After breaking the news about a prospective Whole Foods site buyer not pursuing the purchase, and then a restaurant closure, while looking into a couple of other reportedly stalled developments, it seemed like time to break things up by checking with a developer whose project IS proceeding and in fact is almost done: Leon Capelouto, longtime Junction entrepreneur who is building Capco Plaza/Altamira Apartments along SW Alaska between 41st and 42nd. We talked with him in his nearby office this afternoon.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
A stone’s throw from the stalled project site dubbed “Hole Foods,” there’s a Junction development with a very different story to tell: Capco Plaza, the new home of QFC and Office Depot in The Junction, sharing its building with Altamira Luxury Apartments, is within a few months of opening for business.
In his office over nearby Matador, Leon Capelouto says he’s “very busy” with “hundreds of items” that need to be addressed before the building is done. He admits he’s very “hands on” – that’s part of his answer when we asked how he managed to keep this project on track when so many others of that scale have run into trouble. (Of course, financing is important too, he allows.)
The space where QFC will open a new store on the east side of his building has already been “turned over to the tenant,” Capelouto says – meaning the Kroger-owned store chain is now putting in its finishing touches. When we talked with a QFC spokesperson for our last update one month ago today, the company expected to open the store in “early fall,” ahead of schedule. Capelouto expects that is still the likelihood (we have a call out to QFC to doublecheck) – he showed us an e-mail exchange involving their scheduling of two Seattle Seahawks organization favorites, the Sea Gals and Blue Thunder drum line, for an event on October 10th that might be an official opening celebration after an earlier soft opening.
So what else is confirmed for the rest of the building?
Office Depot is still part of the project, Capelouto confirmed, and is expected to take possession of its space on the west side of the building soon. Besides the QFC and Office Depot spaces, there are several smaller retail spaces as well; the only tenant that Capelouto says he’s free to discuss right now is Desert Tan, whose operator is a West Seattleite. As for who will be the first to open in the new building, he says it’s “hard to say … you can turn the space over to the tenants” but what they do from there, the developer/owner can’t control.
The apartment portion of the development, known as Altamira (as reported here last January), is now offering hard-hat tours, as well as a contest you may have seen at West Seattle Summer Fest weekend before last – there’ll be a drawing for a year of free rent. With Mural Apartments (WSB sponsor) just a block away, how does Capelouto think the market will treat his units? He’s optimistic, since he says Mural’s rentals are doing well, according to his conversations with friendly rivals at Harbor Properties (which owns Mural). But he’s also quick to say his units will be different – bigger, and with features such as granite countertops (hence the “Luxury Apartments” following “Altamira” in the name).
He’s also proud of some of the features the building itself will have – from a rooftop deck to a ground-level open space where he says people will be welcome to stop and spend time even if they’re not, say, shopping at QFC or Office Depot, or renting in the building. He says landscaping around the building will include “big trees” and a special bus-shelter area should be popular with riders.
The building will have parking both over the QFC store and below-grade; we asked if any of it will be paid parking. According to Capelouto, there will be free parking for renters and for customers of Capco Plaza businesses – and if any spaces are left over (he points out he built more than the city-required number of spaces), they may consider “renting them out.”
Any surprises along the way while building this? “We struck oil,” Capelouto says. Seriously – they found ground contamination from a service station that was on the site in the first half of the last century, and “had to clean it up.”
But all in all, with the development on the brink of completion, he speaks warmly of those who’ve worked on it — “if you’re still on speaking terms with the contractor at this stage, you’re doing something right” — and notes, “Having been in business on the block for 40 years, I take a lot of pride in the building.”