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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Northern Exposure

posted by on February 5 at 3:34 PM

Tired of the flimsy faux-Craftsman townhouses going up all over town? Wish more of the mixed-use developments contained apartments instead of exorbitantly priced condos? Your pleas have been heard, at least, north of the ship canal, where some developers are counting on a thriving rental market for workers who can't afford to buy property near city jobs, and buyers willing pay more for good design.

Here, for your viewing pleasure, are four interesting developments breaking ground this year. Click on the intersection link for a map of the surrounding streets.

N 40th St and Aurora Ave N

For the briefest moment, as I read about the plans to replace a couple of the motels near the Aurora bridge, I was like, aww, I’m gonna miss those old things. And then I was, like, no, I won’t. Those were ratty pieces of shit. And by the time I went to take pictures, they were long gone.


Rentals by the hour are being replaced by rentals by the month, says Kent Angiers of Kauri Investments. He’s proposed a four-story building with 93 apartments, seven live-work units at ground level, and 103 underground parking spaces. Most are one- and two-bedroom apartments—sadly, no three-bedroom rentals, which the city needs more of.


It turns its back on Aurora.


It puts the lotion on its skin.

The building is by Clark Design Group, which also designed Trio (represented by this impenetrable Web site), under the eye of Brenda Barnes, who says they expect to get a building permit in the next couple months. Definitely an improvement on the nasty motels.

NE 105th St and Greenwood Ave N

Robert Pinkley has the last name “Pinkley,” which makes him cooler than other developers. But the president of Telus Development also has admirable design ethics. He decided to replace this ugly, piece-of-shit car wash…


...with these 14 bitchin’ townhouses and live-work units.


Design by Caron Architecture.

“I’m really averse to building something that’s so homogenous,” says Pinkley. “You see so many of the developments with that pseudo-Craftsman look, with beige colors. That’s bad business as well as bad taste,” he says. (A-fucking-men, Pinkley.) “It’s prudent to build something imaginative and interesting,” he says.

The two- and three-bedroom townhouses will sell for between $400-500 thousand. Construction crews are expected to break ground in June.

N 40th St and Stone Way N

It was a Safeway until QFC bought the building several years ago and demolished it. Currently there is this chasm.


With a deal in the works to buy the land from Kroger, Prescott Development has already planned a major, block-long development on the site. The firm has proposed a five-story building, with 160 apartments and 17,000 square feet of commercial space.

However, despite “a dozen or so comments about how neighbors would like to see grocery store there,” says Derr, who attended the development’s first design-guidance meeting last night, Prescott has not committed to a grocery store. He says 5000 square feet of the street-level retail will be designated for smaller shops and the remaining 12000 square feet is up in the air. Here’s Prescott’s preferred design proposal.


“Don’t get caught up on the colors,” Derr told me. I’ll try focus on the shape instead. It looks like attempts to break up the monolithic lines of the exterior have resulted in a mish-mash of ill-fitting geometric shapes, like a failed attempt to build something from both Legos and Duplos. Derr says that Baylis Architects is attempting to break up the monotony of the structure while designing a building that is “attractive on all four sides and relates to Wallingford’s and Fremont’s character.” I have hope.

Affordable housing for seniors after the jump.

Continue reading "Northern Exposure" »

Monday, February 4, 2008

From the Ashes

posted by on February 4 at 4:30 PM

When I lived a couple blocks from the Scarlet Tree in the late-nineties, the iconic live-music venue and greasy-spoon kitchen could reliably create my hangovers at night and cure them in the morning. But since a fire gutted it in July of 2005, walking past NE 66th St and Roosevelt Way NE has been a nostalgic bummer.



After the fire, the building was condemned, according to Steve Walker, managing director of Heartland LLC, which bought the property. “Our goal is to put in a decent-sized restaurant and apartments above that,” he says. Heartland has submitted a proposal to tear down the old brick shell and construct a six-story building named Indigo @ 66.


Preliminary design of Indigo @ 66, view from Roosevelt Way NE. Image courtesy of Heartland LLC and Johnson Architecture and Planning LLC.

Walker says Heartland had its eye on the property, in part, due to the proximity of the QFC across the street, which is slated to be replaced by a light rail station. “Let’s take one of corners and start fixing it up,” he says. The first early design guidance meeting, open to the public, is scheduled tonight at 6:30 p.m. in room 209 of the University Heights Center.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Pinehurst Update

posted by on February 1 at 12:19 PM

125th and Roosevelt


According the Department of Planning and Development’s semi-weekly bulletin, Kohary development is still going forward with part of demolition application process for an apartment building in North Seattle's Pinehurst neighborhood, on 125th and Roosevelt Way NE.

My story in this week's paper addressed neighbors' concerns about the possibility of another Kohary development in the neighborhood. A number of Pinehurst residents have complained about the lack of communication with the developer, as well as the aesthetics of Kohary's previous project on 123rd and 10th Pl NE, which one neighbor described as "uninspired" and "crammed together."

Earlier this week, I spoke with Kohary Construction's owner, Miklos Kohary, and he told me he was holding off on a planned townhouse development on Roosevelt, still listed as a “future project” on the company’s website.

Well, somebody at the City's Department of Planning and Development (DPD) saw my story, and called Kohary to find out what his plans were. Apparently, DPD has a policy of contacting developers when they make public statements that seem to conflict with plans and applications already on file.

According to DPD Spokesman Alan Justad “Kohary is planning to proceed with the [environmental review] for the demolition of the [apartments], but it is not proceeding with building applications at this time.”

It’s still unclear what Kohary plans to do with the site. They could be planning to build soon, or they could just be preparing to sell the lot in the future. However, the building manager’s answering machine says there are “no vacancies” and there will be
"no upcoming vacancies” in the building.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sign of Desperation?

posted by on January 28 at 10:28 AM


Or sign of the times?

A huge banner has appeared on the nearly empty, fully ugly apartment-building-on-sticks that squats at Pine and Bellevue. In October of last year Dom wrote a post about the building's impending demolition and included what little was known about the proposed new development at the site. Back then Dom, like everyone else, anticipated more lux condos coming to Capitol Hill...

The property owners have proposed replacing the thing with a six-story structure that has 116 units and two levels of underground parking. The street level would house commercial spaces. However, the residential units--90 more than rented currently--would all be condos. 65’ at its highest point, the views over Chapel toward downtown are sure to be spectacular, so the units are sure cost a small fortune.

That was then. Here's a close up shot of the banner on the side of the building. It says, "Want to live in a brand new condo building on this site? Not sure if you can afford it? Help us design appealing new condos in your price range. Take our survey at"

And here's a little of the info up at the website:

Today, there are many condominium homes being built and sold in the Seattle metro area, but very few of them are within the reach of today's average income earner. Thus, many people who work in Seattle cannot afford to own a home there.

