Thursday, June 4, 2009

Higher Buildings Sought on Qwest Field North Lot

More news about a future development on the Qwest Field North Lot is out today:

DSA seeks taller buildings on Qwest Field parking lot

Journal Staff Reporter

The Downtown Seattle Association is urging its members to support a land-use amendment that it says would help development move forward on the Qwest Field north parking lot.

The project was first unveiled in 2006. The latest version includes 645 housing units, 19,000 square feet of retail, 480,000 square feet of office space and about 950 above-grade parking stalls on a 3.85-acre site.

The development team, Opus Northwest and Daniels Development Co., sought a contract rezone last year with the Seattle Department of Planning and Development that would allow taller buildings on the site. They've since shelved the rezone plans and have been working with the city to pass a land-use amendment that would accomplish the same goal.

The Seattle Housing Authority is also a development partner, but was not part of the purchase-and-sale agreement for the site.

The developers have proposed building a 20-story office tower and three residential towers of 10, 20 and 25 stories. Current zoning only allows up to 85 feet for commercial buildings and 120 feet for residential or mixed-use, but the amendment would permit 240 feet for all of those uses.

The City Council's Planning, Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee held a public hearing about the amendment last week, and is scheduled to give the measure more thorough consideration on June 10.

Randy Hurlow, vice president of communications and marketing for the Downtown Seattle Association, said the group, which generally doesn't take positions on specific projects, has come out in support of the measure because this project “would provide a much-needed infusion of affordable housing, retail and jobs in the Puget Sound area.”

DSA President Kate Joncas, in a letter to the council committee sent last week, said “we felt compelled to express our strong support and join the many other community organization and leaders in urging swift adoption of the text amendment.”

Michael Jenkins, a legislative analyst for the City Council, said the amendment could take at least a couple of months to make its way through the review process.

“The site has a lot of issues,” he said, including environmental problems and a high water table. “We want to get it right the first time.”

Kevin Daniels, president of Daniels Development, said he is seeking the new zoning to provide more view corridors, open areas and “graceful building footprints.”

“The plan does a good job of preserving view corridors both from and towards downtown and picking up economic development where the historic Smith Tower and King Street Station left off nearly a century ago,” he said.

In a draft of a letter the development firm will send to the King County Council detailing its plans, Daniels cites a number of obstacles to the development.

Daniels writes there was an “unexpected discovery of a plume of petroleum product in the northwest corner” of the site “and a pool of creosote-like substance in the northeast corner” that has required the firm to work with the state Department of Ecology on a formal cleanup program.

“With the catastrophic national collapse of the real estate industry's financial markets, it is our opinion that we would have no chance of obtaining the necessary equity and lending required to start construction of this project” without a consent decree from the DOE.

The developers say they hope to receive necessary zoning approvals by early fall and move on to more design work.

“By this time next year we plan to be completed with the city entitlement process and with DOE, leaving the real estate market as the final hurdle,” Daniels writes.