West Seattle development: Leon Capelouto’s second Junction project starts Design Review tomorrow

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

“It’s going to be a good thing.”

That’s how longtime West Seattle entrepreneur Leon Capelouto sees his second Junction development project, 4505 42nd SW, which makes its Design Review debut tomorrow night.

We first wrote about it almost four months ago. The site holds an old house, hidden behind hedges and fencing, on the southwest corner of 42nd and Oregon, across the street from the almost-complete Oregon 42, across the alley from the Senior Center of West Seattle (where the Southwest Design Review Board will meet to consider the project at 6:30 pm Thursday).

The site also happens to be adjacent to one of the West Seattle Junction Association‘s free parking lots, which Capelouto has supported for decades as a longtime Junction retailer and stockholder in Trusteed Properties, the lots’ ownership.

4505 42nd is proposed for fewer parking spaces than units – as is allowed in the area because “frequent transit” is nearby – but Capelouto says everyone who needs a parking space will get one, because he has parking to spare in his first Junction development, just down the block. This project – proposed for 7 stories, 50 units, and 16 offstreet spaces – is less than a block north of 2009-opened Capco Plaza, built with more than 360 spaces for the 160+-unit Altamira Apartments and the building’s retail tenants, more than zoning required when it was built (and far more than would be called for today).

Before we get into more about the 4505 42nd SW proposal – whose design packet can be seen here – a little more about its developer.

Capelouto has been a Junction entrepreneur for going on half a century. His roots are in retail – selling apparel via Shafrans in West Seattle for decades – and he still has a stake in retail, two actually, with Capco Beverages liquor stores in two former state-store spaces, one (which is a WSB sponsor) in Capco Plaza, one in Issaquah. Though there were dour revelations late last year about a rocky time for some who took over former state-run stores when voters privatized liquor sales, Capelouto says his stores are doing well.

He learned retail from a brand famous for customer service – Nordstrom, where he put himself through college (Seattle University) by selling shoes every day. His boss, Bruce Nordstrom, told him to come in when he could, so he made his own hours, taking classes in the morning, working afternoons and weekends. “I used to be one of the highest producers on the floor – sold a lot of shoes.”

When the Nordstroms expanded into apparel, Capelouto got the chance to go into management: “That’s how my career in clothing began … I learned from the best and brightest and most innovative people.”

He took a chance when offered the opportunity “as a very young man” to buy Shafrans, whose owner, he said, had health problems. “I bought it in September and had a balloon payment in January. He didn’t think I could do it. … I loaded up the store with goods, ran promotions … we turned that inventory enough times from September to January to raise enough money to pay him off. He was shocked.”

His venture into property ownership came sometime after that, in circumstances that led him to make an offer to buy the Junction building where he has his office to this day, and that once held the Kress dime store. He sent a letter to the “national conglomerate” that owned it; they wrote back, said they couldn’t sell at the time – but, Capelouto says, a year later they contacted him to say they’d take the offer. The building was “way too big” for what he was operating with Shafrans at the time, so he reconfigured its spaces, including a men’s store and women’s store for Shafrans. “I’m just a little guy who started with nothing and accumulated things.”

Among them, the property at 4505 42nd, on a street that continues to redevelop, with not only Oregon 42, owned by San Diego-based ConAm, across the street, but another locally owned project, 80-unit 4433 42nd SW, a few doors north, which just finished its Design Review meetings.

Unlike some buildings with a relatively small footprint, this one isn’t all about the residential units.

(Proposed ground-level configuration of 4505 42nd, from the project team’s “preferred option”)
The ground-floor retail units will be a “focus,” says Capelouto, who describes SW Oregon as a “gateway” to The Junction, “and I think it’s important we have a very nice structure in there to represent The Junction, and bring more pedestrian traffic to help promote more commerce in The Junction.” The residents will in turn support the stores – “people shop where they live.” He expects the retailers will be three or four “mom-and-pop-type (businesses),” which could range from retail to services to even a restaurant.

And for those who wonder about the market for more apartments, Capelouto says Altamira down the street has had no problems – “we’ve leased the space quite easily … they are apartments but feel like condos, with granite countertops, high-end appliances, much nicer than a regular rental. That’s my style and it’ll be the same on this site.” He also mentions faster Internet service, which he says Altamira also has, so tThe units in the new project will be smaller; the design packet mentions a mix of studios and 1 bedrooms.