In Seattle, the 2007 median income is estimated at $51,484, which typically enables a person to afford a home that is approximately $250,000. On the other hand, the current median condo price in Seattle (as of November 2007) was significantly higher than that at $305,000 (Seattle-wide) and $321,225 (Capitol Hill). It's this imbalance that we are striving to address.

So it would appear that the developers are... altruists. Or socialists. They're not doing this to make a buck, but to help Seattle's struggling average income earners buy a home. Which they intend to do by selling--with your help and design input--400 square foot condos. (Seattle's average income earners are advised to have small, stackable families.) The developers no doubt planned to do all along and the sudden downturn in the Seattle housing market had no impact on their plans for this development.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Erection on Denny

posted by on January 24 at 4:20 PM

Thoryk Architecture has submitted an initial set of designs for 1200 Stewart--the twin skyscrapers proposed for the intersection of Denny Way and Stewart Street. At 400 feet – including three floors of commercial units, a hotel, and residential units (likely luxury condos) – the towers will be among the developments going up on Denny that, in effect, expand the area we think of as downtown.


The above design shows the relationship to the surrounding neighborhood. However, in another design preferred by the design review board and the developer, Lexas Companies, the two towers would be aligned with Denny, like this…


It won't actually be Grimace-colored.

Paul Thoryk, president of San Diego-based Thoryk Architecture, says, “I want a lot more breathing room with the building on Stewart.” He’s referring to the proximity to the Stewart | Minor | Tower (with the lines in there like that), which is represented by that big yellow shaft. He was also considering views looking west: “I wanted to create a narrower vision for the people from Capitol Hill.”


“He is being generous here,” Thoryk says of Eric Midby at Lexas. “If he just wanted to make money, he would have three big boxes. He wouldn’t have hired me.” Indeed, Thoryk’s buildings don’t suck. You can check out the final renderings for another Seattle building designed by his hand, the Escala. Thoryk says, “He is very sensitive to the environment, esthetics, and wants a very well-done building and to please the community. We want to make it a neighborhood-friendly environment.” See pictures of what's at the site currently and read my praises of the proposal (and my bitching about the massive underground parking garage) over here.

And, yes, the title of this post is in response to Christopher's The Demolition in Georgetown.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

News Flash: Seattle Housing Market Tanked in ‘07

posted by on January 23 at 11:43 AM

The department of things you already knew has released another ground-breaking report. This one, by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service, says housing prices in Seattle jumped the shark last August. Thank you, experts. The PI takes on the task of breaking it down for us over here.

What does this all mean to readers? Houses are cheaper or prices are at least leveling. And how do the buyers feel? Elated? Well, who knows. The article is titled, “Two sides to '07 housing market,” but there is only one side to the story: Doom and gloom.

"We had a very strong market in King County until August hit," said J. Lennox Scott, chairman and chief executive of John L. Scott Real Estate.

Glenn Crellin, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at Washington State University, expected that slower sales eventually would affect prices. He theorized that the median prices earlier in 2007 were masking some softness because buyers were getting more for their money, rather than spending less.

"Finally, it got to the point where they were able to afford all they wanted and spend less money, too," he said.

But Crellin said the softness would continue if inventory surges this spring, and some other analysts were gloomier.

"If you find a place that you like and you can afford it, are you really going to try to time the market?" he asked. "Because, when it really comes down to it, nobody knows."

Oh, fucking Jesus in hell. You’d think a kitten dies every time someone buys a bungalow for less than a million dollars. Ya know, prices can drop but developers and real estate agents will still make money, albeit a bit less. I know this may be sad for them, but this article never bothers to say, "Hey, maybe the housing bubble was totes over-inflated and this means that people can afford houses. We don't want a scarce housing supply in a region that has high demand; we can fill in with apartments, condos, and more houses." The plateau is a good thing. It’s not a tragedy that housing prices won't forever be rocketing upward. This is the real estate market—the thinking outside the pages Seattle's daily papers is that it will resume at a more reasonable pace in a couple years.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Just The Facts, Ma’am

posted by on January 18 at 2:33 PM

Catfish Corner and The Facts. These have been the familiar landmarks on the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Way and E Cherry St. But even when I was a kid, The Facts newspaper building looked like it was falling apart.

Mona West, who purchased the property a year ago, has filed a proposal with the city’s Department of Planning and Development to build a three-story development with residential and commercial units on the site. “We are just exploring options at this point,” she tells me. If they do proceed, West is committed to keeping the newspaper based in the same location. “That’s The Facts’ corner and we’d like to continue that tradition in a more modern building—something that fits with the neighborhood,” she says.


The newspaper, published in Seattle for 44 years, is “From the voice of the African American community.” The current issue and the iconic yellow sign on the corner both promote the upcoming Martin Luther King Day march.

When I walked by to take pictures, four “open” signs were posted in the window. But nobody answered the door. When I called today, a gentleman answered but didn’t know anything about the development proposal. I’ll update this post when I hear back.

An early design guidance meeting is tentatively scheduled for February 20th at 6:30 PM.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Cheap-ish Condos on Capitol Hill?

posted by on January 17 at 12:43 PM

The building at the corner of Pine and Bellevue has been vacant for months, awaiting conversion into condos. (Full disclosure: I have a friend who used to live there; she couldn't afford what they were asking and moved into a different neighborhood.) But with the imminent crash of the market for conversions, the building's owner, The Stratford Company, has decided to take a different route; they're tearing the whole thing down and rebuilding it as small, affordable (the company likes to call them "attainable") new-construction condos.

In recent years, the Pike-Pine corridor has changed dramatically, as developers have announced plans to demolish affordable housing or convert expensive apartments into even-more-expensive condos. (See: The block that formerly housed the Bus Stop and Kincora; the Press Condos--nee Press Apartments). But there's reason to feel hopeful about this new development. For one thing, the building it will replace will be no great loss-brown brick apartments perched atop street-level parking, with no retail or other street amenities to speak of. For another, Stratford (which is primarily a condo conversion company) says it wants the new condos to be affordable to people making the Seattle median income, currently around $52,000 a year. According to Stratford sales VP Virginia Grady, the company is aiming for condos that are "low-cost but not low-quality"--around $250,000 for a 400- to 500-square-foot unit. "We're looking at, how do we design a smaller space that’s highly functional and appealing?" she says.

To that end, the company is doing an online survey to find out what amenities people want and what things they might be able to live without; some cost-saving possibilities include loft-style designs, compact kitchen appliances, small, energy-efficient washer/dryers, no assigned parking spaces, and no air conditioning. As a renter, I'm encouraged to see a developer targeting my demographic--people with decent jobs and no kids who can't afford the "From $695,000!" crap that's replacing so many older single-family homes in this area.

