By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
In our first report on its then-imminent closure, we mentioned spotting a “mixed-use” development proposal in the city files. And now we’ve finally spoken to the developer who is working on it.
His name is Lobsang Dargey. His firm, Dargey Enterprises, is based in Everett, where they built Potala Village – not unlike, he told WSB, what’s envisioned for the California/Charlestown site (if you check their website, you will see this project identified as Potala Village-West Seattle).
But before the project ramps up – a change, he says, is needed:
The ex-café site is currently zoned for 30-foot development, and Dargey says he will apply later this year to have it rezoned to 40 feet. He mentioned specifically the recently approved rezoning of a block-plus of California SW, just two blocks north, and cited the same factor that local developers/realtors Mike Gain and Roger Cayce had cited in that case – the extra height is needed for the project to make sense financially.
Dargey, by the way, says he does his own financing, through the EB-5 program; as noted in this 2009 Puget Sound Business Journal profile, he grew up in Tibet and came to the U.S. in 1997. He does not own the West Seattle site; he says he’ll develop it as a joint venture with its owner, the Strickland Corporation.
The apartments he envisions would be “high-end,” and “built green,” using “100 percent recycled materials,” and built to LEED standards, silver or maybe even platinum. It’s projected for about 100 units over retail. He hopes the retail space would include “some kind of café,” in the spirit of the Charlestown. The first floor, as you can see in the online sketches of his projects, would have brick facades (as does Charlestown Center, kitty-corner from the ex-café site).
The West Seattle proposal remains in very early stages – no formal application has been submitted, though Dargey says they have met a few times with the city. He stresses that his firm prides itself on working with the neighborhood, so he is hoping to have a neighborhood meeting and says he plans to reach out to the Admiral Neighborhood Association. He would also like to hear ideas on what the neighborhood would want to see in this type of development, and invites e-mail (email@example.com, as listed here). “I want the neighborhood to support it,” he says. “I don’t want to fight with people.”
Overall, Dargey says they would hope to be able to bring in retailers/services that residents could use – with the development built in a “pedestrian-friendly” layout. Dargey says the site has lots of potential because of the amenities already nearby – schools as well as businesses, including PCC Natural Markets (WSB sponsor) and the new Safeway store. He is familiar with the previous development proposal for the site – the PETCO store that was eventually shelved (they’ve now signed for a new Junction location) – and says “big-box” like that doesn’t make sense for the site.
He is finishing a Kirkland project, before immersing more fully into West Seattle. He says it’ll meet LEED Silver standards and will be nonsmoking – the first such mixed-use building in the area. (It’s also online, as Potala Village-Kirkland, with the units described as “luxury apartments.”)
Until this one revs up later in the year – probably by July or August, he expects to apply for the rezone – you can watch the project’s two files on the city website, land-use here, construction here.
Oh, and if you’re wondering about “Potala”? It’s from Dargey’s Tibetan heritage: Potala Palace is a World Heritage Site that for centuries served as a palace for the Dalai Lama.