We’ve cataloged the development of a lot of big neighborhood projects in our 18 months of existence. But since the start of the financial crisis last fall, few of those projects have been able to start construction.
Jim Mueller, a local developer with three large mixed-use projects planned around the neighborhood, says that “in ’09, don’t get your hopes up” for a turnaround. The key issue is both the inavailability of credit and drastic new lending standards that require much larger down-payments for construction loans. Compounding the problem is a scarcity of private equity funding that would normally provide those down payments.
Mr. Mueller said that for now there’s no start dates available for any of his projects. But in the meantime, his firm is continuing with the design and permitting steps that would have to be completed before the construction could start.
Goodwill project developer Darryl Vange echoed those comments, saying that credit markets are stuck for now, and that “I haven’t seen anything coming down the pike that would give me comfort” that things will turn around soon.
If there’s one glimmer of hope for neighborhood developers, it’s that the local Seattle economy is still good compared with many places across the country. Jim Mueller says that there’s still a reasonable demand for apartments in the Capitol Hill & Central Area of Seattle, and that “the rental market is strong enough to support these kinds of developments” if lending once again became available on reasonable terms.
We scanned through our archives and came up with a list of fifteen mixed-use projects that got as far as the initial permitting phase but which haven’t yet seen any activity on the ground (I’ll be talking about this with the Leschi Community Council at 7:30pm tonight):
20th & Jackson – This 275 unit apartment complex is planned to take over the old bakery outlet that is now used as an annex for the Pratt Arts Center. It would also have provided 20,000 square feet of space for Pratt within the new building.
23rd & Main – The old Seattle Box Style house at the corner there was proposed to be demolished and replaced by a four story, 13 unit apartment building with underground parking. A revolutionary level of energy efficiency was a major feature of the project.
23rd & Main – Catholic Family Services had planned a 51 unit apartment building with 2,300 square feet of retail space to replace the parking lot behind their existing facility. No activity on the permit since August 2008.
12th & Fir – Pb Elemental had planned a new building for the vacant lot at that corner with 18 loft-style apartments and 4,500 square feet of retail. That firm has since gone through a series of layoffs, although they’ve still been completing smaller townhouse developments around the area.
2051 E. Madison – Jim Mueller’s 5-story apartment building on the site of Twilight Exit’s second home is planned to contain 96 apartments, a lot of visible ground-floor retail space, and 104 underground parking spaces.
2026 E. Madison – Another big Mueller project, this one would put 222 apartments and 10,000 square feet of retail space on the old Deanos block.
2305 E. Madison – The long-vacant lot at the corner of 23rd & Madison would be replaced with a new mixed use building containing 30 residential units, 7696 square feet of retail, and 30 interior parking spaces. This project has had permit activity back in February, but no construction activity.
23rd & Union – Jim Mueller succeeded in getting a rezone for the vacant lot at 23rd & Union, allowing a 6-story building with 90 apartments, underground parking, and significant new retail space. Like the other Mueller projects, this one is dependent on the availability of construction financing.
20th & Union – The old copier building here would be replaced with up to 5,000 square feet of retail space and 8 residential units above. No activity since a design review in July of last year.
34th & Pike – This Madrona project would have replaced the old adobe gas station with 6 live/work units spread across two buildings. It featured a variety of environmental features such as a green roof deck, solar panels, and a large underground cistern to store rainwater.