Is Seattle’s Building Boom Over?

posted by on January 17 at 8:08 AM

The national housing market is tanking. Seattle’s housing market – a year or so behind the national market – is circling the same drain for the same reasons. That’s the thinking.

With this in mind, I expected to see fewer proposals for new developments filed with the Department of Planning and Development in the first couple weeks of the New Year than in 2007. But that’s not happening. Instead, eight proposals for major mixed-use and residential projects were announced just in the past two weeks; only six were filed by this time last year. There are lots other notices filed for projects getting started in the next six weeks. Developers clearly believe Seattle housing will still be in high demand when their projects are finished in a couple years. That or they’re nuts.

Take veteran developer Michael Mastro. He’s the man behind Mastro Properties, a firm revered for its impeccable investment timing. “There’s a lot of crying and weeping about foreclosures, but that might be expected given the exuberance with which lenders were financing,” he tells me in a paced, gravelly voice. “Greater Seattle has a migration number that exceeds many areas of the country. They’re not coming here for the rain but for the jobs, I can assume.”

About a year ago he bought a parcel on First Hill, at 504 Terry Ave, across the street from the unfinished Harborview expansion, and he recently proposed his intentions for the lot: Harbor Vista, a 26-story residential tower, containing 350 apartments and 9,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, with parking for only 200 cars. Currently on the site is the San Juan Apartments.



Renter Jeff Gordon heard in October he would have to move. Gordon just moved to the San Juan Apartments a year and half ago, after living in a building on 15th Ave E and E John St, which was demolished to make way for another development. He wants to live on Capitol Hill but says he can’t afford it on his construction wages. “I’ll probably move to the south end,” Gordon says.

But I don’t think Gordon will have to live in the south end – at least, not for long – or that Mastro is nuts. The profit margin on large-scale residential developments is enough that housing prices can drop and developers can still make a killing. And as long as demand to live in the urban core remains high among people like Gordon, the developers will supply what they demand: apartments. While the new rentals won’t necessarily be cheap, adding them to the market will keep costs down for everyone.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Fauntleroy Place

posted by on December 30 at 1:20 PM

If you woke up this morning in West Seattle craving a tempeh scramble on rice bread and some kombucha tea to wash it down--God save you--only one store could supply your fixin’s: The West Seattle PCC.

But Blue Star Development, behind several large projects in California, is about to change that, when it constructs a six-story building on the corner of SW Alaska St and 39th Ave SW. The site is currently home to Hancock Fabrics and a 38,000 square foot parking lot.



Fauntleroy Place will contain 170 apartments, 532 underground parking spaces, and 72,000 square feet of retail space—for a new Hancock Fabrics store and a massive Whole Foods. Awesome.


But not everyone is hitting the peace pipe in anticipation of the national munchie market. “I am actually a little worried for my precious PCC. Mum and I went to the original Ravenna store way back when it was new, and I’m a lifer,” writes commenter The Velvet Bulldog on West Seattle Blog. The PCC in Seattle’s Ravenna neighborhood closed its doors in 2001, about a year after Whole Foods opened its Roosevelt supermarket one mile west.

Easton Craft of Blue Star Devlopment doesn’t think that will happen to the PCC one mile from the proposed Fauntleroy Place. “The folks who shop at PCC now will continue to do so, but get other items from Whole Foods,” he speculates.

Sure they will. PCC and its narrow aisles are doomed.

Mississippi-based Hancock Fabrics, which sold the property to Blue Star, will receive payment to offset lost revenue during the year and a half it’s closed during construction, Craft says.

Craft expects Blue Star will break ground by the end of April and be ready for tenants in the new building by late 2009. The first proposals were submitted to the city in 2005; the design review board will make its final design recommendations at a public meeting tentatively scheduled for February 14.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Seattle's New Architecture?

posted by on December 27 at 10:58 AM

Banal. Says the American Institute of Architects…

For a city with such strengths -- education, culture, natural environment, wealth -- the jury hoped to see more evidence of leadership and risk, and less comfort with an already well-digested regional design language. Great architecture occurs when a great designer creates new opportunity.

There’s no argument. Seattle’s design review boards even encourage developers to design new buildings that look like everything nearby. However, there are a handful of exceptions—such as the crystalline lower-half of the WaMu Center and the UW School of Law. And there’s hope for several of the residential towers rising in the Denny Triangle – some with designs presently evolving – that may prove more than glass tributes to prosperity.

But it’s hard to defend most of Seattle’s squat new residential buildings on purely esthetic grounds. A lot of them look like these.



Death to balconettes and flimsy steel beams tacked onto buildings like a fin on a Hyundai. We crave function and statements. But, realistically, new mixed-use development (and that’s most of the development ‘round these parts) can’t have the fine touches we want and remain affordable. Granite ain’t cheap and slavery is gauche. As hard as it is to defend mediocre design, it’s easier to defend than the underused parking lots they replaced, and it’s easier to tolerate than sprawl on the Issaquah plateau. Design review boards and the media should keep developers' feet to the fire to create magnificent public buildings and skyscrapers. Those are the buildings that become landmarks and define our city. But replacing dilapidated houses and empty lots with multi-story residential developments, ugly as some might be, provide the affordable-ish housing we demand. That’s a balance we have to live with.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Smell You Later

posted by on December 22 at 3:50 PM

Seattle’s best-named landmark, The Undre Arms.


The rickety apartment building at 11th Ave and E Madison St has been collecting mold for decades. “When I told my friends I lived here, they were like, ‘Ugh, really?’” says Christina Hunsberger, who moved in this summer and attends Seattle University across the street. But inside her apartment, she says, there’s a claw foot tub, crown moldings, and three-inch-thick orange shag carpet. Fancy.

A few years ago the building’s official name became a URL.


The Web site says only this: “We, the residents of the charmingly ratty Undre Arms, are not responsible for the opinions held by our landlord, who is the one with 'the sign' in Apt.1.”


Jerrold Boilet, who owns the property but isn't the landlord, has submitted a proposal to replace The Undre Arms with a six-story building containing 48 residential units, street-level retail, and underground parking. Nice. The existing building might be a fine mecca for pit fetishists, but it looks like it may collapse any moment, killing every resident in its 15 units. No word yet from Boilet on when the building will meet that big stick of deodorant in the sky.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wanna Buy The Lock Vista? Got $32 Million?

posted by on December 13 at 12:01 AM

It appears that residents of the Lock Vista Apartments may have gotten a reprieve from a planned condo conversion. At least for now. According to a post on Craigslist, the 192 unit apartment complex is up for sale again.

