A unique, small infill project is planned for Capitol Hill. A couple of much larger buildings are planned for Bellevue, kicking off what some think will be the next wave of development in Washington’s 5th largest city.
An open-air pathway called “the Mews” will run between 11th Avenue and a courtyard behind the building, and also be accessible from the surrounding buildings. The pathway would be lined with retail and restaurant storefronts, and can be closed off during non-business hours.
And, over in Bellevue:
According to preliminary plans, he wants to build on a site at the southeast corner of the mall. The project will have two 14-story residential towers, each with 168 units, over a three-story podium.
There will be 240,000 square feet of retail, a 7,800-square-foot restaurant and 1,820 underground parking spaces. The two-tower complex will also have a 55,000-square-foot “common area.”
We’re continuing to grow, to the tune of a city the size of Portland added to our region by 2040. Where will the newcomers live and what will our communities look like once they are here? Will they be in dense developments large and small on the Eastside and in Seattle? Or will they be in McMansions on former farmland in the exurbs?
Eight years of process has brought a lot of light, and a lot of heat, to the conversation about the geographic heart of our city (and some would say the very image of our economic future): South Lake Union. Careful balancing of interests has created an extraordinary opportunity to focus investment right where we want it, and generate significant public value in the process.
Now, at the 11th hour, there is a hastily composed amendment which may significantly delay, if not destroy completely, the implementation of a much-needed land use policy update. See below for more on that (from an inter-council email from Councilmember Conlin) and please consider joining us to lend your voice in favor of moving forward and adopting the proposal.
From: “Conlin, Richard” <Richard.Conlin@seattle.gov>
Date: February 27, 2013, 12:29:03 PM PST
To: LEG_CouncilMembers <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: LEG_LAStaff_Group <LEGLAStaffGroup@seattle.gov>, “Freeman, Ketil” <Ketil.Freeman@seattle.gov>, “Belz, Sara” <Sara.Belz@seattle.gov>, “Foster, Marshall” <Marshall.Foster@seattle.gov>
Subject: Affordable Housing in South Lake Union
I’m writing to follow up on our meeting Monday regarding affordable housing and the South Lake Union rezone. My office has been working with Law and the Executive to advance the review of the bonus/incentive programs and other affordable housing provisions, as was included in the Council’s work plan for 2013. I am pleased to report that we have reached agreements on how to proceed.
- It is clear that we can proceed with a careful process to revise our affordable housing program and apply it to the South Lake Union rezone even after the rezone has been approved. In fact, in the text of our affordable housing code, the Office of Housing is given the authority to make changes, although they have never exercised it. In the South Lake Union rezone, Law has provided language that states that we will modify the affordable housing provisions. There are risks associated with this course of action, but, as noted below, there are risks to making changes in the legislation as well, and it is hard to estimate the relative balance.
- I have reached agreement with the Executive on creating a stakeholder process for formal review of the affordable/incentive housing program, led by an advisory group. The Mayor’s office has asked Tom Tierney if he would be willing to lead this group. We are preparing a resolution which I will circulate later this week outlining the parameters of this review.
I think there is broad agreement that it is appropriate to modify our housing programs to capture more value from development and increase the amount of affordable housing. Some Councilmembers have talked about making changes to the South Lake Union legislation to do that. I think there are strong policy reasons not to attempt to create new affordable housing parameters in the context of this legislation, as well as legal risks that in my opinion are significant.
While waiting for the completion of the stakeholder process will mean that some projects will proceed under the existing rules, this rezone will be in place for many years, and only a small fraction of new development will be vested. As noted Monday, DPD, the Office for Housing, and the South Lake Union community have committed to meeting the goal of 37% affordable housing and believe that this is attainable under the current code. We have asked them for a road map to validate this; changing the affordable housing provisions after the stakeholder process will make this even more likely.
Policy reasons for not amending the South Lake Union legislation to increase incentive/bonus program requirements.
- Good public policy requires making major changes only after a thorough vetting in a transparent and thorough process. These will have enormous implications for many people, and we should exercise due diligence and carry this out through public deliberations.
