Trolley barn site is back on track
An on-again, off-again plan to develop a critical parcel of land in Pioneer Square is on again, and with it, hopes for restarting the waterfront...
Seattle Times staff reporter
An on-again, off-again plan to develop a critical parcel of land in Pioneer Square is on again, and with it, hopes for restarting the waterfront trolley are being revived.
Two influential Pioneer Square community groups have given preliminary support to developer Gregory Smith's proposal to construct a 130-foot-tall building on a parking lot across from the newly redone Occidental Square Park. The current height limit there is 100 feet.
The ground floor would house a new maintenance facility for Metro's vintage trolley, as well as a trolley-themed cafe-restaurant that would look into it. Above that would be a level of parking and a mix of hotel or office space and market-rate housing, said Smith, principal of Urban Visions.
The old trolley barn off Broad Street was torn down to make way for the Seattle Art Museum's Olympic Sculpture Park, scheduled to open next month.
As a result, trolley service — an attraction especially popular with tourists — has been suspended since November 2005.
Smith said the new barn could be done in time to start service for the 2009 tourist season.
King County, Seattle and the Port of Seattle would pay $9 million for the barn portion of the building.
Smith backed off his original plan, which called for completion by summer 2007, saying he needed to build taller for the project to pencil out.
A City Council committee today will discuss Smith's new proposal, which also differs from the original in that it includes upper-level commercial space, not just housing.
The Pioneer Square Preservation Board supports Smith's request for the extra height, but expressed a "preference for the equivalent amount of height [30 feet] to be used as residential," according to a letter the board recently sent to Smith.
Smith said the Pioneer Square Community Council also is behind the plan.
City Councilman Peter Steinbrueck also wants a guarantee from Smith that the top three floors, at least, would be devoted to housing.
He said the development "would be the most prominent and dominant building in Pioneer Square and, therefore, must be designed with great sensitivity, quality, detail and respect for the historic district." Steinbrueck expressed confidence in Smith's ability to pull that off.
While a 130-foot-high building would soar above other buildings, it could be an anchor for Pioneer Square, said Tina Bueche, a business owner who chairs the preservation board.
"This is a prime piece of land for the development of office, residential and retail that could activate Occidental park and make it more user-friendly," she said.
The Metropolitan King County Council has warned that its $7 million commitment toward the new trolley barn likely would be reallocated if the city does not move forward on the project within a year.
The timeline for finishing the project has a sense of urgency because once construction begins on a replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct, the trolley line would shut down — again.
Stuart Eskenazi: 206-464-2293 or firstname.lastname@example.org
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.