He believes new buildings and new residents are good for the community: “If you have zero development, you have decay … if we don’t grow, these old buildings that are over a hundred years old will decay. You need a mix of retail and restaurants and viable pedestrian traffic. That’s why it’s so important to have people who live here, who can walk back home – a lot of people want to go out for dinner, have a couple of drinks, get home safely, they don’t want to cross the bridge.”

Since the project is in the “early design guidance” phase, full-design renderings aren’t available yet – what you see above is the project team’s “preferred” version of the three “massing” (size and shape) options that will be reviewed by the SWDRB on Thursday. Capelouto says some brick is expected on the first level, with awnings and weather protection, and the property will “be giving three feet to make SW Oregon wider” – Capelouto notes he also dedicated five feet on SW Alaska for wider sidewalks, when Capco Plaza was built. They’re working on “lots of greenery” too, trees for the streetscape, plantings on a roof deck, including an edible garden. The Altamira roof deck, he notes, has had events from weddings to wine tasting, with up to 200 people in attendance. Power will be undergrounded.

A Zipcar space and secure bicycle parking is in the plan too. No name for the project yet. Groundbreaking is expected next year, and construction will last about 14 months, with the project likely to open in spring 2016.

“It’s a big investment in West Seattle, growing in the right direction. I really appreciate everyone’s support.”

WHAT’S NEXT: 4505 42nd SW goes before the Southwest Design Review Board for the first time Thursday night at 6:30 pm, upstairs at the Senior Center of West Seattle, which is at California/Oregon, steps away from the project site. As with all projects that go through the city’s Design Review program, there will be at least one more meeting, depending on how tomorrow’s goes.

20 Replies to "West Seattle development: Leon Capelouto's second Junction project starts Design Review tomorrow"

  • bee January 29, 2014 (11:02 am)

    Am I reading this right that the free parking lot will no longer be available? This seems to be a lot used by those going to the senior center and other venues close by & wonder where they will park once the lot is gone – if that is the case. It is close and convenient for those going to the senior center.


    • WSB January 29, 2014 (11:10 am)

      No, I did not write that. The house is adjacent to the lot. The lot remains unchanged.

  • coffee January 29, 2014 (11:57 am)

    I have been in a few of the Altamira units, and I beg to differ. They are small, the bathroom has the stacked washer and dryer out, not in a closet, and plain. Plus they are not inexpensive. I just wish we could see construction that was not standard boxes. So bland and unappealing.

  • AEP January 29, 2014 (12:19 pm)

    I hope the street presence of this building does not have the unfriendly, brutalist feel of Capco Plaza. Walking on Alaska alongside that building (or Jefferson Square) is akin to walking alongside a high-security prison.

    • WSB January 29, 2014 (12:22 pm)

      Come to the Design Review Board meeting and comment! That project went through Design Review long before WSB became a news publication in fall 2007 so I don’t have archived coverage prior to construction but this is in the very early phase now and that is the sort of thing the board deals with, in sometimes-minute detail. – TR

  • Alphonse January 29, 2014 (12:49 pm)

    I’m fairly neutral on this project, but this guy’s logic is pretty tortured: “… if we don’t grow, these old buildings that are over a hundred years old will decay”. Really? Do structures spontaneously start to decay at some point because they can sense that there’s no growth happening in the area? Odd that this phenomenon doesn’t occur in many parts of Europe and the Northeastern U.S. I do know that the reason some of the over a hundred year old buildings have decayed is because developers bought them up before the crash then rented them out and refused to do any maintenance or take care of them in any way. I wish these guys would just tell the truth, i.e. “It’s my property and I’m going to build whatever makes me the most money.” I’d actually have a lot more respect for that than the BS they come up with.

  • G January 29, 2014 (1:06 pm)

    Probably appeal to a lot of out-of-state retirees who have moved to West Seattle recently, no doubt partially due to no state income tax.

  • JasperG January 29, 2014 (3:01 pm)

    I would have to agree with Alphonse’s response and others, in that these developers are building as big as they can,with little regard to the former beauty of the old structures, simply in order to make as much profit as possible. If allowed, they will turn the Junction area into another sterile, cold, concrete downtown Bellevue. I would love to see height restrictions happen not only in the Junction, but all over West Seattle, before what once made West Seattle so special, is gone forever and prices residents out, or, turns us all into renters.

  • Diane January 29, 2014 (3:02 pm)

    Altamira prime view units rented quickly; many of the overpriced studios remained empty for very long time
    do you know if his projects are self-managed, or what PM company they use?

