West Seattle development: Groundbreaking for The Whittaker

(WSB video by Patrick Sand)
FIRST REPORT, 2:22 PM: With ice axes digging into dirt near the southwest corner of Fauntleroy and Alaska, ground has just been ceremonially broken for The Whittaker, ~400 apartments, ~600 parking spaces, and Whole Foods Market (the anchor, and lone announced, retail tenant). A two-year construction process now ensues; demolition and site clearing has just concluded, and excavation/shoring is expected to start in a few weeks. It’s been almost two years since we broke the news of an ‘early’ proposal for the site. We have the by-invitation ceremony on video and will add it, along with photos and more details, after our return to HQ.

ADDED 6:12 PM: We’ve substituted a slightly longer YouTube version of the actual “groundbreaking” video above, in place of the short Instagram clip (which you can still see here). And here’s our video of the speeches that preceded it:

Most of those on hand for the event, held near the northeast corner of the project site – just south of where the gas station used to be – were affiliated with members of the project team – residential developer Lennar Homes, retail developer Weingarten, Whole Foods, local communicators, general contractor Chinn Construction, whose owner Kevin Chinn was there:

(WSB photos by Torin Record-Sand)
With him at left above is Josh Sutton from the West Seattle YMCA (WSB sponsor). Sutton was on the community advisory group that worked with the city on the Triangle Plan a few years ago, as was West 5 restaurateur Dave Montoure of the West Seattle Chamber/Junction boards:

That’s Southwest Seattle Historical Society executive director Clay Eals at right above with Montoure. Speaking on the Chamber’s behalf, its board chair Nancy Woodland (leaning to the left and smiling in photo below):

She mentioned the community’s strength and its many “opinions,” the only overt allusion to the controversy that beset the project for months, including former Mayor Mike McGinn’s instruction to SDOT in July 2013 to not approve the project’s “alley vacation” and a standing-room-only City Council hearing last March, followed by the council’s 6-3 approval vote in April, the last major hurdle the project had to clear.

That was three months after the development team had announced the project would be named for climbing legend and West Seattle native Jim Whittaker. He and wife Dianne Roberts were at today’s ceremony:

In his honor, mountaineering metaphors were plentiful. The groundbreaking was described as “base camp,” but with a long climb ahead – two years of construction, to result in this:

And even as today’s celebration continued, so did site-prep work on the south side of the site.

Development manager Kelley Kohout told WSB the excavation work will start from that side, and head north. The project is so big, two tower cranes will be required; he says they’ll arrive sometime in the first quarter of next year. It’s already been a month since the start of demolition/abatement.

As construction ramps up, Whole Foods will continue planning its store; VP of store development Tee Ayer promised the market will reflect the community’s spirit and personality, saying, “you will see West Seattle” in it. (Just a week ago, WF announced plans for another new Seattle store, on Capitol Hill.)

As for what else you’ll see in The Whittaker’s retail space – Weingarten executive Lance Sherwood told WSB today they have nothing to announce yet, but “lots of interest” and an expectation that they’ll “have no problem” leasing it all.

Our archive of coverage on this project is here, newest to oldest.

SIDE NOTE: The last ceremonial groundbreaking for a major development was in 2008, across the street at 3922 SW Alaska, then known as “Fauntleroy Place,” to be anchored by Whole Foods. After excavation, the project was stopped by legal and other problems, no fault of WF, which was just a planned tenant; terms of its lease, for store space to be available, never were fulfilled, which left the chain free to mull other WS possibilities – finally landing with this one. Meantime, after a foreclosure sale leading to an ownership change and name change to “Spruce,” that development re-started a year and a half ago and is close to completion, now with its entire commercial space to be taken up by an LA Fitness gym.

20 Replies to "West Seattle development: Groundbreaking for The Whittaker"

  • Diane November 13, 2014 (2:49 pm)

    they had the ground breaking WITHOUT inviting the WS community? unbelievable

  • XXX November 13, 2014 (3:25 pm)

    And how many other developments invite any Tom, Dick and Harry off the street to these things? Sorry to hear you’re hurt by the perceived snub.

  • cmt November 13, 2014 (3:29 pm)

    Fabulous – so glad that it is really happening! @ Diane – Do private projects usually invite the community? I do remember a ribbon cutting for the Junction Plaza Park but not pre-publicized groundbreakings for private projects.

  • Gina November 13, 2014 (3:59 pm)

    Just a wild guess, but I’ll bet our former Seattle mayor was not invited.

