By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Another twist in the ongoing saga of the West Seattle Junction’s public parking lots.
A nonprofit housing developer has made an offer to buy the land for future development, according to documents we’ve obtained.
The West Seattle Junction Association has long leased the lots, operating them as parking for customers of local businesses. Its lease requires WSJA to cover the costs of the property taxes for the lots, which finally led, earlier this year, to the lots’ conversion from free parking to paid parking. For years before that, as reported here, WSJA had been trying to strategize how to deal with the six-digit tax bill, which is approaching $200,000 a year. While the parking fees are now covering some of it, they won’t cover all. And, as pointed out in that 2018 WSB story, the lots’ long-term future as developable land has always been kept in mind – it’s a major reason why the taxes have gone up.
The lots are owned by West Seattle Trusteed Properties, a group of more than three dozen organizations, businesses, and individuals who own shares of the organization and its holdings, the lots. The offer letter to WSTP from Community Roots Housing – known until last year as Capitol Hill Housing – is for $14,490,000 cash. It says in part:
Community Roots Housing (CRH), a mission based Public Development Authority Charter in the City of Seattle that creates affordable and workforce housing throughout Seattle is pleased to submit an offer for the purchase of the parking lots owned by the West Seattle Trusteed Properties. Over the past year CRH has been in community and stakeholder discussions about the property owned by the Trustee, including the West Seattle Junction Association (Junction). Based on these discussions we believe our plans to redevelop the property long term combined with continuing to lease it to the Junction for public parking meet with the community’s goals and desires. CRH is supported by the Junction who would continue to operate the lots for public parking and CRH would purchase the property with assignment of the existing lease. Furthermore, CRH being a public entity has tax exemptions which we are exploring with the Junction how to apply to the lots. CRH has verbal agreement with the City of Seattle Office of Housing to support the purchase of the property with a deferred interest loan for 100% of the sale price of the land up to the appraised value, which will allow for a quick closing after the due diligence period.
The land already has been appraised for exactly that amount – $14,490,000. The appraisal also notes that WSJA’s current lease of the lots runs through 2027. And it points out that one of the lots is zoned for mixed-use development up to 95′, while the other three are zoned for mixed-use development up to 75′. (The lots are on 42nd and 44th SW, parcel numbers 095200-6400, 095200-6435, 095200-6445, 095200-6455, 149530-0125, 149530-0170, 149530-0180, 149530-0190, 338990-0150, and 3389900170.)
The purchase offer is dated April 21st. A message to WSTP shareholder reps today from WSTP board secretary Tyler Johnson described the offer as “unsolicited” and “below current assessed values,” continuing, “Because of the ongoing need to collect additional information as part of the Board’s regular due diligence as well as the Board’s perception that other proposals and options may soon be received, the Board is not taking any action or responding to the Offer at this time. Instead the Board will seek to keep all options open as more information becomes known.”
WSJA’s executive director Lora Radford said in an emailed statement: ““The vision of the West Seattle Junction Urban Village is at a pivotal point in history. An offer to purchase the parcels within the Junction backed by another nonprofit whose entire focus is building affordable and family-forward housing poises our downtown district to accomplish housing for the greater good. This, along with community gathering spaces like a potential community center, ground-floor commercial spaces that are designed to attract and incubate budding small businesses with an ownership co-op component, along with a commitment for meaningful and deep conversations during the design process, we can create together a Junction vision for community members now and future generations.” She warns, “If we let this opportunity slip by, the lack of vision will be lost too. We may be facing the same bland buildings that maximize developer profit, but ultimately kill the neighborhoods we all cherish and love, the Junction included.”
We are following up with Community Roots Housing as well as the city’s Office of Housing. The latter raises money for investment in housing projects from sources such as the city’s Housing Levy; past West Seattle funding has included the Seattle Housing Authority‘s Lam-Bow Apartments rebuild and Transitional Resources’ Yancy Street and Avalon Place supportive housing. Community Roots Housing’s upcoming projects include planning for the White Center Hub, on the current White Center Food Bank site (8th SW/SW 108th)
ADDED MONDAY EVENING: A spokesperson for Community Roots Housing, one of the entities with which we’ve been following up, says that “nonprofit housing developer” is not an accurate description of the organization – CRH is a Public Development Authority (explained here and here; information about their governance is here). It does have a supporting 501(c)3 foundation through which donations can be made.