhood and a different opportunity."
Nitze-Stegen and its partner, Minneapolis-based Opus Northwest paid the county $10.1 million in cash for the land, and the combined retail and residential space in their development will be 862,000 square feet. Developers would lose the site if construction begin by November 2008, but Daniels says that he hopes the groundbreaking can happen sooner than that.
A much, much smaller project will happen a few blocks south, where 1st Avenue South meets Railroad Street and Occidental Avenue. That weird intersection created this flat iron-shaped building:
Photo courtesy King County
That's the Johnson Building, formerly known as the Seattle Plumbing Company Building.
Here's the view from the sky:
The county sold the Johnson Building for $2.2 million, which will go toward a youth sports fund. It will be renovated -- not demolished! -- by Historic Seattle, which is partnering with Nitze-Stagen.
According to the King County Procurement and Services Section, the building dates to 1903 and since 1980 it has been used as a storage facility. Currently, it's 75 percent vacant. The building was damaged in the 2001 Nisqually earthquake.
Here is a view of the building from Occidental, near 1st. Qwest Field is behind, over your right shoulder.
The interior of the building will be gutted -- its existing support structure doesn't look likely to survive another quake. But Historic Seattle will be using the same style of heavy timber construction, so that it will look old. This picture gives you a better sense of its location relative to Qwest, from Railroad Street and 1st, looking West.
Right in the shadow. The renovation calls for 9,750-square feet of ground floor retail, three live/work units, and parking stalls, as you can see from this blueprint:
Drawings courtesy Johnson Architecture & Planning
Three stories of condos will be built atop the current structure. Here's a sketch of what it would look like from the East: (That's 1st Avenue South in the foreground.)
Now looking from the West, so that Railroad Street is in the foreground:
Drawing courtesy Johnson Architecture & Planning
That's a terrace on the south point of the building, and there's a similar one on the west point. There is also a 1,120-square foot garden on that third floor, which will be at the bottom of an open air light well. Here is the roof plan:
That blank square on the drawing's top is the light well. The gray area in the middle is the deck, which is designed around two small gardens. There will be 69 units in the renovated building, 12 of which qualify as affordable housing, defined loosely to qualify buyers with incomes $63,000 and less. It will be called Stadium Lofts. The market-rate condos have not been priced, but the expectation is that they'll be at or below the cost of high-rise condos planned for Denny Regrade.
Daniels says that Nitze-Stagen views the two developments as one "legacy project" that will go a long way toward establishing a stadium district, while also nudging Pioneer Square toward renaissance.
John Chaney, executive director of Historic Seattle, expects more old industrial warehouses in Pioneer Square to follow a renovation design similar to that at the Johnson Building, and his organization has assumed a leading role. Says Chaney: "The development history for Pioneer Square after the great fire was brick buildings at a scale of 5 - 6 stories, and then in the turn of the century with the boom of development there were more warehouses and manufacturing buildings, again mostly 5 - 6 stories. A number of those were damaged in earthquakes and had upper floors removed, and so a challenge is to find an economic model that would work for relatively small-scale historical buildings."
The solution, says Chaney, is to shore up the old buildings' structure, add condos and apartments above. "The construction is effectively a new building," says Chaney. "You and I should be able to distinguish that these parts of the building were built at two different times; yet the design should be compatible between the new and old. It could be new and old in the whole district."
The Johnson Building's development will be the first condo added to Pioneer Square since the Olympic Block building in 1985. Construction will begin in October or November of this year and it is scheduled for completion before the end of 2007.
Of course, Pioneer Square is the neighborhood with the most to gain from these two projects. Residents and businesses there have been clamoring for more residents. "Stakeholders" is the word that politicians, neighborhood activists, and developers use. During the day it's crowded with tourists and at night with clubgoeers, but permanent residents will be better stewards for the neighborhood -- frequenting stores and restaurants, watching for crime, and routing the bad neighbors.
William Justen has no connection to the project, but as managing director of Samis Land Co. he is one of Seattle's leading downtown developers. Justen was struck by how despite the huge addition of residential units, there is relatively little retail development in the new plans. For Pioneer Square merchants, that's good news. "The last thing you want is to have a new complex with a ton of retail that immediately competes with retail in Pioneer Square," says Justen. "You just want to add customers, and with all the new residents, that's what will happen."
By Justen's analysis, the mix of income levels among future residents is another plus, largely because in his view there is an excess of low-income housing there now. "Pioneer Square needs market-rate housing," says Justen. "The low-income residents do not have the disposable income to support the retail stores and restaurants in the neighborhood."
Justen points out that in the current climate, it's hard for restaurants to survive as just that -- because business falls off after the work day. They tend to either evolve into night clubs or go out of business, then sell to a night club.
The only aspect of the plan that Justen quibbled with was the plan to market condos to families. "It's a small percentage of families that want an urban lifestyle," he says. "Encouraging families to move downtown is a good thing, but most will prefer a home with a yard and a neighborhood with other kids, like in the suburbs."
In most every other major American city, there would be anxiety over whether the market can support 1,000 new residential units in a part of town where traditionally, residents have been scarce. Not in this case. Justen, as well as the project's developers, believe that for the forseeable future the demand for housing downtown will far out-pace the supply.
I would love to get the perspective of another major downtown developer, Greg Smith, who has a particularly strong presence in Pioneer Square; but Smith is on vacation this week. I have a message in to him. If/when he calls, I'll update this post.