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Originally published October 13, 2009 at 12:12 AM | Page modified October 13, 2009 at 6:01 PM

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Starwood luxury hotel site becomes a parking lot — again

The owner of the big hole at Second Avenue and Pine Street in downtown Seattle plans to refill it.

Seattle Times business reporter

The owner of a gaping, half-block hole in downtown Seattle says it will start refilling the crater this week.

The pit, on Second Avenue between Pine and Stewart streets, was excavated in mid-2007 for the 1 Hotel & Residences, a proposed 23-story luxury tower.

But work on the $200 million hotel-and-condo project stopped that fall, and the developer later acknowledged it couldn't get construction financing.

A spokesman for the site's owner, Connecticut-based Starwood Capital Group, said Monday that the hole should take eight to 10 weeks to fill. A Starwood affiliate applied last week for a city permit to develop a temporary parking lot on the property, which backs up to the parking structure across Third Avenue from Macy's.

The company said in a statement that it remains committed to the hotel-and-condo project, and is waiting for the capital markets to stabilize.

Starwood said it was working with Seattle officials "to ensure the property remains clean and presentable over the short term ... "

The city did not require Starwood to refill the crater, said Bryan Stevens, a spokesman for the Department of Planning and Development. Starwood filed a permit application Sept. 4 to fill the hole, and the permit was issued Oct. 2, according to city records.

Both Stevens and Seattle land-use economist Matthew Gardner said they could not recall any other case in which an empty crater dug for a stalled project has been filled again.

But Gardner said that, if Starwood expects the tower won't be built for a while, it probably makes sense to restore the site so it can start generating some revenue from parking again. The property was a parking lot before the pit was excavated.

Starwood acquired 100 percent interest in the site last year, buying out its former partner, Portland developer Paul Brenneke.

In addition to a conventional hotel rooms and condos, the 1 Hotel & Residences also was the first project in Seattle to market "condo-hotel" suites — privately owned hotel rooms. The idea was for individual buyers to purchase hotel units, then let hotel management rent them to overnight guests when the owners weren't using the rooms themselves.

Condo-hotel projects helped fuel the building boom in popular tourist destinations such as Orlando, Fla., and Las Vegas earlier in the decade, but were hit hard when the real-estate market crashed.

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At the time construction halted, the 1 Hotel & Residences' design called for 176 condo-hotel units. Prospective buyers reserved most, Brenneke said in 2008, but all but about 20 backed out when credit tightened and they were asked to make nonrefundable deposits.

The project was being redesigned last year to eliminate most of the condo-hotel suites and replace them with a larger number of conventional hotel rooms.

The tower also was to feature a fitness club, day spa, restaurant and specialty grocer. When the project broke ground, the developers said the tower would be finished by summer 2009.

Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231 or epryne@seattletimes.com

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