- We do not have adequate information to make an informed decision about the level of incentive requirements that are appropriate, necessary, or reasonable. We have two consultant reports that have divergent conclusions and that have not been peer reviewed, and neither actually recommend a complete set of numbers that should be incorporated into law. The data is simply not there to allow us to pick numbers that can be justified.
- If we pick numbers that are too high, we run the risk of having developers deciding to forego participation in the bonus program entirely. That means losing housing and jobs and losing the affordable housing we would have gotten under the current program. In a worst case scenario, it could even jeopardize the vitality of our South Lake Union economic engine. We like to think that Seattle is such a great place that our economy will keep thriving no matter what we do, but that is a very risky assumption. And it could very well be a mistake to rely on the assurance of one of our consultants that there are national and international developers that can bear significantly higher fees who are interested in South Lake Union, because that money could easily be headed somewhere else in a couple of years, while our local developers will still be here and trying to implement the next stages of the rezone.
Legal concerns about amending this legislation to affect affordable housing provisions
These are my opinions, and not based on attorney/client privileged advice. Based on my experience, there are at least three legal concerns to be aware of:
- Inserting changes in this legislation could require a new title and likely will trigger additional GMA requirements for public process, delaying the legislation. There may be other process issues, such as SEPA requirements, but the procedural requirements alone are significant. While arguably raising the fee-in-lieu is exempt under SEPA, the EIS did not address changes to the incentive zoning program, so even changing that may at least require analysis.
- We run the risk of having any numbers we choose challenged in Court as unjustified and possibly constituting a taking. There has been some suggestion that we can use Hal Ferris’s study to set a number. Unfortunately, an adversial lawyer will have a field day if we are relying on data from undisclosed sources that has not been validated through peer review and that comes from a Board member of an organization that took a position in favor of changing the affordable housing policy even before he conducted the study. It simply does not pass the straight face test.
- Finally, in 2001 we were on pins and needles waiting to see if someone was going to challenge our program in court. We conducted a careful nexus analysis and worked hard to secure acquiescence from major players because we were concerned that the whole bonus program could be in jeopardy. I think we have better cover now thanks to the legislative authorization provided in 2011, but in a strong property rights state, with our current pattern of court decisions, and in the light of Seattle’s track record when challenged on major land use issues, I worry that an aggrieved party (remember that there are many millions of dollars at issue) could get a court ruling invalidating the entire bonus/incentive program.
Neither the City’s bonus/incentive program nor the 2011 legislation has been tested in court, and we do not know where a court would go, since any litigation would likely raise as many issues as possible. While we should take steps to reduce our risk of losing a court case, the larger goal must be to keep us away from litigation. The stakeholder process in 2001 was successful in securing acceptance from the development community. If we act without a stakeholder process and take precipitate action to significantly increase even the fee-in-lieu, we are likely to face litigation, and the risks of losing the entire program greatly increase.
We have the opportunity to move forward with legislation that will keep the boom going in South Lake Union and generate new housing, new jobs, new City revenues, and new affordable housing. We have a clear path to making changes to strengthen our affordable housing programs in a way that works from both a policy and legal perspective, and apply those changes to the vast majority of development in South Lake Union. Let’s hang together and get those things done!
Councilmember Richard Conlin
Join us Monday, March 4 in Council Chambers. Sign ups begin at 2:15 or so. Be there to speak on behalf the more dynamic, inclusive and vibrant city of the future we all want Seattle to become!
Is there an ongoing generational shift in housing demand? No longer gobbling up far-flung single family housing of the type built all over America during the bubble of the last decade, some say consumers seek the flexibility of renting, and the opportunity to walk or use other alternative modes of transportation, . If true, the tremendous production of rental housing in cities like Seattle might not be at risk of being over built. If not, a restoration of consumer confidence may lead to more households choosing the home-ownership route.
One dramatic example of infill development is the below plan to convert some underdeveloped urban land in Los Angeles into this:
The debate around the project follows predictable pro-urban vs. NIMBY lines. The Architects Newspaper cuts through the noise with a simple question: “Whose interest is served by having a vacant parking lot by the Capitol Records? The city is going to grow and the best way to accommodate that growth is put projects that make use of that transit.”
