After two years of languishing as a dirt parking lot, eastside tract-housing developers Murray Franklyn are finally ready to start construction on a six-story, 108-unit mixed use apartment building with ground-level retail on the 500 block of E Pine Street (graveyard of the Cha Cha, Bus Stop, and Manray—more on that here and here). The project was originally slated for 2008, but due to a lack of available financing—and because the real estate market tanked—the company couldn't move forward. On Monday, Murray Franklyn renewed its permit for the site and is now in the process of negotiating with contractors and subcontractors, says a source familiar with the project. I have a call in to Murray Franklyn for more details but I'm told the company expects to break ground by March.

This is the first sign that Seattle's apartment market is on the upswing after two years of stagnation. A few new apartment projects came online during 2009-2010 (projects that secured their financing and began construction before the market bottomed out), but a lack of financing for new development during those years means that virtually no new apartment projects are slated to open in 2011. And despite the depressed economy, the city's population is growing (and job growth has been relatively healthy), spurring the demand for more housing.

"Murray Franklyn has one of the best sites in the city and they want to make good with that right now while apartment vacancies are low and while rents are starting to go up," says the source. "This project will basically kick off the race to build apartments in Seattle. The market's heating back up."