One of the most interesting development projects announced last year was a mixed-use building in the shell of the old Sun Electric building, also known as the Spray King building, at the corner of 11th and Pine, kitty corner from Cal Anderson, across the street from the offices of the Stranger and smack in the heart of Pike/Pine. The proposal called for adding 95 residential units above the restored auto row building with two-floor tall commercial spaces at ground level. Last we heard, the project passed through it’s second Early Design Guidance meeting in November, but things have been quiet since the new year began. CHS has heard rumors about the project falling through or being shut down. We’ve learned those rumors aren’t true but there have been some changes in plans. The project is back for its first Design Recommendation meeting next month and it seems that there was a bit of a shake-up.
The developers of the project, Pryde + Johnson, have changed out their architects, bringing in Weber Thompson to replace Kohler Associates. The switch seems to be promising for community members concerned about the integrity of the project: Weber Thompson has received substantial praise in the past few years for their focus on quality and sustainability and was recently named one of the top 10 architecture firms in the nation by Architect Magazine. (In contrast, Kohler is probably best known by Hillites for the Plaza Park building at Pike and Boren; the one with the giant Montana advertisement covering its vacant commercial space.)
I recently spoke with Weber Thompson Senior Associate Jeff Reibman about some of the updated aspects we can expect to see at the Design Review Board Meeting on July 21st (time and place TBA). Reibman was most enthusiastic about the many green features of the building. Readers may remember the central courtyard in the building, which Reibman says will provide substantial energy savings through light penetration and air circulation. In addition, the building will utilize an innovative mechanical system, called a chiller, to take advantage of the underground garage’s relatively stable temperature to heat and cool water. The project is going for LEED Gold and Built Green 5 Star certifications and is participating in the city’s new Priority Green Pilot Program.
On the more public-facing side of the building design, there are also a few important changes. Rather than both commercial and residential entries facing 11th, all of the 11th Avenue facade will be commercial, with the residential entry moved to Pine. Reibman said this created a clearer delineation between the residential and commercial uses and was also a better complement to the current commercial vitality along 11th Avenue. The upper facade has been updated to be more “historically honest” as Reibman put it. Rather than replicate the old garage, the building will take its cues from other buildings of the time that were closer to it in size and scale. The materials will be cast iron with more windows than the original proposal. “When I looked at the old proposal it looked a little heavy to me, we’ve tried to fix that with lighter elements,” Reibman explained.
Since many project plans have gone the way of the dodo due to the rocky economic climate, I asked Reibman whether this project could be put on hold for the foreseeable future and to my surprise, he said no, “this project is outside the problematic financing market.” It turns out that the project is participating in the HUD 221d program, which guarantees mortgage loans on rental and cooperative housing projects, making them much more likely to receive funding. Reibman said that there are actually few eligibility requirements for the program but that it has high penalties for developers that don’t hold on to their properties for an extended period of time. This is also likely good news for community members as it creates an incentive for the developer to build something that will maintain its marketability for the long term. Reibman was reluctant to say when the project will actually break ground but he did suggest that it would probably be sometime next year.