The contact info listed on the post indicates the sale is being handled by the Northlake Group, who had originally intended to buy and convert the building. However, Northlake is not listed as the property owner in King County's online property records.

The Seattle Housing Authority had discussed purchasing the complex, or at least a few of the buildings, but they had been struggling to come up with money for the site.

I'll update with more info in the morning and find out what happened with the sale.


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Lofty Visions of the Future

posted by on December 4 at 9:30 AM

I assumed that everyone capable of designing and constructing a multi-story, multi-million dollar development in Seattle was also capable of saving their design proposal as a .pdf document. I was wrong, apparently.

Since the Department of Planning and Development began requesting digital versions of the design proposals for upcoming developments to post online, many developers haven’t provided them. Maybe they don’t want their shitty designs made public for asswipes like me to share with asswipes like you. But they should. We’re good asswipes, and we like pictures. And many of the designs are pretty nice. So, to celebrate and honor the developers and architects who have mastered the “export” and “save as” functions, enjoy this preview of buildings coming up around town.

Most of the designs after the jump are not yet final. So, don’t get your hopes up. Or, alternatively, don’t give up hope.

Continue reading "Lofty Visions of the Future" »

Monday, December 3, 2007

A Human Tragedy

posted by on December 3 at 8:48 AM

When a new condo tower goes up, odds are good that it blocked someone's view of something. When another new condo tower goes up, this time blocking the views from a previously constructed condo tower, how bad should we feel for folks who are going to lose their views? The PI has a front-page story today about the plight of condo owners losing their views as new condo towers go up around them. I'm thinking that details like this one aren't going to generate a lot of sympathy:

Michael Harris, who bought a condo on the west side of the 17th floor of Cosmopolitan, found out [about the new tower] about six months ago, thanks to Tatum and a search of condo blogs.

"I could almost touch the building," said Harris, who was so upset about the Cosmopolitan situation that he rented out his condo there and bought a new one for himself in Capitol Hill.

In lieu of flowers, Mr. Harris asks that mourners make a donation to his I.R.A.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

First, They Came for the Renters

posted by on November 28 at 2:04 PM

Right after Thanksgiving dinner, I posted a Craigslist ad for a room rental in my Central District group house. The house is a dream—big, old, three kitchens, six bedrooms, double lot. The room ain't bad either—has its own bathroom. For $300. Applicants blew up my inbox.

In a scene out of America's Next Top Housemate, 20 people – around 70 didn't make the cut – jammed into our living room, vying for the title of our new BFF. People were desperate. Rentals are expensive, elusive, and in some cases, disappearing.

How fast? The good folks at Seattle's Department of Planning and Development generated for us Sloggites a chart of the apartment-to-condo conversions in Seattle since 2004. Read it and weep, renters.


Here's a larger pop-up version of the graph. It appears 2006 was the height of the conversion boom, with 2352 apartment units converted into condominiums (we're on a slight down-trend this year but not by much). Meanwhile in 2006, Seattle did see a net gain of 5383 units constructed. But, as we know, the vast majority of those new units are condos. Another interesting fact, condo conversions typically entail painting an ugly apartment building garish colors and naming it something edgy.


Obviously, conversions are just one of the reasons residents are getting tossed out on the street looking for a new rental (covered in debt splatters from the bursting mortgage bubble, anyone?). But this rate of conversions, and high ratio of condos-to-apartments in new construction, means that single-family houses like the one me and my housemates rent will be soon be packed like clown cars. In a city where zoning for single family housing covers about 65 percent of the land – a lot by urban standards – market demand could make it profitable for homeowners to move out and charge three times the rate of our place to desperate renters (renters the city needs, because they're a vital part of the city's workforce.) Or, better yet, the city could rezone more of Seattle’s precious single-family housing areas and provide a height bonus for apartments to give developers major incentive to build them.

Got a conversion-to-eviction story? Put it in comments.

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.

Continue reading "West Lake Union" »

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

U-Save Oil, Not the Neighborhood

posted by on November 21 at 3:30 PM

62-year-old Don Erickson stands to make a tidy profit by selling his small house on Crown Hill. Developers to the north and south have made offers to buy the property, zoned for commercial development, but he's holding out for a higher bid. However, owners of Seattle's iconic U-Save Oil, now under the 76 Station franchise, seem to have made other plans for the land on Holman Rd NW, between 13th Ave NW and 14th Ave NW.

Mark Wolf, who inherited the U-Save and three surrounding buildings when his father passed away earlier this year, announced intentions last week to raze all the buildings in the parcel. Neighbors and employees on the block were blindsided by the news, which came in yellow Land Use Action signs, stuck in the parking strip. The signs indicate plans to replace the existing structures with a four-story mixed-use development, comprising 100 residential units, six “live-work” units, and 110 underground parking spaces.

The shaded stuff is headed for the heavens. Erickson's house is the top unshaded property on the right side


This is a how it looks to a satellite:


“I had to call after they put the signs up. It’s kind of a bummer,” says one of the employees on the block who asked not to be named. “My livelihood rests on this place as long as I can stay here.”

Erickson, a retired diesel mechanic, says he’d heard rumors that the existing building may be demolished months ago, but he thought, “I’ve known these people all my life—I don’t think they’d do that. Then the father passes away and the kid just sells it.”

Erickson said he plans to attend an early design guidance meeting at 6:30 p.m. on December 10th in Ballard High School. There, Wolf and the designers, Driscoll Architects, may confirm rumors that development could begin by next year.

In fact, that meeting may be the only way to hear any detail of Wolf’s plan. When I called to him this morning to inquire about his goals for the project, he was irritated I was asking—refusing to discuss the development and protesting his name being printed. Well, this isn’t exactly in print, Mark. And you are listed as the official contact. More after the jump.

Continue reading "U-Save Oil, Not the Neighborhood" »

Friday, November 16, 2007

Looking Down on the Olympic Sculpture Park

posted by on November 16 at 3:50 PM

The best thing about the Olympic Sculpture Park is Wake—graceful and industrial. The worst thing about the Olympic Sculpture Park is the concrete warehouse right behind Wake—a “historical site.”

Behold them both.


And say goodbye to the ugly box. Constructed in 1939 for Glaser Brothers, purveyors of wholesale cigars and tobacco, the utilitarian one-story building at 3031 Western Avenue is now used as a parking garage. The Department of Neighborhoods calls it one of the category 4 historical sites, which “have been so altered that they would not qualify as Seattle landmarks.” But according to city data, there have been few alterations to the property. It’s just ugly.

Good riddance. Martin Selig, Seattle’s most infamous developer and delinquent payer of electricity bills, owns the site. And earlier this month he paid $2,370 to start the application process to obtain a master use permit. The preliminary proposal, says Michael Dorcy of the city's Department of Planning and Development, is for a 14-story, 78-unit apartment building. Here's a rendering.


