(Looking toward the California/Alaska corner of Equity Residential’s project)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
More than a dozen empty storefronts have sat at the Junction’s most prominent intersection for three months now, vacating by July 31st as ordered by their final landlord, the site’s future developer.
Now it’s November, and nothing’s happened yet. So what’s the holdup, you might wonder? We wondered too and had been asking for information for a while. Today, we finally obtained it, meeting for the first time with executives from the Chicago-based corporation’s Puget Sound team to get the answer – and other project updates.
First, the answer to the biggest question: They expect to start demolition at the end of December, after Christmas. The permits were granted just last week, so they could start sooner if they wanted to, but they say they don’t want to have construction starting amid holiday shopping and festivities.
(2011 WSB photo looking southwest toward project site on Alaska’s south side, 42nd to California)
The site hasn’t been entirely idle. Bradley Karvasek, an Equity vice president, explains that they emptied the existing buildings early because of asbestos abatement that had to be done, and that they weren’t certain how long that would take. There’s also been utility work around the site.
Once they do begin – Karvasek says starting at the end of December would still allow them to achieve their goal of a fourth-quarter start – the demolition itself will take about a month.
(East building – from roughly the same angle as the photo above)
The project went through Design Review under its previous owner, Conner Homes, finishing the process in 2009. It now includes 206 apartments between the two buildings and 17,000 square feet of retail – they’re hoping for “local retailers,” says Karvasek, who will complement the idea of a “third place for residents.” The underground parking garage, which will be shared by the two buildings, will have about 211 spaces, which includes residential and business parking.
Speaking of parking, they are arranging for an offsite parking lot for employees to use during construction. That’s in response to a frequent complaint from Junction residents during some of the projects over the past few years – that construction workers have been parking in nearby neighborhoods, leaving residents and visitors with nowhere to park. The site they expect to lease for parking is on 42nd, just north of Capco Plaza (the Altamira Apartments/QFC building). Then once the project’s own garage is “built and approved,” they hope to have it available for employees, since the 42nd site won’t hold every team member’s car.
42nd south of Alaska will be where most construction activity is focused, says Karvasek: “We want to do our best to minimize the impact on California (SW) – we don’t want to have to work (from) that (street) if we don’t have to, so most of the activity is going to take place on 42nd.”
Construction will last about two years; the contractor has not been chosen yet, though. While the two buildings will basically be built simultaneously, the west one – which is smaller – is likely to be completed first, with construction on the east one continuing for a few months at the most beyond that. They’re thinking the project will use one crane, but that’ll be up to the not-yet-chosen contractor, so the possibility of two cranes has not yet been ruled out.
As Equity had reiterated earlier, they are honoring the community agreement that paved the way for approval of the project’s alley vacation – using what is technically city right-of-way below the north-south alley as part of the parking garage, though the alley will continue to fully function at the surface. They met recently with the parties to that agreement to discuss its details and introduce the development team.
They don’t have answers yet to some of the questions we asked. For example – the project doesn’t have a name yet; they don’t know yet what the rents will be; they’re not expecting to have a project-specific website until a few months before they’re ready to start leasing. But, asked about amenities planned for the building, they eagerly rattled off a list from rooftop deck to dog wash to storage for more than 60 bicycles (plus public bike racks for shoppers/visitors).
The project is financed and the development team shook their heads vigorously when we asked if there was a chance of anything stalling once it begins, like “The Hole” (ex-Fauntleroy Place/future Spruce West Seattle) a few blocks to the northeast.
“We build for the long term; our intent is to hold this project for the long term,” Bradley said. “(We will) deliver a product that’ll be great for the community.”
Right now, Equity is working on (or finishing up) projects all around the larger Seattle “community” too – from Market Street Landing in Ballard to 320 Pine on Capitol Hill to a South Lake Union project. They recently won a National Association of Home Builders award for Red 160 in downtown Redmond.
If they do indeed begin demolition at the end of December, it’ll be almost exactly a year after they bought the West Seattle site/project for $11 million.