As we briefly reported yesterday afternoon, Harbor Properties not only is building Mural in The Junction and proposing a residential/commercial building on the ex-Huling land it’s just bought at 38th/Alaska, it’s also “under contract” to buy West Seattle’s only motel — the former Travelodge, now Seattle West Inn and Suites. This morning, we have more details — on all three — after talking with a Harbor Properties executive:
Steve Orser is Director of Development for Harbor Properties. The company is headquartered downtown, but he’s leaving yet another lunch meeting in West Seattle as he starts a phone interview with WSB.
We’ve barely asked half our questions by the time he makes it to his office. Acknowledging this was an outside-rush-hour chat, Orser nonetheless says West Seattle’s proximity to downtown is one reason they’re investing so heavily in this neighborhood now. Certainly, he says they’re concerned about The Viaduct, but confident a “great solution” will be found. (Earlier this month, HP sponsored the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce luncheon that focused on transportation challenges and solutions for WS; our coverage here.)
First – about the motel site. Orser won’t elaborate on which other nearby properties Harbor is exploring, aside from one word: “adjacency.” He says the company hasn’t yet decided exactly what to do with the site, either, but is definitely interested in the concept of keeping it as a lodging site by building a hotel: “We’ve been wondering about hotels, in general. What we’ve been told by folks in the hotel industry, is that they usually need to be near a work source. We’re still testing the thought … we’ll be talking to some hoteliers. In general, we’re much more residential mixed-use developers.”
For now, however, don’t expect any changes in the existing motel, controversial though it is. Orser says Harbor would expect it to stay open until development is about ready to begin.
And that’s the site they plan to tackle second. First, the Huling land they’ve closed on at 38th and Alaska, on which they’re proposing a 6-story building:
Orser says the five top floors of residential units will most likely be apartments, not condos; no rendering yet, no proposed name either, but he’s expecting something to be ready for the “early design guidance” stage of the Design Review process within two months or so. Baylis Architects will handle the project (you can see some of Baylis’ multifamily projects here).
This site isn’t far from the aforementioned motel, and Orser says Harbor’s interest in that general area is no coincidence — they are particularly impressed with the proximity of the West Seattle Family YMCA (WSB sponsor) and hoping their properties will become part of an area where residents would be “within walking distance” of fitness facilities, child care, and more. He says the YMCA might even be in line for some space on the street level of the project that evolves for the motel site; Harbor worked closely with the Y while developing property in the U-District (Helix and Ellipse – article with renderings here), he notes.
The child care potentially would come from a new West Seattle Montessori School campus on the ground floor of the 38th/Alaska development, since its current campus would be lost in the process (as originally reported here earlier this month). Orser says that’s still the top business under consideration for the commercial space in that building; other commercial possibilities would likely be in the live/work mode that’s becoming popular (the 4116 California and 6053 California projects, among others).
Toward the hope for “creating a sense of community,” Orser says his firm is getting more closely involved with West Seattle organizations such as ArtsWest (WSB sponsor), whose leadership he had just lunched with before our phone interview. “When we open Mural, we’re going to give the residents information to tell them about ArtsWest — as something that shows, here’s why you would want to live here (in West Seattle) — there’s a heart, and community, here.”
As for Mural (Hewitt Architects rendering at left), we’re learning more about exactly what it will entail, too. According to a Harbor Properties news release sent out this week, some of its one-bedroom apartments are “designed to be ‘convertible,’ allowing for greater space efficiency for the resident. These convertible units will feature translucent sliding walls that allow the resident to maximize space according to their individual lifestyle needs.” The news release also says “Mural will feature a landscaped, pedestrian friendly mid-block connection that will allow easy access to established Junction-area businesses” and notes transportation options (such as the future Metro RapidRide bus line), including “three car-share vehicles managed by Zipcar (formerly Flexcar) (to be) located in Muralâ€™s underground parking lot and available to the community and renters seeking to rely less on single-occupancy, daily car transportation. Mural will also include secured bike storage within the building.”
The news release also includes a promise that Mural will include “a large-scale landscaping initiative” around the Hewitt-designed building, and wider sidewalks along 42nd SW that “will be lined with mature carbon-sequestering trees and other green-space elements that encourage residents and visitors to walk through this inviting neighborhood.”
For now, of course, not just because of Mural, but also because of Capco Plaza to the north — and Fauntleroy Place breaking ground to the northeast within a few months — the neighborhood will be more of a work zone than a walk zone, but Harbor, among others, is looking to the future.
And they see a bright one, despite the current economic trepidation; Orser says, “We’re high on Seattle in general — and West Seattle is a wonderful neighborhood.”
WSB side note: So is Harbor in the running to buy the rest of the Huling-owned land along Fauntleroy and environs? Of course we asked. Orser says no.