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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

West Lake Union

posted by on November 27 at 12:20 PM

Dexter Avenue North can turn sunshine gray. Karen Clark, who used to work on the sordid street of warehouses, says, “I remember seeing a pregnant prostitute once on the way to my car.”

Now say the fuck goodbye to that Dexter. Covet for South Lake Union property is squeezing a corridor of shiny office slabs and chunky residential compounds into the eastern slope between Queen Anne Hill and Westlake Avenue.

Capstone Partners has proposed developing another behemoth—a six-story commercial facility near Dexter and Highland St with 400 underground parking spots and 10,000 square feet of street-level retail. (It’s being designed by LMN Architects, the same folks attempting to tidy the Mercer Mess.) Zoning on Dexter provides developments up to 65’ of vertical gain, but an exception allows Capstone to build to 85’ for life sciences—mirroring the big research facilities across the water on Eastlake and blocking condo owners’ views from Aurora. Here’s where the building will break ground next June.


It’s so… long.


I dare you to get nostalgic about losing this parking lot.

Capstone’s Mike Hubbard says there are no fancy renderings yet for what will replace this charcoal tundra – the design is being adjusted to accommodate neighbors’ requests – and there’s speculation about what sort of tenants will move in once completed.

“South lake Union is one of better office markets in the country,” says Hubbard. Yes, yes, but can the area sustain that much retail? Zoning requirements for Dexter essentially force developers to create it; however, the steep topography and parallel arterials represent a stranglehold on the number of residents who could access Dexter for day-to-day commercial purposes. And, even if entrepreneurs start a bunch of adorable cupcake shops, traffic will always roar by at speeds that make a casual stroll inconceivable.

“The zoning wants it to be retail,” says Hubbard. “But the market can only handle so many food retailers and small banks.”

Photos, vacancies, and sensationalism after the jump.


Fill in the blanks, retailers.

Since it opened nine months ago, the Neptune across the street, where this sign hangs, isn’t wanting for residents in the upper floors but still seeks renters for the empty storefronts. Last Saturday was move-in day for Janet Williams and her partner, who moved there to be closer to a job in SLU. “It will be great to walk out the door and have retail right there,” says Williams. She thinks the residential density will support new businesses. I do, too, but it may take more residential units on Dexter to the north. "It would be great if there was something other than a Starbucks,” she lamented. So true, but I was tired at this point and wanted a cup of coffee. The Starbucks, one block north, was the only place to get it. I sipped it as I checked out the buildings to be demolished on Aurora.

Up there, not everyone is cheering. Andy Mayorkinos, who owns Andy’s Mobile Auto Repair on Aurora, sees the development of Dexter inevitable, but he knows his business will be pushed out. Hubbard confirmed that. But way juicier – Mayorkinos just sort of shrugs about his hardship – the folks in the building on the other side of Aurora are rumored to be pissed that they’ll lose their view. And they might want to sue. See? Juicy.


If you don't like this photo it's because you hate Greeks.

Aurora divides lower Queen Anne from West Lake Union like the Berlin Wall. I wanted to visit these allegedly pissed condo residents 100 feet across the street from Andy’s Auto, but, to get there, I had two options: Jump the median and risk death, or walk three blocks north to Galer St, cross the only fucking overpass between Mercer St and the Aurora Bridge, huff up a steep bramble-lined path to 6th Ave N., and descend back down the hill. I did the latter and it took 15 minutes, but I lived. When I got to the apartment building I laid wait for a resident. I felt like a reporter for Hard Copy or some Geraldo Rivera protégé, determined to pounce on an unsuspecting NIMBY. But there I was, shamelessly. And here I am telling you about it, shamefully. And sure enough, you’re interested, interestingly. After a long time, 25-year-old Zaheer Hooda (so easy on the eyes it hurt) emerged from the parking lot. “I know one gentleman told me he was unhappy it could bock his view,” he confirmed. (Sensationalism is MINE!) But Hooda says he rents his unit, and he plans to move out soon so he couldn’t care less about my stupid questions or about the building going up. “Part of the value [of the condos] is the view of Lake Union, and they don’t want to lose it,” he said, as he continued to be hot. Fuck those people’s view. Their huge-ass building blocked views from the turn-of-the-last-century houses on 6th Avenue, where Clark (the woman who saw pregnant hooker) lives. So, that’s the way of the world. A view is a fleeting thing—enjoy it while it lasts. Here’s the purdy, 300-thousand dollar view getting blocked.