More after the jump.

Continue reading "Looking Down on the Olympic Sculpture Park" »

In the Shadow of Schnitzer

posted by on November 16 at 3:07 PM


8th and Virginia, MIDTOWN!

Residents at the Cosmopolitan condos, on 8th and Virginia, are banding together to stop a massive office development from blotting out the sun on the west side of their building.

Back in 2006, before the condos opened, developer Schnitzer West was working on a 14-story office project next door to Cosmo. That April, the city changed zoning regulations and Schnitzer resubmitted design plans for a 500-foot mega-office

Last week, in response to Schnitzer's development and, they say, a lack of response from the city, Cosmo residents posted an open letter to Mayor Nickels, decrying the public process.

Because Cosmo was still vacant when Schnitzer's designs were changed, the city's requirement to notify nearby residents wasn't triggered. Because of the lack of communication from the city, Clifford Tatum, Cosmo's Community Committee Chair, says residents didn't have the opportunity to back out purchasing their units without losing their deposits, which were between $15,000 and $50,000. "We entered into a purchase agreement in 2005. At the time, the lot across the street was permitted for a 12-14 story building. We were fairly comfortable with that," Tatum says.

But hey, so what if rich people don't have a view, right? Well, Tatum claims it's about more than that. "It’s not about the view," he says. "It’s the fact that this building is 15 feet away. There’s some consideration for light, for privacy—there would be office workers looking in our windows." Indeed, a rendering from Schnitzer's website does seem to indicate that the 500-foot office building will eclipse Cosmo's west side.


Tatum says attorneys are looking into the building plans but that he's hoping this can be settled through communication with the developer. "We don’t particularly don’t want to go down the lawsuit path," he says. "[We'd like to] facilitate a better neighborly relationship. "

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Gateway and Choke Point

posted by on November 15 at 4:12 PM

Even as the national housing market declines, Lexas Companies is banking on Seattle's boom to continue. The developer, also behind the fancy 30-story Escala on Fourth and Virginia, has announced plans for a soaring twin-tower complex in the Denny Triangle called 1200 Stewart.

Denny – for decades a traffic funnel flanked with light industrial, parking lots, and a few terrifying restaurants – is becoming a high-density corridor. Awesome!


About a dozen new residential developments are proposed or under construction, and 1200 Stewart, in its nascent stages, will likely be a giant among them. If approved, it will sit on the triangular lot wedged between Denny Way and Stewart Street.


This image above is how the block currently looks to a satellite. Thanks, Google Maps.


And this is a visual orientation of 1200. Thanks, Sclater Partners Architects.

“It’s the gateway to downtown,” says Dave Reddish, of Sclater Partners Architects, one of two architects designing the building. 1200’s footprint would fill the entire block. Planners propose commercial spaces in 1200’s 65-foot-tall base, topped by two towers, each with 150 condos, that would max out the city’s new zoning height limits at 400 feet.

At that height, 1200 would overlook the neighborhood, giving residents on the top floors a vantage to peer down on much of Capitol Hill. By comparison, the tallest of the three nearby Metropolitan Park towers (formerly the twin toasters, now the, um, toaster triumvirate?) is only 20 stories, reaching 279 feet. Photos and more after the jump.

Continue reading "Gateway and Choke Point" »

Displaced Tenants: A Correction and Some Good News

posted by on November 15 at 2:20 PM

I've got a story in this week's paper about the city's refusal to back tenants who were booted from a University District triplex, in violation of tenant relocation regulations. Developers are required to obtain a "tenant relocation license" in order to evict tenants when demolishing a building, which is supposed to help evictees get relocation assistance.

In my article, I said that the city and the property owner would have been responsible for splitting $2,000 in relocation fees, but due to annual increases, that number should have actually been higher. Almost $1,000 higher.

If the city had not allowed a developer to exploit a loophole in their own regulations, the tenants in the triplex—who met income requirements—would have received $2,829. The developer has attempted to contact former tenants, but the city has said that they won't be paying, or offering legal support, and tenants are on their own if the developer doesn't come through.

In other city/tenant news, Council President Nick Licata along with Councilmembers Tom Rasmussen and Peter Steinbrueck have been working on getting money budget to help put a little extra cash in the wallets of tenants displaced by condo conversion.

Right now, tenants displaced by conversions—who make 80% or less of the median income, about $42,000—get 500 bucks. A number of displaced tenants I've spoken with have complained that $500 isn't enough to cover a deposit, moving expenses or first month's rent at a new place (although tenants should get their deposits back from building owners if their apartments are being renovated).

Well, somebody at the city listened. Council is earmarking $350,000 in the budget to increase payouts to people caught up in Condo Conversion Wars.

Under the proposed guidelines, households that make 30% of the median income would receive $1500 from the city. Households in the 31-50% range would get $1000, and those in the 51-80% range would get $500.

If council makes this happen—it appears to have full support—the money would be available January 1st., but it would only be a temporary solution. When it runs out, it runs out.

Rasmussen is expected to testify in Olympia again during the next session, in hopes of getting the state to hop on the tenant-assistance bandwagon which they failed to do last year. However, a renewed push for a condo conversion cap seems unlikely.

Terrorists Are Rich and Smart: A Long Post on a Longer Research Paper

posted by on November 15 at 12:18 PM

It's one of those ideological litmus-test questions that's unwise to ask at the Thanksgiving dinner table: Is terrorism caused by problems than can be socially engineered away, like ignorance and poverty?

Or is terrorism caused by, you know, evil?

Fascinating new research by Alan Krueger, an economics professor at Princeton, says neither.

So all that popular guff about fighting terrorism with economic development? Not so much.

Here's some of Kreuger's evidence.

From a survey of 1,300 Palestinian adults, regarding armed attacks against Israel:

while 26 percent of illiterates and 18 per cent of those with only an elementary education opposed or strongly opposed armed attacks, the figure for those with a high school education was just 12 percent. The least supportive group turned out to be the unemployed, 74 percent of whom said they support or strongly back armed attacks. By comparison, the support level for merchants and professionals was 87 percent.

(To distill from his slightly tortured economist's prose: Opposition to armed attacks is higher among illiterates; support for armed attacks is lower—although 74 percent hardly seems low—among the unemployed.)

He also finds that suicide bombers come from wealthier families and that almost 60 percent of them have "more than a high school education, compared with less than 15 percent of the general population."

The same kinds of wealth-and-education statistics hold for Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, Iraqi insurgents—most of them wealthier and better-educated than their non-terrorist peers.

These aren't just the strategists and the figureheads like Bin Laden—these are the foot soldiers, the cannon fodder.