    • WSB November 13, 2014 (4:08 pm)

      Seriously – for anyone wondering – I don’t know who was on the invitation list. But we did take many looks around to see who was there, and unless someone was hiding under the refreshment table, I didn’t see any elected officials present or past. I am still writing the added narrative to go with more pix/video – but as that will reflect, it was mostly people from the project team (Lennar, Weingarten, contractor Chinn), their local communications team, Whole Foods, some West Seattle Chamber and Junction reps. Plus Jim Whittaker and wife Dianne Roberts.

  • JM November 13, 2014 (4:09 pm)

    I’m just happy that there will be enough parking spots for the tenants. These apartments that go up without parking provided is crazy.

  • AN November 13, 2014 (4:35 pm)

    I remember the ground breaking where the Whole was (where whole foods was originally going to be) there was a big presence of west Seattle community
    I sure hope this isn’t going to end up as another Whole in the ground for 7 or 8 years (not sure how long ago that was)

    • WSB November 13, 2014 (4:42 pm)

      AN, another point we were going to mention … That was 6 1/2 years ago, and then after excavation, “The Hole” sat there for about five years until, following legal fights and a foreclosure auction, the project finally got going. It was somewhat ironic that the now-almost-complete project at that site was the backdrop for today’s event, since everyone had to face north/northeast across Fauntleroy to not be looking into the sun.

  • Rick November 13, 2014 (4:42 pm)

    Why invite what West Seattle used to be?

  • wetone November 13, 2014 (4:59 pm)

    JM better re-think that one. 400 apartments how many 1bdr, 2bdr ? how many people per unit ? how many have vehicles ? how many parking spots will be dedicated for Whole foods and the other retailers ? picture not so bright now. Will be interesting to see how it plays out with those so called 600 parking spots.

  • West Seattle since 1979 November 13, 2014 (5:10 pm)

    This will be so much better than what’s there now!

  • ChefJoe November 13, 2014 (5:56 pm)

    After having an alley vacation on the way to approval only to be held up by McGinn’s grandstanding about “living wages” which was actually code for unions rather than about the wages (but, hey, the UFCW supported his re-election bid), I would not send any invites to local politicians (which could also attract UFCW protests) and just get on with the project.

  • wb November 13, 2014 (7:55 pm)

    Not just parking. – the west seattle bridge traffic will somehow become worse! Any provisions for bicycles for all the incoming?

  • XXX November 13, 2014 (8:57 pm)

    Wetone… Tell me about the other developments with no parking. The Whittaker is at least doing something to help with the situation. As for traffic, so is West Seattle supposed to shut down and give up? The naïveté of many of the anti-development people never ceases to amaze.

  • Diane November 14, 2014 (12:13 am)

    Very handsome photo of Josh by Torin

  • evergreen November 14, 2014 (7:56 am)

    All of these massive condo buildings going up just makes me sad. West Seattle’s charm is being destroyed, and traffic will become a nightmare.

    • WSB November 14, 2014 (8:13 am)

      Just for accuracy’s sake (doesn’t change the building size or commenter sentiment in any direction) – no condos are being built here (or almost anywhere else – I think there’s one downtown) right now. They’re all apartments. The for-purchase housing being built right now is on a smaller scale – townhouses, rowhouses, single-family houses.

  • wetone November 14, 2014 (10:47 am)

    XXX, Where have I ever said anything about anti-development ? I do say a lot about wanting to see commonsense development which Seattle government has lacked for many years now. Show me one other city that has pushed to increase population as Seattle with out having a plan or doing one thing to improve the infrastructure for the people that live here ? As a person that has lived in W/S for 50+yrs and owns a few properties here I am not afraid to say I liked W/S much better 25+yrs ago, but I knew things would grow and that’s why I invested in W/S and a few more years will sell like most I know from the area have or plan because of the inconvenience, cost, property tax rises coming. On the parking thing I am glad this project has the parking it does and never complained about it, just breaking things down. Don’t think that much retail space would be very successful without. Now the micro or apodments whatever there being called this week are laughable at best and will have huge impacts in most areas built along with pushing the rent structures to a new levels for all. Other city’s have tried and are finding limited success from them and many problems. Be interesting to see if W/S junction merchants can make it from a very localized group as accessibility disappears in area.

  • William Button November 15, 2014 (5:39 pm)

    Just having Big Jim and wife Diane involved is comforting to Me. Only 35 years in WS. But have enjoyed Alpine Sports for almost 60 years.


  • Maria November 23, 2014 (12:55 pm)

    What about the traffic issue? Any plans to build a park and ride for commuters?

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