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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Another Knock-Down, Drag-Out Fight on Capitol Hill?

posted by on June 12 at 9:50 AM

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.

mercer_professional_building.jpg

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.

RSS icon Comments

1

eric banh gets it.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | June 12, 2008 9:53 AM
2

It does seem kind of wasteful, though. How old is this building? It looks relatively new. Would the property/building owners have even finished paying off the original construction loan? Also, how common is it to apply for a permit to develop property one doesn't even own?

Posted by laterite | June 12, 2008 10:18 AM
3

Dominic: Why do you insist on giving a voice to goofballs like Hoch? If she wants to determine what happens to the building, she should buy it. Does she allow her landlord to inspect her massage tables and office equipment in order to pass judgment as to whether or not they can be replaced?

Last month I got rid of my 1997 Volvo with 80,000 miles and bought a new car. Should I have been forced to keep the old car simply because it still runs? In Hoch's world I wouldn't be allowed to get rid of the Volvo because doing so takes away hundreds of dollars per month from the local mechanic.

People like Hoch should be called out for their disgusting displays of selfish entitlement - not encouraged.

Posted by P-squared | June 12, 2008 10:28 AM
4

Petitions always work.

Just look at all the buildings they've saved.

Like ... um ...

I'm sorry, what were we talking about?

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 12, 2008 10:29 AM
5

@3,

When you say "get rid of," do you mean you sold it or you had it destroyed? If it's the latter, then, yes, you shouldn't have been allowed to junk a car that can still be used.

The same developer recently tore down several neighborhood hang-outs on a beloved block of East Pine Street

Yeah, one-story, hideous buildings that appeared to be in lousy shape.

Posted by keshmeshi | June 12, 2008 10:34 AM
6

I signed the petition at Fuel. Putting this building in seems ridiculous in this climate-- do they even know if they can get buyers on those condos? And if you put in a new building with retail space in the bottom, the rent on that retail space is going to reflect the cost of building that building, and that seems like it would be pretty high.

So in conclusion, I'm betting we end up with a parking lot in that space after they tear out all the trees.

Posted by Jessica | June 12, 2008 11:04 AM
7

hey, you fuckin' building huggin' urban hippies, BACK OFF!!!

19th Ave desperately needs a Desert Tan Tanning Salon and a Quiznos.

The people in that hood are pale and hungry!

Posted by michael strangeways | June 12, 2008 11:16 AM
8

i think it's funny how tanning salons and quiznos are the whipping boys of new retail development.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | June 12, 2008 11:23 AM
9

Now if they could just combine the two, we could use the extra retail space to sell Quiznos-label swim suits to wear after you go to the Quiznos Desert Tan Salon And Eatery.

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 12, 2008 11:55 AM
10

The retail development matrix is as follows:


FedEx Kinkos


Quiznos


Starbucks


Desert Tan


A tile store


Teriyaki joint


Pick any 3.

Posted by laterite | June 12, 2008 12:20 PM
11

Teriyaki/Kinkos/Tile store.

Posted by Garth | June 12, 2008 1:51 PM
12

I'm kind of sad about the jewish place across the street from Madison Market. It's an awesome kosher food bank and (I think) community center.

Posted by Diana | June 12, 2008 11:56 PM

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