So what gives? Why are the wealthier and more educated—the people with more to lose, from an economist's point of view—becoming suicide bombers and terrorists?

On the supply side: Terrorism, Krueger says, is less like crime (more popular among the poor) and more like voting or protesting (more popular among the rich).

On the demand side:

... terrorist organizations want to succeed. The costs of failure are high. So the organizations select more able participants—which again points to those who are better educated and better off economically.

What isn't surprising: Terrorists aren't starved for money, they're starved for civil liberties.

Using data from the Freedom House Index, for example, I found that countries with low levels of civil liberties are more likely to be the countries of origin of the perpetrators of terrorist attacks. In addition, terrorists tend to attack nearby targets. Even international terrorism tends to be motivated by local concerns.

So how to fight terrorism, Professor Krueger?

That suggests to me that it makes sense to focus on the demand side, such as by degrading terrorist organizations’ financial and technical capabilities, and by vigorously protecting and promoting peaceful means of protest, so there is less demand for pursuing grievances through violent means.

The answer still isn't "invade Iran."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Real Estate Boom is Over...

posted by on November 14 at 9:08 AM

...everywhere but here.

...Seattle will continue as one of the bright lights, which it's been this year. Median year-over-year home prices have risen every month save October, when they were down slightly. But Seattle's strength may go beyond the usual reasons: a strong local economy and good job growth propelling housing demand.

Yun suggested that Seattle may be joining such cities as New York and San Francisco as "superstar cities" whose desirability attracts affluent newcomers who bring the buying power to continue pumping up housing prices.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Re: A Matter of Taste

posted by on November 9 at 4:14 PM

Jonah asks what good townhome design looks like. Of course, one man’s trash is another’s treasure. But I enjoy looking at these units going up in the Central District—whether I’m trashed or not.


The jagged and varied roof lines are magnificent. They reflect the classic craftsman homes that dominate the neighborhood, yet have a distinctly modern edge. The buildings are less than half finished--the second row behind these buildings is skeletal--however, the southwest corner is almost completed.


I wonder how much more it costs developers to build interesting roof lines and unique top floors in row townhouses. (In this development, there are actually a few separate buildings with multiple units in each, so it's less townhomey than others.) It seems that interesting designs like these could be applied to a slew of the low-income developments being constructed around town for only slightly more dough. But if previous thoughtful buildings are an indication, these units will cost a fortune—not necessarily because they cost so much more to build—but because they look like something you’d actually want to live in.

A Matter of Taste

posted by on November 9 at 11:08 AM

I have no idea what good townhome design looks like. At least that's what I've learned from reading Slog comments on my development posts. So, I decided I'd put it you folks.

I'm posting images of a number of townhome developments from around the continent to see what you guys think. Some of these townhomes have won design awards, or are by award winning developers. Some aren't.

Have at it.







Do any of these do anything for you? Hate brick? Love brick? Want more faux-craftsman?

If you have pics of something you love/hate in your neighborhood, feel free to post/send 'em in.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Final Meeting on Broadway Mega-Development

posted by on November 7 at 3:02 PM

If you replaced the abandoned QFC building on Broadway with a one-block long piece of dog shit, the site would be markedly improved. This is how it has looked for the past couple years.

Photo by Thomas Francis

A monolith of despair. But Driscoll Architects plans to replace the entire block--including the vacant Bartell Drugs, Taco Bell and apartments around back--with two mixed-use buildings ranging from 40 to 65 feet that include 295 residential units, 365 underground parking spots, and 26,000 square feet of retail space. Here’s a rendering of the Broadway side, between E Republican and E Mercer Streets.


And here’s what it would look like from the Harvard Ave side.


Love this drawing and don’t want ‘em to change thing? Think this is an aesthetic abomination made of flimsy materials? Tonight’s your last chance to speak up. A design-review meeting for the mega-development will be held tonight, Wednesday, November 7 at 8 p.m., in the Multi-Purpose Room at Yesler Community Center: 917 E Yesler Way. (And yes, it’s stupid that the design review meeting is a mile-and-a-half from a site with a public library across the street.)

“It’s a full block, that’s huge,” says Lisa Rutzick of the Department of Planning and Development. “Luckily a lot of the neighborhood groups involved have been in attendance, but it hasn’t drawn a huge crowd.” 26 people attended the first meeting and 16 went to the second.

In addition to public comment, this meeting is Driscoll’s opportunity to show the design board how they will change their snazzy design proposal (.pdf) in response to issues raised in a board report (.pdf), such as widening the sidewalks and optimizing the courtyard between the buildings. Neeru Sharma of Driscoll says the firm has modified the plan, but, “I can’t release them until the public meeting.”

So, even if you don’t live on Capitol Hill, you should go (I can’t make it). We'll have to live with it for a long time. Rutzick says, “If everything goes smoothly they could have their master use permit by end of the year.”

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Speaking of Development and Arts Spaces

posted by on November 6 at 1:41 PM

I was idling on the Department of Planning and Development website (as I am wont to do of an autumn afternoon) and saw this commercial construction permit for 1100 Republican St, once known as Consolidated Works.

Demo existing. Construct new office building with below grade parking grage with potential ground floor retail.

Development. It's all the grage.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Condo Compound

posted by on November 2 at 3:15 PM

Remember the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple on Capitol Hill? Well, memories are all you’ll have.

A towering crane now emerges from between the tree-lined avenues of Harvard E and Broadway E near St. Mark's Cathedral, where the dilapidated white building stood. The site will be home to Harvard & Highland (named for the cross streets), which will have 38 condo units priced at $1.3 million and up.


This is the only photo I took that begins to convey the project’s size—it consumes a little more than half of a double-sized block. Fucking huge. Like, that little gray building next to St. Mark's is the massive Sam Hill House.

Harvard & Highland will comprise five squat buildings, forming a compound of luxury. They’re real pretty, for condos, and they fit with the neighborhood okay. Renderings and more after the jump.

Continue reading "Condo Compound" »

Friday, October 26, 2007

Housing of God

posted by on October 26 at 2:35 PM

When Catholic Community Services announced plans to construct a four-story, mixed-use building on 23rd Ave S and S Main St, some Squire Park residents were ready to grab their pitchforks. As Washington’s largest private provider of human services, CCS counsels drug addicts and assists prisoners reentering public life, among other services. Neighbors were concerned that this development, a few blocks from a daycare and Garfield High School, might become the home of addicts, felons, and sex offenders.

It turns out, Village Spirit’s 51 units are “planned to be affordable housing for the homeless, poor, and low-wage earners,” says Evelyn Allen, director of the Village Spirit Center, one of many projects managed by CCS and the Archdiocesan Housing Authority (AHA). “Our focus will be on supporting African-American families, and addressing the disproportionate needs for African-American families that are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.” (However, Allen notes, nobody would be excluded based on his or her race. Or for not being Catholic.) “There will be no sex offenders in that building, and no felons with crimes against people or property,” she assures.

