Row House Cafe to Close, Making Way for More SLU Development

By Daniel Person

In September, we profiled Row House Cafe as part of a series on “hold outs” in South Lake Union, the once-blue-collar hood that is now ground zero for the Amazon takeover.

“Sitting in the heart of South Lake Union at 1170 Republican Street, the scruffy restaurant sits in deep contrast to the glittering newness around it, its oldness a form of defiance. And therein lies its beauty, say its fans,” we wrote then.

Well, not for long.

The Seattle Times is reporting that the three old homes that were fused together to create the bar and restaurant have a date with a wrecking ball “some time in 2018.” There was a push to get the 1911 homes designated historic landmarks, but to no avail.

Photo credit: Jose Trujillo

“By one vote, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Board did not muster enough votes to designate the site a landmark. A majority of the 11-member board was needed to approve the designation, and the vote was 5 to 4,” the Times reports today.

In place of the small homes will be a 91-unit apartment complex with a gym and an “indoor pet relief area,” the Times writes. This lends credence to the contention that a lot of Seattle development is dog shit.

When we wrote our story, Row House’s general manager Erin Maher was philosophical about the changing neighborhood around here, saying that the growth was a blessing and a curse.

“We opened because we knew this area was undergoing dynamic growth; we just had no idea that it would happen literally on every block in this neighborhood,” she said. “I don’t think anyone anticipated there would be so much construction all at once.”

However, she added, “You’re not going to stop growth. Physics just won’t allow it.”

No, it seems, it won’t.

Syndicated from the Seattle Weekly

Seattle City Council Approves Re-Zoning SLU for Taller Buildings

By Monica Nickelsburg

The Seattle City Council voted to increase building heights in the South Lake Union and downtown neighborhoods Monday (April 10th). It’s the second upzone that South Lake Union has seen in the past five years.

The upzone allows for buildings with an additional one to five stories. In exchange for taller buildings, developers will be required to build at least 2.1 percent affordable, income-restricted units or pay fees to the city that will go toward nonprofits that focus on affordable housing. If developers take the fee option, there’s no guarantee that the housing it funds will be built in South Lake Union or downtown.

The program is an extension of Mayor Ed Murray’s Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) plan to all of South Lake Union and a significant portion of downtown. It was a point of some contention during the City Council meeting Monday. Councilmember Lisa Herbold proposed an amendment that would increase the mandatory affordable housing to 5 percent, but it was voted down by the council.

South Lake Union has undergone a dramatic transformation in the past decade driven by the growth of Amazon, which is headquartered there. But it’s not just Amazon — Seattle’s booming technology industry is drawing record numbers of newcomers to the region, creating traffic and affordability issues around downtown.

The City hopes this legislation will reduce congestion by encouraging more people to live near their offices and alleviate some of the housing affordability issues longtime residents are facing.

“This legislation that we’re about to pass today really does set the city on a new path and a new course of requiring all construction in the city, whether it’s commercial or residential, to contribute to affordable housing,” said Councilmember Tim Burgess during the meeting. “We’ve never had a mandatory program like this.”

The upzone stems from the mayor’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA), a plan aimed at adding 50,000 new homes in Seattle over the next decade, 20,000 of which would be reserved for low- and middle-income residents.

Syndicated from GeekWire.com

Bertha Finally Breaks Through in South Lake Union

Bertha has broken into daylight.

The giant tunnel machine chewed through the side of the disassembly vault at South Lake Union about 11:25 a.m. Tuesday, after an overnight stoppage at the concrete head wall.

Bertha arrived at the tunnel’s north portal 29 months late and four years after launching in Sodo to dig the highway tube that will replace the earthquake-damaged Alaskan Way Viaduct.

The 57-foot, 4-inch wide rotating cutter, moving north on a slight upward slope, gradually pushed concrete chunks forward as it nosed through the lower part of the concrete wall.

Bertha breaks through

Despite sprinklers raining water into in the vault, thick dust filled the area and drove media and officials witnessing the event into an enclosed area.

On Monday, Joe Hedges, project administrator for the Washington State Department of Transportation, couldn’t stop smiling as he complimented the contractors, WSDOT’s oversight team, and said Washington residents should be proud the long dig was accomplished.

“To remind everybody what’s been done in the last 11 months, (they’ve) tunneled over 1.5 miles, with just amazing results, underneath the heart of the city, tunneling a five-story tunnel,” Hedges said.

Though the state and Seattle Tunnel Partners are fighting in court over a half-billion dollars in repair and delay costs, STP has also created goodwill by cruising at 40 or even 50 feet a day since passing beneath the old Alaskan Way Viaduct last April 29.

Hedges noted that much work is left to be done before the tunnel opens to traffic in early 2019.

“We’re not at the fourth quarter, we’re only at about halftime,” he said.

Crews must complete the underground double-decker highway, with two lanes going north and two going south.

There was no public access to the site, just west of Aurora Avenue. WSDOT has installed an online vault cam and is tweeting under the hashtag #Berthabreakthrough.

STP manager Chris Dixon and state officials kept saying there won’t be much spectacle. Public interest has grown anyway. Banners of Tutor-Perini and Dragados USA, the major tunneling partners, have been hung over the wall for infrastructure sponsors worldwide to notice.

Gov. Jay Inslee and Mayor Ed Murray, along with other elected officials and WSDOT leaders, were on hand for the breakthrough.