Cities are living organisms, thriving on continuous intake of investment and people. One way to measure how much are cities are getting is to look at the type of housing going up across the country. The National Association of Home Builders Eye on Housing blog notes a slowdown in the production of rental housing:
As predicted in last month’s blog, a rate well in excess of 300,000 proved too high to sustain. In fact, the five-plus starts rate for December was revised upward, from 330,000 to 352,000—so the preliminary estimate for January shows up as a 26 percent decline, dropping the five-plus starts rate back to where it was in November.
Where will our communities grow in the future? To see more of the data on where the housing is being built today, check out Multifamily Production Falls Back to November Rate.
What’s the difference between growth for growth’s sake and growth that increases resilience? Gensler’s Lewis Knight suggests this concept is a key issue in proposing long-term solutions to future threats that make Hurricane Sandy seem mild in comparison.
It is clear our settlement patterns globally must confront a more dynamic energy regime in our biosphere — there is more energy in the atmosphere that needs to be dissipated by climate shifts. Even in the first few weeks of this year, Australia has dealt with record heat, China has record pollution above 800ppm (which is 32 times the maximum recommended levels for public health), and California is dealing with a record warm January that is permanently altering snow pack…
Seattle Transit Blog starts there, and goes beyond sustainability to talk more about what we get when we encourage investment inside the city:
Furthermore, there are huge non-environmental benefits. The associated transportation choices are good for public health. Although individual projects may result in short-term displacement, provision of affordable housing in the long-term aggregate requires increasing supply. More residents place the city in a better fiscal position and new businesses create jobs…
The Congress for the New Urbanism talks about one of those transportation choices under construction now; the Seattle Streetcar.
Historically, urban morphology patterns are linked to streetcar or cable car lines.With stops at short intervals, the streetcar created walkable, continuous corridors. Early residential and commercial establishments were within a 5 – 10 minute walk from a stop…
CNU’s observations about the city we used to be inspire visions of the city we are on the path to becoming. Building a more vibrant city can make us an attractive home for those in search of resilience, give us better options for public investments that make us healthier, knit communities together, and increase opportunities for all.
Happy to report we received the below press release today announcing the official start to construction on the greenest for-profit office building in Seattle, Stone34. The project is a part of the city’s Living Building Pilot Program.
Check out this video to take a spin around the site and see what the planned headquarters for Brooks Sports Inc. will look like:
Skanska breaks ground on Stone34 today, a mixed-use office and retail building at the corner of Stone Way and North 34th Street. Skanska’s design for Stone34 blends sustainable systems with community elements to create one of the most efficient commercial office buildings in the country. Stone34 is Skanska USA Commercial Development’s first project in Seattle with additional projects planned in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood and Bellevue, Wash.
“Stone34 was designed on a shared vision of fostering greater connection in the community, including linking the Fremont and Wallingford neighborhood to the trail as well as Brooks with the runner,” said Lisa Picard, executive vice president, Skanska USA Commercial Development, Seattle. “The vision grew quickly with the collective goal of making Stone34 a community-responsive building.”
Skanska’s team designed Stone34 to serve a diverse population of trail and civic users as an “urban trailhead” for the Burke-Gilman Trail. Features such as wide sidewalks, group seating, plaza spaces, and bike rails, will encourage activation and success of the ground floor spaces – an essential design consideration for anchor tenant Brooks Sports Inc. Stone34 is a 129,000 square feet building with four stories of office above a retail level. The building includes over 8,500 square feet of outdoor pedestrian areas.
“Brooks is dedicated to inspiring everyone to run and be active,” said Jim Weber, CEO of Brooks Sports, Inc. “We have an incredible opportunity with Stone34, our new headquarters, to build a trailhead – a gathering place that is integrated with the community and fosters the continued growth of the lifestyle we believe in.”
The building is part of Seattle’s Deep Green Pilot Program, which requires water and energy use to be reduced by more than 75 percent of comparable buildings. Stone34 is pre-certified LEED Platinum and includes hydronic heating and cooling systems, stormwater capture and reuse, and a building design that increases day lighting and reduces summer heat loads. Occupants are encouraged to reduce their own impact by using real-time monitoring of occupant energy use.