The 12-million dollar development, which will occupy the CCS administration building’s existing parking lot, is part of King County’s 10-year plan to end homelessness. Funding is granted by the Gates Foundation’s Sound Families Initiative along with public and private contributions. It will be the AHA’s 42nd housing development in Western Washington.

The centrally located, low-cost units are a refreshing break from expensive condos for Seattleites getting priced out of their homes. But usually, low-cost development comes at an esthetic price—a price that CCS has been willing to pay. Here’s the CCS administrative building:


“The staff here was like, ‘Can’t you do something about to this building, too?’” says Allen. No, she can’t. But she is determined to make the new building, slated for completion in 2009, more pleasing than some of the impersonal strip-mall developments and boxy mixed-use buildings to the south on 23rd. The retail will sit close to the sidewalk, facing the street. “I have a special affinity to make sure our building is more inviting,” she says.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Oddfellows Hall: Still Almost Sold

posted by on October 25 at 1:20 PM


Finally, a bit of official news (and not just rumor) about the impending sale of the Oddfellows Building. A letter of intent, from Redside Partners (the new property management company), went out to Oddfellows tenants yesterday:

Dear Tenants:

As you may have heard, the Odd Fellows building is being sold. The closing of the sale will occur in early January 2008. Our intent is to update the building systems while retaining and/or restoring much of the original charm The Odd Fellows intended almost 100 years ago. Significant changes in layout are planned for the retail and office (top floor) levels of the building.

While many of these projects may be inconvenient for you, we will make every effort possible to minimize these inconveniences.

The new management company for the building will be Redside Partners, LLC. We would be happy to discuss our plans with you either in person or over the phone.

We look forward to meeting and working collaboratively to make this transition as smooth as possible.

Sincerely, Craig M. Swanson Redside Partners, LLC

That doesn't sound good for the running store on the first floor.

The small businesses and nonprofits on the second and third floors are also nervous. One says that tenants in other Redside buildings pay $35 per square foot and that everyone in the Oddfellows is paying less than $10.

(In this article, I wrote that Ted Schroth—of the Trace Lofts—is rumored to be the new owner. Though his name doesn't appear in the letter above, tenants say he's definitely involved and was walking around the building this morning with appraisers.)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Re: Living in Heaven

posted by on October 19 at 5:50 PM

The taller the condo, the closer to God. At least, for some readers of Alaska Airlines’ hilarious in-flight magazine. It talks about Seattle as a city you’ve never seen: It’s a city that charts locations by proximity to the Pike Place Market; it’s a city that loathes rock and adores opera; it’s a city of steakhouses.

In Seattle, everybody owns a luxury condo.

Of the 17 ads for unbuilt developments, the largest is a 16-page matte-finish advertising section titled “New Urbanism,” which lures jet setters to the 1 Hotel & Residences with the schmaltziest copy ever written: “Seattleites instinctively have the need for balance in their lives,” and, “Not simply the concept of a privileged few, Seattle has created and is motivated by a common ground with many voices.”

Still a hole in the ground at Second Ave and Pine St, the 23-story "1" will apparently embody new urbanism by containing residential units, a spa, and a restaurant… all in one fortification.


Here’s the selling point: The environmental footprint of the condos is a women’s size 2, so empty nesters can, with a clear conscience, buy a condo (for $1 million to $5 million) that they use only two months a year. They'll have similar company on Second Avenue.

Continue reading "Re: Living in Heaven" »

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

High Point Looking Up?

posted by on October 16 at 4:38 PM

Last night, while hanging out in South Seattle, I came across a glossy brochure advertising "one of Seattle's most lively neighborhoods." Here's the front of the flyer:


A designer boutique! A smiling blonde! What could this up-and-coming neighborhood be?

High Point.


Most people don't think of High Point, a landlocked chunk West Seattle just north of Seattle's southern limit that was once dominated by subsidized low-income housing, as "the kind of neighborhood you've been looking for" (as the brochure describes it). Most people probably think of it as either (uncharitably) one of Seattle's last remaining ghettoes or (more charitably) a part of Southwest Seattle that has resisted gentrification. It has a failing elementary school; a high crime rate; and one of the highest poverty rates in the city. It has also long been dominated by renters (69 percent as of the last census) and, in 2000, had a population that was 70 percent minority. As of this past summer, homes for sale there had a median selling price of nearly $150,000 less than the Seattle median.

High Point's boosters hope all that will change when the "green" townhomes and high-end houses that replaced razed low-income housing sell to middle- and upper-income buyers. The High Point brochure includes ads for all of the new developments, including the Lanham Place Townhomes (two- and three-bedroom homes with attached garages, from the high $300,000s), the 31st Street Collection (two- and-three-bedrooms townhomes and cottages from the mid-$300,000s), and Polygon Northwest (single-family homes with one- and two-car garages). (No mention of bus routes anywhere in the materials promoting the development's "green" credentials, although the area has good service to downtown.) There's even a bouncy, upbeat web site: The High Point.

Of course, most of the "vibrant" shops, restaurants and arts centers advertised in the brochure aren't actually in High Point. Instead, they're mostly in the West Seattle Junction--a ten-minute ride by bus, but not in the neighborhood. Another thing the high-gloss promotional brochure and web site don't portray is the challenge of integrating a whole new group of (mostly white, middle-class) people into an area that has traditionally been diverse and lower-income.

A community blog maintained by a High Point homeowner hints at what the newcomers want to change about the neighborhood. On it, residents list "low-income housing," "loitering/gang-related disturbances," and violent crime among their top concerns with the neighborhood. The blog, written by a recent homebuyer in the area, is full of barely veiled racism and openly classist hysteria. For example: "We’ve all been poor at some point. We all just didn’t pimp out our rides and jump our neighbors when we were poor. ... Nevermind the fact that many a weekend afternoon I’ll be sitting in my living room with the window open listening to the sweet sounds of Baghdad. Has anyone else heard the Islamic music wafting through the streets??"

Good luck, High Point. You're going to need it.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Glitter in the Brown Out

posted by on October 4 at 4:25 PM

I agree the building isn't pretty, but it has been significantly improved over the last 12 months, including new paint and new exterior copper cladding. Most of the units appear to be empty—some interiors are stripped down to their studs.

