A 28-story tower planned for site adjacent to Denny Park would bring 268 apartments to South Lake Union, and the project could clear a hurdle on Wednesday. The West Design Review Board will give feedback–and potentially a design recommendation smoothing the way for a Master Use Permit–to Ankrom Moisan Architects at the 8pm meeting.

The design review will happen at the Queen Anne Community Center following the 6:30pm design review of a nine-story office tower at 330 Yale Ave N. It will be the 820 John St project‘s second design revew; the first early guidance guidance meeting happened in April 2017. If the board isn’t satisfied with the design, the project could be required to come back for a third review.

Ankrom Moisan opted to orient the tower south to Denny Park with a “phototropism concept” that maximized south-facing windows like a plant bending toward the sun. The tower has a stepped roof to maximize rooftop outdoor space. The developer actually needs a code departure since for some reason the Seattle land use code caps rooftop features at 65% coverage and this design manages 72% with its stepped design, which is encouraged in other parts of the code. (I don’t envy architects when it comes to deciphering complexities like that.)

The tower would replace surface parking and one- and two-story office buildings that currently host a glassblowing supply store and Public47 Architects. Across the alley, Greystar is planning a 28-story apartment tower of its own with 374 units on the site of Seattle Unity Church.

Other Projects Coming to Ninth Ave

Greystar’s preferred scheme from Early Design Guidance. (Weber Thompson)

Ninth Avenue is already a hive of construction activity with construction often interrupting the street’s bike lanes. Across the street, a seven-story apartment building is under construction with a 12-story office just to the north. A seven-story office at 308 9th Ave N just received its permit in January and a 25-story residential tower and a 26-story tower have cleared design review but appear to be in the process of altering plans to opt into Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) rezones.

Ninth Avenue will get some character with this office building. (Skidmore Janette)

The question remains whether the Seattle Department of Transportation will let all this construction activity get in the way of finishing the Ninth Avenue protected bike lanes–a crucial connection linking the Westlake protected bike lane to the Downtown network. Currently Ninth Avenue has protected bike lanes north of Mercer Street but lacks protection south of it. As a result, Ninth Avenue bike lanes often function as a rideshare loading zones–that is when they aren’t blocked by construction.

Denny Triangle and South Lake Union are sprouting towers like crazy. (Ankrom Moisan)

South Lake Union Is for Cars

The 28-story tower is part of the transformation of South Lake Union and Denny Triangle from warehouse district to highrise tech hub. The building, with its planned 252 parking stalls, continues the great South Lake Union tradition of overbuilding structured parking and then complaining when Mercer is a mess and Denny disastrous–at least the alliterations are catchy. Tens of thousands of parking stalls will not make the traffic congestion situation better, but we continue to build them nonetheless–a classic open access problem. We should not be building one-to-one parking ratios in the downtown core–halving that number would be a start. The Denny Triangle subway station will be just a few blocks away when Ballard Link is completed by 2035. For the time being Route 8, Route 40, RapidRide C, the Seattle Streetcar, and Route 62 all being within a five minute walk will have to suffice.

The proposed tower will more than likely serve a luxury market since it’s in the bowels of Amazonland. However, it would fund affordable rent-restricted housing via the MHA program. Moreover, it’s better to meet some of the incredible demand the booming tech industry is generating in its backyard rather than letting it spill over across the city.

Denny Way Upgrades Could Make 8 Less Late

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Doug Trumm is the Publication Director at The Urbanist. He joined the exodus to Seattle in 2014, leaving behind his home state of Minnesota. Living on disputed land between Wallingford and Fremont, he is doing his best to improve both neighborhoods. He is a grad student at the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance and a marketing intern at King County Metro. His views are his own and do not represent his employer.

20 COMMENTS

  1. I was born and raised in Seattle and did well enough to own a fashionable home on Queen Anne, but South Lake Union is a whole new world.
    1.5 to 2 million dollar condos are so far out of reach for the majority of us.
    At the end of the day I came to the conclusion that the millionaires are going to have their cars and keep them in their buildings.
    It is the golden rule. Those with the gold make the rules.

  2. Parking is clearly overbuilt in SLU, especially in the office projects (e.g. Amazonia). I’m normally opposed to building residential apartments with no parking at all because clearly some (50% +/- ?) of tenants will in fact have automobiles — not for the daily commute but for the many other trips in life where a car is the most practical conveyance. I’m assuming that office building owners will be amenable (at least over time) to leasing unused parking to nearby residents who can’t get space in their own building.

  3. Can I suggest what the real reason is why developers in this area are overbuilding parking? Option value!

    Currently, there are virtually no condominiums under construction in Central Seattle, in spite of a red-hot housing market. As the developers themselves will tell you, Washington statute makes it impossible to get financing for such construction because of the long term liability rules on new condominium construction.

