Council OKs selling lot near Qwest Field
A plan to transform Pioneer Square with hundreds of new residents and a grocery store moved closer to reality Monday, when the King County...
Seattle Times staff reporter
A plan to transform Pioneer Square with hundreds of new residents and a grocery store moved closer to reality Monday, when the King County Council approved selling four acres of asphalt next to Qwest Field for $10 million.
The council voted unanimously to sell half of the parking lot north of Qwest Field to a team of Seattle- and Minneapolis-based developers, although the project may result in far fewer condos and apartments than announced last year.
The deal approved by the council calls for at least 400 new residences, including 100 affordable apartments or condos. In naming Nitze-Stagen and Opus as the winning bidders for the property last year, King County Executive Ron Sims touted their proposal to build 956 condos and apartments.
Still, neighborhood, county and city officials said the deal could tame Pioneer Square's rowdiness, help its merchants, and add middle-income residents to an area that now tilts toward bars and subsidized housing.
"Our neighborhood has been waiting for this development for almost 20 years," said Craig Montgomery, executive director of the Pioneer Square Community Association. At a minimum, Montgomery said, the proposal would more than double the amount of nonsubsidized housing.
Pioneer Square has just under 1,000 condos and apartments, and almost 70 percent of them are dedicated to low-income housing.
"Pioneer Square is a neighborhood out of balance, and it needs market and work-force housing," said city planner Gary Johnson.
Kevin Daniels, president of Nitze-Stagen, said his team would "easily" build more than 400 apartments and condos.
How many more depends on factors such as building design, traffic concerns and market forces, including construction costs and housing demands. The plan also relies, in part, on the city allowing buildings to go about 30 feet taller than current limits.
"I think we'll eventually get to 500" new apartments and condos, Sims said.
The sale is expected to close next year, after developers go through environmental reviews and obtain a permit from the city. The purchase agreement requires Daniels' team to break ground within two years after that.
The county's appraisal put the value of the four acres at $24 million. County officials cut the price because of requirements put on the developers.
Nitze-Stagen and Opus must replace the 500 parking spots it will displace and turn over parking revenue to the Public Stadium Authority. Early plans called for parking to occupy floors at the base of residential buildings. The other half of the North Lot is owned by the authority, and will still be used for parking.
The developers must build affordable housing and limit development potential by creating a road through the middle of the property and preserving downtown views from the stadium.
Under the agreement, affordable housing is defined as apartments that rent to households earning 60 percent of the county median income, roughly $30,000 a year. Or, it could be condos for households earning median income, just over $58,000 a year.
A coalition representing auto, home, boat and RV shows at the Qwest Field Event Center was opposed to developing the North Lot, saying it would take away staging areas for shows. But that coalition is working out a deal with Mayor Greg Nickels that would allow parts of Occidental Avenue South and South Royal Brougham Way to be used.
Daniels said a local grocer, whom he declined to name, has approached him about locating in the development — something neighborhood residents have long wanted.
Metropolitan King County Council member Larry Phillips, D-Seattle, said the project might transform more than Pioneer Square.
Noting it would bring housing close to downtown jobs as well as nearby trains, buses and a future light-rail line, Phillips said it would be "transformative in another way, in who can live downtown and not have to own a car."
Bob Young: 206-464-2174 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.