This resident (perhaps the sole inhabitant on the Bellevue Avenue side) made my morning with his or her exuberant holiday display:

Brown Out

posted by on October 4 at 3:34 PM

This building on Bellevue Ave and E Pine St is ugly.
So ugly that the photo cannot fully capture the Marion Apartments' ugliness. Why? Because it shows only one moment of ugly, but the building has now subjected us to decades of ugly. At the bus stop, walking downtown, getting coffee. There it has been, with its dark, foreboding parking lot underneath. But it may not be there much longer.
The property owners have proposed replacing the thing with a six-story structure that has 116 units and two levels of underground parking. The street level would house commercial spaces. However, the residential units – 90 more than rented currently – would all be condos. 65' at its highest point, the views over Chapel toward downtown are sure to be spectacular, so the units are sure cost a small fortune.

”Anything to enliven that street would help tremendously,” says Dave Heater of Ankrom Moisan Associated Architects. He says planning will take at least eight months, and, if permitted, construction would take over 16 months after that. First it must get the thumbs up from the city and residents. The Department of Planning and Development will hold a meeting to hear comments on October 17.

Also, October 17 is the final day for public comment on another construction on E Pine St, at the corner of 12th Ave, that will likely begin next May. Developers plan to stack three more stories onto this awesome two-story warehouse, converting it into a five-story mixed-use building, with 65 apartments.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Don’t Do It for the Children

posted by on September 17 at 2:42 PM

About 125 Laurelhurst residents couldn’t have given a rat’s ass about the nearby Husky game on Saturday evening. Instead the Children’s Action Coalition and neighbors rallied in their quiet enclave to protest a massive proposed expansion of Children’s Hospital. If built, the hospital’s highest point would increase from 90 feet to 240 feet (to about 20 stories) and expand the campus’s area by 1.5 million square feet. Construction would last for 13 years.

A drawing from Children's proposed Master Plan. Numbers refer to the buildings' height.

Above the crowd, a helicopter hovered at the height of two proposed towers – a media stunt if there ever was one – to demonstrate the facility’s potential visibility from surrounding locations. These pictures were taken from the chopper.

The view South, toward Husky Stadium and Downtown.

All these houses to the North would have views of the towers.

Despite providing awesome views for sick tots, the proposed expansion presents two major problems, according to coalition member Elizabeth Nelson. First, construction would ensure an ear-splitting nightmare. Second, it would tangle traffic. Access to Children’s is already limited, via SR-520 and Montlake Boulevard, and the transportation infrastructure won’t support the projected traffic flow, she says. But more to the neighbors’ concerns, the high volume of traffic would increase the risk of neighborhood children getting struck—presumably by cars full of sick children. “They are planning two entrances on a residential street and it wouldn’t be safe for kids,” speculates Nelson, who lives a block and a half from the hospital. She blogged “a map of kid-filled locations (schools, parks and churches) within 2 blocks of the new hospital entrances.”

Founded in 1907 and relocated to the wealthy lakeside neighborhood in 1953, Children’s Hospital claims that it needs to “expand its inpatient facilities to a total of 500 to 600 beds over the next 15 to 20 years” in its “Major Institution Master Plan” submitted to the city this July. Children’s serves the four-state area of Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho.

But Nelson doesn’t oppose the hospital’s growth. She says that the hospital can consider a range of alternatives, including a “second facility or moving the hospital entirely.”

David Perry, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Children's Hospital, explains it would “cost close to 1.5 billion to move." Plans won’t be firm for another 18-24 months. “Right now," he says, "it’s important [for neighbors] to contact the Citizens Advisory Committee," which is run by the hospital. Today marks the end of the proposal’s public comment period with the City.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Broadway Renaissance

posted by on September 7 at 10:23 AM


Photo courtesy of Andrew Taylor.

UPDATE: I know it looks like a sneakily attached sticker, but according to a Hooters rep, they've been "looking at opening a new location in the [Seattle] area." Waiting to hear back from Brix and Hooters corporate.

UPDATE 2: PHEW! The Brix developer just called. Hooters is NOT moving in. However, I just got word that Chili's will be taking over the Bailey-Coy Books property.

Sabey Corporation: Good Developers, or Just Plain Crazy?

posted by on September 7 at 10:00 AM

If you haven't heard, the 5 building, Rainier Cold Storage complex in Georgetown is getting a makeover. The Sabey Corporation purchased the 300,000 square foot site for $10 million last October and immediately reached out to Georgetown residents and business owners for input on the renovation.


Confounded and surprised by Sabey's neighborhood-friendly approach to development, I contacted Jim Harmon, Sabey's Senior Vice President of Investments. My first question: "are you guys crazy?" as seeking out community input generally means you'll end up hearing a million different things from a million different people.

Harmon laughed. He told me Sabey got involved with Georgetown when they saw how organized the community was. Sabey didn't have a fully realized plan for the site, so they asked the neighborhood for suggestions. "We walked into it not knowing specifically what we were going to do," Harmon says. "People were surprised that we didn’t have a specific plan."

Sabey recruited 8 neighborhood representatives from Friends of Georgetown History, a Georgetown merchants group and the Georgetown Community Council, and held monthly meetings to figure out a plan for the 5 buildings at the site.

During the process, Sabey's structural engineers determined one of the buildings was sinking and would have to be demolished. The cold storage had frozen the ground underneath it, and when the freezer was turned off, and the ground started to thaw, the building started to sink.

Because of the costs associated with demolishing such a massive building, the site will be turned into an office tower. However, Harmon says "We don’t know what the design is going to be. Not glass and shiny fancy marble. It just wouldn’t go with the neighborhood."

Sabey hasn't determined what they'll do with the other four buildings on site—one of which is occupied by Georgetown Brewing—although Harmon says residential units and ground level retail are a possibility. There are also preliminary plans to add some office space in the Rainier bottling plant, which is currently used by artists and craftsmen. The current tenants will remain, Harmon says, noting "to squeeze the artists out just wouldn’t be wise."

Sabey should have a complete plan and a time line in the next few months.

Photo by Rick Moerloos via Flickr

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Construction Dusk

posted by on July 17 at 5:55 PM


Friday, May 25, 2007

Do You Live at 310 1/2 East Mercer Street on Capitol Hill?

posted by on May 25 at 8:03 AM

Is this your house?


Technically it's not your house, of course, it's your landlord's house. But you live in it, you pay the rent.

Well, the house you live in is for sale--and according to this real estate listing, you're not supposed to know.

Capitol Hill Multi-Family Home

Drive by only, tenants unaware of sale. This recently remodeled craftsman-style duplex is situated in one of Seattles most desirable neighborhoods. The units feature views of downtown Seattle and the Olympic Mtns. The unit mix consists of one 3-bed/1-bath unit and one 1-bed/1-bath unit.

You might wanna start looking for a new place to live--unless you can swing the 700K asking price. And since you're about to get evicted anyway, shit, there's really no reason for you to pay June's rent. Save that money--you're probably going to need it.