Babe, I'm gonna lose you.

In exchange, we get a vivid street connecting Fremont and Downtown, where we can get deli sandwiches, and maybe even a fine cup of bean juice. “Any time they put in a Starbucks it’s a good thing, right?” says Clark. I stared at the ground awkwardly, praying for the return of Coffee Messiah. “I’m saying that facetiously.”


We're getting more of what's on the right.

Bitchers and moaners can go to the public design review meeting on December 19.

RSS icon Comments


Call me crazy or just ignore me but I say we zone it as a "Gay Club Zone" I mean we lost Capital Hill to Condos and breeders so let's take it over for nothing but a strip of gay bars, and dance clubs.

It is a better idea than building a bunch of over priced condos no one will be able to afford when the housing markets hits bottom.

Posted by Just Me | November 27, 2007 12:28 PM

Just so long as they don't fuck with the used tires place on Aurora. That ought to be a landmark -- The Last Unpretentious Business In Seattle, perhaps?

Oh, and Glazer's cameras. Leave that one too.

Posted by Fnarf | November 27, 2007 12:36 PM

Sounds good to me.

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 27, 2007 12:36 PM

Sorry to break the news, Fnarf. The tire place will be toast.

Posted by Dominic Holden | November 27, 2007 12:39 PM

Keep Glazer's Film/Lighting and rental shop. Their main store is bloody useless...

Posted by Chris B | November 27, 2007 12:41 PM

I just hope a couple more lunch joints open up on Dexter. Not hating on the Dexter Deli--but could we please have more options?

Posted by Westside forever | November 27, 2007 12:42 PM

Tell me the Hostess plant is moving. The smell of hot lard out of that place is kind of much on your bike at 6:30 a.m.

Posted by left coast | November 27, 2007 12:43 PM

I'm wondering how many people looked at that ugly white building on the corner of Denny and Dexter and said "what the hell is this dump? Pave it!" and then got a gasp and a response like "but.. THAT'S KEXP! THAT'S LIKE KILLING CHILDREN!"

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | November 27, 2007 12:48 PM

That parking lot is classic Century 21 architecture. It's irreplaceable!

Posted by NapoleonXIV | November 27, 2007 12:49 PM

Of course there's retail potential there, at least one Starbucks but it's a long block so maybe two, and of course a Subway so the obese can at least pretend, and since it's off Aurora one or two nail salons and maybe a dollar store.

Posted by kinaidos | November 27, 2007 1:10 PM

Once all the initial retail chains fail, the space oughta cheapen up and allow quirkier shops to come in.

Posted by Greg | November 27, 2007 1:46 PM

"and of course a Subway so the obese can at least pretend" (10)


Posted by Lake | November 27, 2007 1:47 PM

if anyone can fuck it up, its LMN.

Posted by max solomon | November 27, 2007 1:51 PM

"And, even if entrepreneurs start a bunch of adorable cupcake shops, traffic will always roar by at speeds that make a casual stroll inconceivable."

You're making the mistake of assuming the present lasts forever. 12th Avenue in Capitol Hill around Madison was a high-speed thru-way until quite recently; amazing what new lot-line development and commercial activity can do to calm traffic.

Posted by Eric F | November 27, 2007 2:30 PM

I work at Lk Union and it would be nice to have some *affordable* food choices.

Posted by Polka lips now | November 27, 2007 3:46 PM

@14 - actually, the coffee shop next door just decided to try adding donuts.

It's a trend.

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 27, 2007 4:07 PM

Wait, Watch and Listen. Dexter will resemble Western Ave. It will be an empty, narrow canyon whose walls will reveberate to the bark of free flowing exhaust pipes of mildly tuned V8's being double clutched early in the morning.

--- Jensen

Posted by Jensen Interceptor | November 27, 2007 6:53 PM

#17 is sheer poetry.

Posted by Orv | November 27, 2007 8:07 PM

Charcoal tundra. Thank you for coining that. I'm gonna say that about three hundred times before I die.

Posted by Grant Cogswell | November 27, 2007 10:03 PM

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