“The Fremont Chamber is thrilled that such a cutting edge, green development is being built in this key location,” said Jessica Vets, executive director, Fremont Chamber of Commerce. “Stone34 will be a bridge connecting Fremont with Wallingford and shows how beneficial community connectivity is for all.”
Construction is expected to be complete in Spring 2014. Skanska USA Building is the general contractor for the project. LMN Architects is the architect and Swift & Company is the landscape architect.
Skanska USA Commercial Development, which launched in late 2008, is focused on the development of Class A sustainable office projects. In addition to Seattle, Skanska also has commercial development groups in Boston, New York, Washington D.C. and Houston; all five metropolitan areas have strong market drivers in addition to construction units in place.
For further information please contact:
Jessica Murray, 404-946-7468, Jessica.Murray@skanska.com
Joseph Vandenorth, 847-651-4420, Joseph.Vandenorth@nyhus.com
This and previous releases can also be found at www.skanska.com
For more information on the project please visit www.stonethirtyfour.com
About Skanska USA
Skanska USA is one of the largest, most financially sound construction and development networks in the country, serving a broad range of industries including healthcare, education, sports, data centers, government, aviation, transportation, power, energy, water/wastewater and commercial. Headquartered in New York with 39 offices across the country, Skanska USA employs approximately 9,400 employees committed to sustainable construction and development and an injury-free workplace. Skanska USA Building, which specializes in building construction, and Skanska USA Civil, which focuses on civil infrastructure, generated $4.9 billion in revenue in 2011, representing 28 percent of Skanska’s global construction revenues. Development units Skanska USA Commercial Development, which invests in and develops office and multi-family projects in select U.S. markets, and Skanska Infrastructure Development Americas, which develops public-private partnerships, are both leaders in their selected markets. Global revenue of parent company Skanska AB, headquartered in Stockholm and listed on the Stockholm Stock Exchange, totaled $18.9 billion in 2011.
The corner of 23rd and Union has been a focal point of neighborhood hopes for the Central Area for many years. In 2008, this project looked likely to play a major role in the crossroads’ revitalization, but was stalled by the recession.
A temporary art installation filled the vacant development site for a time, as seen in this image:
DANIEL HOUGHTON / THE SEATTLE TIMES
The corner has since reverted back to the dirt it has been for most of the past decade, after the original building suffered irreparable damage in the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake.
Today, that intersection remains a big target for a community seeking a critical mass to revitalize one of the central areas key neighborhood connections. The quickening of the economy’s pulse seems to be pumping life into properties there, with several recently in play and efforts to rethink zoning for one that is on the brink of a major vacancy of its own as the Post Office announces plans to move on from the single-story shopping center it anchors on the Southeast corner.
This Thursday, Seattle City Council will again take up the discussion of the opportunity before us in South Lake Union. As we’ve discussed before, the proposal before council includes tremendous benefits to the community and promises to help foster the growth of this part of the city into a jewel of a neighborhood, for all.
Please join us to make your voice heard, 9 a.m. Thursday, City Council Chambers. This is our opportunity to match the region’s future growth with our shared vision of a dynamic, sustainable and inclusive community. Lend your voice to make sure it does not pass us by.
VIA’s Matt Roewe gave a great presentation on the South Lake Union Rezone to city council last week. In case you missed it, we’re reposting here via VIA’s blog:
One of our Directors, Matt Roewe, gave a presentation on December 3rd 2012 to the Seattle City Council PLUS Committee on the proposed South Lake Union Rezone Legislation. The 70 page slide show is full of graphics and data that illustrate what the proposed heights will look like within South Lake Union, as well as in comparison to the surrounding neighborhoods.
An interesting and informative dialogue transpired with eight of the city council members sitting at the table. To watch the presentation and discussion on Seattle Channel, click here. South Lake Union discussion starts at the 66th minute.
Or you can go through his presentation: South Lake Union Rezone Legislation » VIA Architecture.