That’s the newest rendering of the building that Harbor Properties is developing at 38th/Alaska (the site of a former Huling garage as well as West Seattle Montessori). And it now has a name: Link. We sat down recently with Harbor executives to get updates on this project and the other two that Harbor has in the pipeline in West Seattle — Mural, which is under construction, and the unnamed proposal for what’s currently the site of West Seattle’s only motel (36th/Alaska). Read on to see what we found out:
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Harbor Properties is one of two developers — along with BlueStar — with three current West Seattle projects in varying stages of development. The stages are similar: One under construction, one in Design Review, one on the drawing boards.
For Harbor Properties, the one that’s under construction is Mural – across 42nd from Jefferson Square – and it’s “a little ahead of schedule”:
Mural is expected to open in April of next year, with “pre-leasing” under way in February. According to Harbor’s executive vice president Denny Onslow, the only business tenant they’re confirming so far is Fresh Bistro, the previously revealed restaurant that Herban Feast proprietor BJ Duff is putting together to highlight fresh local food. The restaurant will use about 2,500 square feet of Mural’s ground floor, leaving about 2,200 sf for other businesses – Harbor thinks that’ll probably be split between two tenants.
Since they’re building on a site adjacent to the proposed Conner Homes development, they have a position on the alley-vacation controversy; as we’ve reported (here’s our latest followup), some nearby businesses are opposed to Conner’s request for city permission to use the space beneath the alley so it can build one underground parking garage for the two buildings it’s proposing at 42nd/Alaska/California – those businesses say that closing part of the alley for months during construction will harm their businesses.
Onslow says, “We support the concept of the subterranean alley vacation – how you do it, is the difference. We disagree with (the Conner plan) and think it can be done with short closures. Taking the alley out of commission (for months) is a disaster.” When we spoke, they hadn’t yet filed formal comments with the city, but said they planned to, while also meeting with Conner Homes boss Charlie Conner to discuss their concerns. “We appreciate the fact there’s a LOT of new development in West Seattle – we want to make sure the community survives and prospers through this.”
While moving into the final months of development for Mural, Harbor Properties is getting closer to construction of Link. Its previous review before the Southwest Design Review Board was in April (WSB coverage here); board members are scheduled for what’s likely to be the final (“recommendation” phase) review of the project on September 25 (8 pm, Southwest Precinct meeting room).
Site work is expected to start next February, with demolition as well as checking to be sure the site doesn’t have “oil in the ground” because of its automotive-service past. Harbor Properties has purchased a nearby lot, adjacent to Lien Animal Clinic and across the street from the American Legion hall, to serve as construction headquarters, hoping, among other things, they can minimize sidewalk closure in the area.
One thing that’s changed since initial discussion of the project: Right now, Harbor says, a new facility for West Seattle Montessori School — which had to move out of its longtime facility because the property was sold — is no longer part of the plan; according to Harbor, the cost for the school to fix up its new site in White Center for temporary use, and then yet another new site in this future building, wasn’t penciling out.
So what will be in Link, then? Too soon to say, although Harbor already had been talking with the West Seattle Family YMCA (WSB sponsor) about synergy between its Junction-area facilities and Harbor’s projects there, so the space on the north side of Link might have potential there. But Onslow and the other two Harbor executives with whom we met — Steve Orser and Emi Baldowin — are not only focused on the nuts and bolts of the building; as has been discussed in previous meetings and briefings, they are taking a big-picture look at the entire area, which has been nicknamed the “Triangle” because of what it looks like (Fauntleroy angling to the northeast from its intersection with Alaska, which then straight-lines directly east) on maps and in aerial photos like this one shown at the April review meeting for Link:
Having Harbor involved in the “big picture” is not so far-fetched, given that they own the 36th/Alaska motel site too (currently envisioned as a six-story mixed-use building; Baldowin says they’re not having much luck getting a hotel firm interested, so they might look at having a lodging “component” as was created for Harbor Steps downtown). Pulling out a map, they point to something that isn’t always considered in context with the Junction and “Triangle” areas — the proximity of the huge green space from Camp Long and the Golf Course. If Alaska can evolve into a more pedestrian-friendly street — and if the north end of Camp Long were more easily accessible — they could imagine some of these hundreds of new residents walking east to enjoy it.
The other challenge for foot traffic is of course Fauntleroy, and how to get across it. Perhaps an underpass, or overpass? No hard-and-fast proposals are out there so far, but with the former Huling properties (and other sites) getting sold off and earmarked for development, Harbor Properties leadership believes this is the time to plan such things, rather than just building each individual project piecemeal without coordination. Same goes for landscaping and other features that could make streets such as Alaska more of a “green corridor.”
They’re talking with the city Transportation Department (SDOT) about such concerns, and also hope to talk with the city Parks Department about the Camp Long vision — which includes the property along 35th between northern Camp Long and the Golf Course (the area some know as an unofficial park-and-ride strip). Even big ideas – can the grade be evened? Could there be room for “kids and Frisbees,” as Onslow puts it? Could there be trails into Camp Long’s north end, connecting to the walking route from the about-to-be-redeveloped “Triangle” zone? They’re having a landscape architect do a little brainstorming too.
Another government agency with which Harbor is talking: Metro. Since Harbor buildings will soon put hundreds of new residents into the area, they have a vested interest in making sure those residents will be able to get into and out of West Seattle. “We’re supportive of RapidRide,” Onslow says, “and we’re talking with Metro regarding the parking issue. While some (concerns) are in denial, thinking people will ‘just walk,’ even if parking is added here (in West Seattle), that’s better than having them all park downtown.”
The name given to Link, by the way, is part of a theme that Orser says will pay homage to the automobile-centric lifestyle as well as a future he describes as “smart cars, Zip Cars, hybrids, bikes, walking …” with some sort of visual tribute, perhaps evolving from a ’50s Buick to a 2050 “whatever.”
Jumping into the future again, Link is expected to open in May 2010; the unnamed 36th/Alaska motel-site project, currently proposed for five levels of residential units over ground-level commercial space, will follow about a year later. Why so much development, here, and now? Harbor Properties, among others, believes urban infill makes more sense in an energy-crunched, time-crunched era than suburban sprawl. Orser sums it up: “We know the (Seattle) area is going to grow by a million people. We would rather put them in areas like this, than two hours (away from downtown).”
Does Harbor envision a time when West Seattle has more jobs, so the issue of commuting downtown becomes a little less thorny? “The question people start with,” Onslow offers, “is – Is this a great place to live? We hope that will lead to people thinking, this is a great place to start an office. More likely, it would be the five-person type of office” (instead of big companies relocating to West Seattle). He continues – “We’re trying to tell the story, ‘this is a neighborhood that’s got it all,’ becoming a fantastic neighborhood that you don’t have to leave, with great places to live – and jobs will follow.”
As mentioned in this story, the next Design Review meeting for Link is 8 pm 9/25; here’s its official project page on the city website. No design yet for 36th/Alaska – here’s the official city page for that one.