Boom Another Knock-Down, Drag-Out Fight on Capitol Hill?
posted by June 12 at 9:50 AMon
It’s easy to support infill density—like when a developer steps up with plans for a great building on an empty lot. But what if the developer wants to demolish a well-utilized building for an uncertain project?
Last week, Tara Hoch stepped outside her office in the Mercer Professional Building on 19th Avenue East to discover a small yellow land-use-action sign. A proposal filed with the city outlines plans to demolish the building—which currently contains 15 businesses—and replace it with a four-story, mixed-use development that would contain 52 condominiums and ground-level retail.
“They’re destroying a beautiful building in excellent repair with no apparent structural problems whatsoever,” says Hoch, a massage practitioner.
The building also houses Monsoon restaurant. Says co-owner and chef Eric Banh: “It’s a business decisions for them, and it’s too bad we happen to be in the way.” But it’s not a done deal.
Murray Franklyn, the devlopment firm, hasn’t yet purchased the property. For now, applying for the permit is only part of a feasibility study, according to Ron Boslcola, a company partner. “If we can get the permit,” he says, “then we have a sale agreement.”
Although it would be unusual for a modern, three-story building to face the wrecking ball, this isn’t Murray Franklyn’s first proposal to demolish buildings currently put to popular use. The same developer recently tore down several neighborhood hang-outs on a beloved block of East Pine Street for a six-story building. But that project is being appealed, and the block is now a parking lot.
Wade Metz, who procures land for Murray Franklyn, says he doesn’t expect any hitches for this permit. (He thinks the existing structure is “small” and “not a very nice building.” And there’s a parking lot on the site.) However, Metz says, even if the land sale closes, Murray Franklyn will wait to begin construction until “we perceive there is a market.” He says, “The condo market is non-existent at moment… Our business is way off.”
So how long until the market picks up and Murray Frankyn can break ground? “The soonest possible would be next summer, but no guarantee,” Metz says.
If finances are so tight that Murray Franklyn can’t build on 19th Avenue for a year or more, the city should hold off on issuing a permit until Murray Franklyn shows it can afford to build on Pine Street. We don’t need to demolish buildings just to make more parking lots.
“I would like to stay near central Seattle,” says Hoch, “but I look around and I don’t think I can afford it.” So, in an effort to dissuade the developers, she started gathering petition signatures on Monday from folks who “object to the senseless demolition of perfectly sound building” and “wish to reject the four-story condominium.” She plans to deliver the petitions at an early-design-guidance meeting next Wednesday, June 18.