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Taggers’ paradise at Bellevue and Pine serves as reminder of Hill’s stalled development

As two real estate development projects come before the Design Review Board Wednesday night, an earlier project that was itself the subject of the DRB sits on the shelf waiting for those community-processed designs to become reality.  At the intersection of Bellevue and Pine, a fire-damaged and much tagged apartment building serves as a daily reminder of the economic reality that has ground much development to a halt.

“Like a lot of people, we’re working as hard as we can to attract financing for the project,” said Stratford Company CEO George Webb.  “But, we’ve fallen victim to the credit crunch.”  He said he does not know when the financing will come through and allow the project to move forward.

The Stratford Company and Ankrom Moisan architects first brought the proposed development known as Pine Street Condominiums to the Design Review Board for early design guidance in August 2007.  The plan called for a new six-story, 118-unit mixed-use building with about 13,000 square feet of ground floor retail. The new building would require the demolition of the Marion Apartments.

The Pine Street Condominium project

In May 2008, after the project successfully fended off a legal attack from neighborhood development activist Dennis Saxman, the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) approved the proposed new building, but the agency will not issue a master use permit, which would allow demolition and construction work to begin, until it receives an additional $21,500 in outstanding fees from the property owner, DPD spokesperson Bryan Stevens said.  To date, DPD has only received $37,295 of the $58,795 required for issuance of the master use permit.

The dilapidated building is a magnet for some of the less savory elements of city living including vandalism and crime.  “There have been a number of complaints over the years ranging from the building being open to entry and the need for a fence around the building,” Stevens said.  Webb said that on numerous occasions he has had vagrants removed from the building and graffiti painted over.

The ruins of the Marion Apartments

In October 2008, a fire ripped through part of the building as its final tenants were being turned out. Investigators later determined that the fire was intentionally set by 89-year-old Ed Jackson who had served as the apartment manager and the neighborhood’s de facto nightwatchman. Jackson died in the blaze.

You can still see some of the charring from the fire — and plenty of tags and graffiti. But the empty space has also been put to good use on occasion. Sidewalk Vintage holds guerrilla thrift sales under the apartment’s overhang. It’s random and breaking various muni codes but it’s the kind of thing you only get when things break and there are empty spaces that need to be filled.

Webb said that he wants more than anyone to redevelop the property.  “We’d like to eliminate the eyesore and move ahead with the project.”

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16 thoughts on “Taggers’ paradise at Bellevue and Pine serves as reminder of Hill’s stalled development

  1. Capitol Hill Housing should buy it, depressed market, and then rehab the original building for market rate apts.

    It is a GREAT location for downtown workers.

    So, C. Housing, what say?

  2. Wasn’t this condo going to be one of those places with the teeny-weeny 400 square foot-type studios? I seem to remember them having a website for it a few years ago. Six stories and 118 units is nearly 20 units per floor. Wouldn’t the neighborhood have been better served by affordable, normally-spacious apartments like the Ed Jackson Memorial Apartments used to have? I knew someone who lived there once, and it was a pretty decent space.

  3. Heck yeah, why CAN’T the housing folks buy it. I’d like to suggest not renting it for market rates, but something for folks with less income? I rent at market rate and a $1200 1 bedroom isn’t as great as it could be.

    it seems a horrible shame for the building to sit there in decay like that.

  4. Here’s what they had in mind for the space in early (pre-crash) 2008:
    “According to Stratford sales VP Virginia Grady, the company is aiming for condos that are “low-cost but not low-quality”—around $250,000 for a 400- to 500-square-foot unit. “We’re looking at, how do we design a smaller space that’s highly functional and appealing?” she says. “

    Maybe this is just my opinion, but what’s the point of buying such a small place? Seattle isn’t Manhattan. It would be hard to live with a significant other or even a large pet in a space that small (much less a child) for very long. It’s not conducive to a permanent living situation, is it?

  5. 400-500 isn’t a bad amount of space. I just bought a 550 sqft place and inhabit it with my spouse and 2 pets, and we’re perfectly comfortable. It’s not the space, it’s how ya use it! For some reason, Americans think we need giant houses/spaces to be happy. If you look at, you’ll see tons of fabulous small places where people live very comfortably.

  6. Oh, I know! My wife and cat and I lived in an under-600 ft place for 8 years and got along fine. We finally moved due to continual outside noise and a lack of wall space for storage–we had ten great windows on two walls, but they didn’t leave us any room for our stuff. We now live in a 900 ft apartment with lots of walls, and it seems like mansion to us.

    However, I still think under 500 feet seems pretty tight, and I wouldn’t count on this project having storage units for all 118 units.

  7. the mold in the place would make it very difficult to rehab. I’m surprised they haven’t demo’ed it already. think of how soon (too soon) they demo’ed the Cha Cha buildings.

  8. Do we need more overpriced condos that people can’t afford that are actually nothing more than raggedly little apartments with a new paint job?

  9. I live across the street from this eyesore and it’s time for it to GO! They finally removed the roll-up garage doors a few months ago, but the dark underside of the building still attracts all kinds of illegal activity. The bus stop across the street (next to J’s Quick Stop) has become a regular hangout for the homeless and various unsavory types, who loiter at all hours of the day. SPD is practically stationed at this corner because it’s such a hotspot. Clearing this out and developing it into a useful space will do so much for improving quality of life around this area.

  10. Build a grocery store for the lower hill. Build a retail space WITHOUT ‘subsidized’ (low income) housing jammed on top of it. Build a friggin giant ice cream parlor. For the love of all that’s holy or not just don’t build another condo farm.

  11. There is only one formula for density and to offset site cost …

    Sorry, what you suggest is called sprawl …

  12. This used to be a great building: Well maintained, with big apartments, and a spunky old lady manager who had been a waitress at Von’s for decades. Those balconies alone are almost bigger than some of the studios you see in the newer buildings :-)

    I lived in a great 60’s building at the corner of Olive St and Belmont that had nice sized apartments, a great little courtyard with a fountain, and a fun little swimming pool! It’s gone now, replaced by a horrible new development that probably has three times the units, all at a quarter of the size of the old apartments.

  13. Thanks for the encouragement on this property. We agree that our neighborhood badly needs more ‘workforce’ housing, but resources are very tight. Neighborhood support is critical to our ability to compete for funding for properties like this.

    -Michael Seiwerath
    Capitol Hill Housing

  14. I too used to live across the street from this dump and am sick of all the drug deals and bad taste in graffiti going on here! I think it is time for either a lower hill grocery store to go in (Trader Joe’s please?) or a P-Patch and park maintained by the city. This location would get plenty of sun in the summer months and would greatly serve the community as well as clean up this part of Bellevue. It seems like a waste to just build more condos when a similar development is going on two blocks up Pine in between Summit and Belmont!