The governor acknowledges his tunnel frustrations from the 29-month delay. During a long repair stoppage in 2015, he told KIRO radio host Dori Monson that a homeowner in similar straits would whip a late contractor “like a cheap mule.”

But Inslee said last week the technology is equally memorable, and he looks forward to watching the breakthrough.

He recalled a visit early in the project, feeling like he was in a Star Wars film.

“When you stand in the tunnel, it’s five to six stories tall. It’s mind-boggling. When you go into the control room, you feel like you’re in the Millennium Falcon control room.”

Inslee also warned the state has far to go. “We’re still in a race against the next earthquake, to take the viaduct down,” he said.

Murray sponsored the 2009 tunnel legislation when he was a state senator, shortly after Gov. Chris Gregoire chose to build a single-bore, deep highway to replace the earthquake-damaged viaduct.

As mayor, Murray said, he’s had little influence over the tunnel job because it’s not only a state contract but a design-build contract in which STP does final engineering and takes on the financial risks.

He admits there were times he wasn’t sure Bertha would make it.

“Because of the way the design-build contract works, we, the city didn’t have insight into what the issue was,” Murray said. “For a while there it was unclear what was going to happen.”

He said the waterfront revival, after the viaduct is gone, “is going to capture the imagination of the city.”

Responsibility for cost overruns may take years to be settled.

Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, last week sought to revive the issue with a bill that would withhold state revenue sharing for transportation, liquor and marijuana-related health programs, and municipal courts unless Seattle pays any future cost overruns.

The 2009 legislation said excess state costs would be borne by property owners who benefit, and “a promise is a promise,” Orcutt argues.

Murray said of that concept: “I really don’t think, if you’re a Republican legislator or a Democratic legislator, you want your local city or county to pay for state roads. I think that would be an unbelievable way to go.”

Syndicated from The Seattle Times

South Lake Union Rezone Approved by Council Committee

A Seattle City Council committee took a step forward Tuesday in rezoning South Lake Union, Lower Queen Anne, and Downtown neighborhoods.

The Council’s Planning, Land Use, and Zoning committee voted 3-0 to forward the legislation, which would allow taller building heights in exchange for affordable housing.

Councilmember Lisa Herbold expressed her concerns on the equation used to determine the heights and suggested she could provide amendments in the future.

As crafted, the legislation would allow buildings up to 40 feet taller than the current code, depending on the amount of affordable market units within the building.

Councilmember Rob Johnson, who chairs the committee and presided over multiple amendments, acknowledged there will likely be changes to the legislation before a full Council vote on April 10.

Syndicated from King5 News.

Mayor Ed Murray Proposes Taller Buildings in SLU in Exchange for More Affordable Housing

Downtown Seattle and South Lake Union are the next neighborhoods where Mayor Ed Murray wants to allow taller buildings in exchange for help with affordable housing.

Under the proposed upzone, new projects would be allowed to climb one or several stories higher, depending on location. In some cases, projects would be allowed more floor area.

Photo source: Wikipedia Commons

But the Pike Place Market and Pioneer Square historic districts would be exempted from the changes, which the council’s land-use committee will take up Tuesday.

The upzone would trigger the city’s new Mandatory Housing Affordability program, which requires developers to include rent-controlled units in their projects or pay fees to help create such units elsewhere.

That program already is coming to the University District because the council voted to upzone that neighborhood last month.

Murray will ask the council to upzone more than two dozen additional neighborhoods later this year and next year.

He says the program’s goal is to create 6,000 rent-controlled units over 10 years.

In downtown and South Lake Union, housing developers would need to make about 2 to 5 percent of their units rent-controlled or pay fees of $5.50 to $13 per square foot.

Commercial developers would need to devote about 5 to 11 percent of their gross floor area to rent-controlled units or pay fees of $8 to $16 per square foot.

The affordable-housing requirements proposed for downtown and South Lake Union are lower than those proposed for other neighborhoods.

That’s because high-rise buildings are particularly expensive to construct and because the zoning changes would be more incremental there than in other neighborhoods, Murray administration officials say.

It’s also because some downtown and South Lake Union zones already require developers to provide benefits such as public open space and street improvements, officials say.

Despite the lower affordable-housing requirements, Murray administration officials say downtown and South Lake Union would generate as many as 2,100 rent-controlled units.

Where those would be located is another story. Most developers in downtown and South Lake Union would likely choose to pay fees rather than include units in their buildings.

The city would use the fees to help nonprofit developers build rent-controlled housing. Those projects could be in downtown and South Lake Union or could be in other neighborhoods.

Officials say fees are valuable because they can be combined with other financing to create more affordable housing.

If the council approves the upzone, the developer of a 44-story apartment building might be required to include 25 rent-controlled units or pay $5 million in fees.

The developer of a 35-story commercial building might be required to include 74 rent-controlled units or pay $7.8 million in fees.

Since 2001, the city has operated an incentive-zoning program in parts of downtown and South Lake Union. Under that program, developers can choose to build affordable housing or pay fees in exchange for more floor area.

If the council approves the upzone, Murray’s new, mandatory program would replace the existing, voluntary program.

The downtown and South Lake Union upzone may prove less controversial than those proposed for neighborhoods such as Wallingford, Othello and South Park, which would allow larger apartment buildings and convert some blocks now zoned exclusively for single-family, detached homes.

Syndicated from The Seattle Times.