    • WSB January 29, 2014 (3:08 pm)

      Diane – don’t know, did you follow the link to its website in the story?
      Jasper – Just in case the story isn’t clear – this project is replacing an old house. Are you voicing a preference for keeping the house? As for height restrictions, it’s been voiced over and over again at recent meetings – if you want to see that happen, please talk to the City Council, which has the power. Most of West Seattle IS height-restricted – 70 percent is single-family zoning (30 feet max), for example. The heart of The Junction was zoned to 65/85 feet decades ago but is only redeveloping now. Another way to get involved – in case you missed this story: https://westseattleblog.com/2014/01/you-dont-know-what-youve-got-till-its-gone-california-avenue-sw-historic-survey-plan/

  • DTK January 29, 2014 (3:11 pm)

    They do not allow QFC/Petco/Liquor Store workers to park in Capco Plaza so they clog the surrounding neighborhood. The same will happen with this building and when you add the “fewer parking spaces than units” you enhance the already chronic problem.

    Oh, and this is classic, “…they don’t want to cross the bridge.” Well, thanks to people like Capelouto, they won’t be able to.

  • Diane January 29, 2014 (3:14 pm)

    also, did he voluntarily (or did you ask) what is the square footage of the planned smaller units in this new project?
    I can’t find any info in their design packet about proposed size of studios and 1-bedrooms; with the proliferation of tiny apts, this should be included

  • Diane January 29, 2014 (3:15 pm)

    so he’ll offer tenants of this new project (that has very little parking) the opportunity to rent parking spaces a block away? so how will this impact parking available for shoppers at QFC, or do they have 2 separate parking garages, one exclusively for tenants; and of course we’re not allowed to talk about the parking situation in design reviews, so we’ll have to request another SEPA meeting

  • Diane January 29, 2014 (3:18 pm)

    oh thanks; greystar PM

  • Wes C. Addle January 29, 2014 (4:11 pm)

    Altamira has their own gated parking level below the bottom lot in Capco Plaza. When I lived there a few years ago it was $75 a month. It used to be OK to park in the lower level if you lived there. That changed though once Petco and the liquor store moved in. Once that happened, QFC stated they were going to ticket/tow people. I believe there was an old story here about it.

  • scott olsen January 29, 2014 (7:16 pm)

    I think Mercer island is east of here. Isn’t that the place where all these housing projects go? Good by west Seattle it was nice while it lasted. This area needs to be renamed. It isn’t West Seattle

  • tuesday January 29, 2014 (9:03 pm)

    “Probably appeal to a lot of out-of-state retirees who have moved to West Seattle recently, no doubt partially due to no state income tax.” If they are smart enough to move someplace based on low taxes then they are smart enough to plan for low taxes on any retirement income. I highly doubt west seattle is on the retiree great weather list or the low-tax retirement location list.

  • JasperG January 30, 2014 (10:26 am)

    WSB- I am well aware of the situation of replacing this house to which I am not opposed, but would rather more houses remodeled, or replaced with things of beauty, not towering concrete structures which block views, lower neighboring properties value and cram as many people as the developer get away with into, Any comments I have voiced to city planners about the ruining of WS neighborhoods with these giants fall on deaf ears as the city seems only interested in filling their cofers with new revenue.
    I would be interested in knowing if rents for these Mom & Pop envisioned businesses will be low enough for them to afford, or if the only thing we see is more big corporate outfits coming in.
    As for new residents, they should always be welcome, but let us hope it is a good mix of people and not just retirees.
    Judging from what I see of late the height restrictions need to be reevaluated, which I seriously doubt will happen…

    • WSB January 30, 2014 (10:56 am)

      JG – While I didn’t ask all the questions suggested by commenters here, I did ask that last question, as it’s very obvious that high rents lead to empty spaces … that either stay empty for years or only fill up when a national franchise ponies up. We know franchises can have local owners, and certainly they have local employees, but the community is impacted in other ways; heck, even our business is impacted – national franchises seldom advertise in the neighborhoods where they plant themselves. Anyway, I didn’t ask for specifics such as “well, is that xx dollars a month or?” but he indicated that’s his hope. We’ll see how it plays out in a couple years. There will certainly be a *lot* of retail space coming online in The Junction as well as thousands of apartments … TR

  • JasperG January 30, 2014 (11:52 am)

    Thanks for all your updates TR

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