By Ross Armstrong, UW News Lab / Special to CHSVulcan’s plans for the southeast corner of 23rd and Jackson appear to be on a fast track following a set of community meetings in the Central District last week. The developer said it is gearing up for a design review process from a project with some 570 apartment units to begin — perhaps — as early as next month. Meanwhile, attendees at one of the community meetings unsurprisingly expressed concerns about the real estate giant’s development plans and the rapid change coming to the area.
UPDATE 2/17/2016 5:30 PM: The deal is done:
Vulcan Real Estate today announced it has purchased two retail properties at 23rd & Jackson from Weingarten Realty. The property includes approximately six acres on the north and south sides of South Jackson Street, on the east side of 23rd Avenue South. The purchase price is $30.9 million.
Central District residents turned out in droves Thursday night to see early design concepts for a new apartment complex in the neighborhood from Vulcan and Runberg Architecture Group. Much of the community focus was on affordability and whether the project’s planned mix of units was right for the neighborhood. One mother spoke up about her two sons who had decent paying jobs but had to move away due to the costs.
Plans submitted to the city describe a complex of two five-story buildings and two seven-story buildings, interconnected around a courtyard. In all 570 units are planned in the 693,000 square-foot project. The project does not yet appear on the Design Review Board schedule but Vulcan representatives said they plan to begin the public process in March.
The Central Area Land Use Review Committee facilitated last week’s public meeting, which opened with a presentation by Vulcan and the design team and provided a platform for the community to ask questions and voice concerns about the project.
The main community concerns were the affordability of the apartments for the neighborhood and the impact the apartments would have on traffic and parking. Other concerns were having cultural destinations accessible in the apartment complex, access to a grocery store and the timeliness of the project.
Vulcan, a company created by Paul Allen, has a history of large, mixed-use real estate projects in the Seattle area, most notably in South Lake Union. Architects Brian Runberg of Runberg Architecture Group and Kris Snider of Hewitt kicked off Thursday’s public meeting with a summary of the project and the initial design concepts.
“The train has just left the station on our designs,” said Snider, “Nothing is close to being final.”
While the developer hasn’t yet publicly announced a closure of the deal, CHS first reported in December on Vulcan’s evaluation agreement to purchase six acres on both sides of Jackson. The discussion of redevelopment so far has been focused on the land to the south. Meanwhile, the neighborhood is also awaiting word on what will come next for another large 23rd Ave redevelopment target at Union.
Occupying the southeast corner of the 23rd Ave S and S Jackson, the apartment complex made up of five and seven-story buildings will also include underground parking, a large internal courtyard, and street-level commercial space.
Vulcan is planning for the review process to wrap up by September with construction starting by June of 2017. Construction is expected to last about two years. The June timing would put the project into motion around the planned groundbreaking of the second phase of the 23rd Ave corridor improvements currently causing smaller merchants a few headaches around 23rd and Cherry. Jackson, meanwhile, has also been envisioned for pedestrian and safety improvements.
“We have been very proactive in a community dialogue,” said Runberg, as he outlined their five community priorities for the project:
- A destination with a unique identity
- Connected people and community
- A great business community
- Livable streets for all
- A place that supports a healthy & stable community
After the design concept presentation, the floor was opened to the community for questions. One of the most common: Will the new apartments be affordable for current neighborhood residents?
Pete Aparico, a real estate development manager for Vulcan, said that Vulcan plans to utilize the Multi-Family Tax Exemption program and make 20% of the project’s units affordable. Price points for the units have not been reached according to Aparico.
However, multiple community members said Thursday night that the Central District does not reflect the planned income range for the project. Some said they felt that rental costs should be available to people earning closer to 30 to 40% of average in the area.
Multiple community members also said they were worried about adding traffic to the neighborhood, especially in light of adding 570 new units to an already busy intersection. For some, nearby Washington Middle School was also a concern for increased traffic, and meeting participants said they wanted to know how the project would accommodate pedestrian zones for students.
Others said they hoped a grocery store would remain part of the commercial make-up in the development.
“We are optimistic we can incorporate a grocery store,” said Aparico.
But the message from the developers, despite the relatively aggressive planned review schedule, was to hang tight as details emerge.
“We are in the schematic design phase giving early design guidance for the project,” said Aparico. “It’s hard to know and plan the exact dynamics at this stage. I’m not going to quote a range of solutions, but we are going to be responsive to demand.”