    Developers know that one way around these rules is to build condominiums as apartments, rent them out for ten years as apartments, and then convert them to condominiums. Expect this wave of conversions to start in about four years.

    It appears that developers are actually overbuilding at the high end of the market, even though some of the new units sit empty for a while. When the time comes to convert these units, they will need at least one unit of parking each to sell as condos, and perhaps more.

    Although underground parking in Central Seattle is expensive on average (the City Council was recently quoted an average cost of around $30K plus $300/month in operating costs), it’s likely that the marginal cost of a parking space is much lower, especially when one considers the economies of scale and scope that a large project entails.

    Expect these extra parking spaces to eventually be sold with condominiums as deeded parking.

    • You may have approximated the developer’s thinking, but I still think it’s faulty. I don’t think there’s anything inherent in condo owning vs renting that makes condo occupants need way more parking. I expect condos would sell just fine without deeded parking and the persistence of 1:1 ratios has more to do with inertia or superstition than a reasonable analysis of actual market demand a decade from now.

      • I would ask a developer what they think. But in any case, I am in complete agreement with you as an urbanist that our society needs more housing that is not attached to parking.

        The housing market is dominated by a kind of thinking that forces people to make both buy and sell decisions based on potential resale. A condominium without a parking space is a hard sell. How many new condominiums were sold in Seattle last year without a deeded parking space. If you can find me EVEN ONE then I’ll buy you a dinner.

          • I hate to disappoint you, but you are reading an early report that was written in the construction phase of the project (early 2016), before any of the units were finished and before the developers actually sold them. The project was not actually completed and sold as approved.

            What actually happened at the Luma is … the developers sold out the entire project very rapidly as 168 units, much fewer than the number of parking stalls. Developers often reconfigure a project this way while it is underway.

            Show me, on the real estate listings, EVEN ONE unit that sold without a parking space.

            I think there are actually some older condominiums in Seattle that lack deeded parking. I have actually seen one (back in 2013) near Olive and Boylston. It had a very hard time selling.

          • Have you checked whether these condos actually sold as configured? Many condominium projects get reconfigured while under construction, and it’s quite common for buyers to combine two or more units into one to create a home.

          • Never believe real estate sales claims. One of the sales tricks is to create false scarcity, meaning that 90% of the units offered to date have been sold.

            Right now there are 54 of them listed in the MLS so how could they be 90% sold out? Although the link you originally posted said there were 402 units in the project, all more recent links say the project contains 382 units. The Curbed website said a few days ago that they are 75% sold out.

            Every condominium project I’ve lived in has had some units that were created when an owner bought two.

  4. Time for parking maximums. Just as anti-housing people complain about how many cars a new project brings to a neighborhood, in the name of good planning parking should be restricted downtown, at least for offices, to restrict the number of cars flowing in.

    It’s just good planning to only permit enough parking that the infrastructure can handle

    • If Seattle really wants developers to build more affordable housing, they need to deregulate, not add new regulations. Get rid of the zoning and code restrictions.

  5. The market has spoken. Developers are creating what is in high demand and they can make profits on: Hundreds of high end apartments and parking spots. Very little or no actual affordable housing units being built on these sites. HALA, MHA, “Grand Bargain” does not add up. SLU, these lots, would be perfect to be developed with hundreds and hundreds of affordable housing units. SLU is a transit rich location, they have been allocated more than their fair share of transit resources. The City says there is high demand for apartments with no parking, they have collected millions of tax dollars for affordable housing, why not actually build affordable housing in areas rich in transit? Seattle continues to tear down existing lower priced housing and replacing it with new higher priced housing. What is keeping the City from actually building hundreds and hundreds of affordable housing in SLU? Things don’t add up.

    • Marginal cost of one affordable apartment: $300k
      $300k/units x 100k new units = $30 billion
      Total annual budget of Seattle: $6.5 billion

      I think your math doesn’t add up.

      • Drinking too much Urbanist Kool-aid has effected your calculations. You have extra zero’s in your costs and # of new units.

        • If you can find someone who can build a 2 bedroom apt for less than $300k in SLU, you should probably invest with them. Also, the number of new units was put forth by you in your comment.

    • I don’t agree that the market has spoken. Seattle zoning, building codes, design review process, neighborhood opposition lawsuits, and well intentioned but flawed tenant protection laws are all factors that make it impossible for developers to respond to some segments of the market. So they are building only for high-end renters, probably with the intention to convert those buildings to condominiums in a few years.

  6. We should not be building any new parking anywhere near downtown. Full-ratio, half-ratio, quarter-ratio… none! No more disruption of the street level with parking infrastructure!

Comments are closed.