Community Post

National Economy Stalling Local Construction Projects

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.

Goodwill property – The large retail and apartment complex on the old Goodwill property is moving forward through the city’s approval process.  The rezone for it was recently approved on a 9-0 vote in the City Council.  Next up is approval of the street vacations for the property, which will go before the city council in May. Developer Darryl Vange told me that they do have some tenant commitments, but any construction start is dependent on the improvement of the overall economy and restoration of the credit markets. 

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.

26th & Cherry – An 11 unit live/work development was planned to replace the red single-story apartments there. No activity since.

19th & Madison – Another Pb Elemental project, this would have made use of a tiny triangular lot next to the Deafness Center. It contained 3 live/work units and 3,200 square feet of retail space. 

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.

Union & MLK – This Marty Liebowitz development would have put 30 apartments in a 4 story building with 2nd-floor office space and eight ground floor storefronts.  

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. 

1126 34th– This controversial Madrona project would replace a parking lot with a 3-story building containing a single 6,000 square foot residence, second-floor office space, and ground-floor retail and rear parking.

1120 34th – An old house on 34th would be replaced by a 3-story building with 6,300 square feet of office space above 1,500 square feet of retail.  No activity since the original application in September of 2008.

0 thoughts on “National Economy Stalling Local Construction Projects

  1. There’s been a Proposed Land-Use Action sign on the corner of 23rd and Yesler for quite a while now…current site of the Catholic Community Family Services…any word on what and when that project may move forward?

  2. I think that’s this entry:
    “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. “

  3. I haven’t seen much activity lately at the work site on Union between 20th and 21st. Does anyone know if they’re still working on that, or is it going to sit there half-completed for the next XX years?

  4. I think that the 23rd and Main project is still alive and moving forward as it is affordable housing and gets funding from city and state. The Pb project on 12th and Fir is currently for sale, so I don’t think that one is going to move forward anytime soon. What is the status of Pb anyway? I also think their headquarters is for sale.

  5. I think they are still at it, I saw them pounding away at it a few days ago. I imagine if they started it they have the funds to finish it.

  6. It’s just the phases of the project changing. The framing is finished and the electricians are just getting started.

  7. It is nice to see the abandoned project at 2106 E. Union has come back to life a few weeks ago. It has been something like 4 years that it has sat partially completed and decaying. Out of the blue a crew shows up, strips off the rotten parts, and now it is 3 stories tall. It looks like retail with two apartments above.

  8. Generally looking forward to these developments, and it’s exciting to imagine 348 new residences being added up the street on Madison. (Going off topic:) Except for the cars – even imagining that the buildings handle all of the parking needs for those residences, it still be wise of the city to get some more mass transit (even the buses) to those blocks. I guess that will be a better problem to have than the abandoned buildings and lots sitting there now . . .

  9. Does anyone else find this hard to look at? The proximity to the house on the west side is scary. Anyone living there will look directly into that tiny house that has been there forever. that is why all the residential tenants left.