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South Lake Union – What the People Said

March 31, 2011 by  
Filed under Featured, Land Use

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People had a LOT to say at a March 28th meeting sponsored by the City of Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development.  Held at Unity Church in South Lake Union, around 200 attendees learned about, and provided, inital feedback on SLU’s future– as currently outlined on 659 pages.

slu roadSouth Lake Union was first designated as an Urban Center in 2004, and since then the City has been working on a 25-year plan to fully utilize the area’s potential. Its Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the South Lake Union Height Alternatives addresses plans to:

  • Develop a more diverse and attractive community with a mix of housing types and land uses, plus defined building types and heights.
  • Use height and density increases to meet other goals such as increased affordable housing and open space, plus public benefits through incentive zoning.
  • Enhance street-level pedestrian quality with public view corridors and retail activities.
  • Provide a full transportation system including street networks, transit and non-motorized travel. 
  • Maintain utility systems (electrical, water, sewer and storm drains).
  • Ensure adequate zoned development capacity for long-term growth.

slu militaryDisplay boards highlighted the four Alternatives, or plans, as outlined in the Draft EIS. Attendees discussed the Alternatives with DOPD staff members and consultants.   A presentation by the City followed, explaining how the Draft EIS will work as a tool for the City and its residents to assess the pros and cons of each Alternative.  You can find the plan on this link.  We stayed for the first 35 minutes of commentary (two minutes per person).  Most of those speakers seemed to have read the Draft EIS from cover to cover.

The first stated that 50% of new city populations develop in Urban Centers, and South Lake Union is the most expandable (Seattle) area to accommodate that.

slu streetcarA rep from the construction sector was very enthusiastic about the possibilities of South Lake Union development.  He commented that it’s very flat, very buildable– a real opportunity to build for the future, with a focus on its growing industries such as UofW Research, Fred Hutchinson, and amazon.com.  A restaurant owner later stated that strong residential growth keeps small businesses thriving, too.

Another speaker was dismayed to detect negativity in the Draft EIS, which she felt didn’t expand on the qualities that South Lake Union has and could have. She was also adamant that she and her Gen Y peers would not live in “a city full of Pete Seeger’s Little Boxes on the Hillside” (actually written by Malvina Reynolds).

draft eis 2Most of the speakers, including a surprising number of residents, supported Alternative 1, which carries the greatest height and density levels.  They were tempered by concerns that the Draft EIS made little or no mention of public transportation and services other than police and fire (worries about those, too).  They said it didn’t seem to address families with children, and there was no mention of plans for schools.

Although Alternative 1 was a clear choice among those we heard, others wanted to ensure the City would strive to retain a strong cross-section of residents. We paraphrase one speaker who said she’d “rather have a good mix of 27,000 instead of an 18,000 mix of millionaires.”

Since Alternative 1 was so popular, we’ll provide more details on it in a few days.  To comment on the Draft EIS, send an email to jim.holmes@seattle.gov by Monday, April 11th, the last day for public input. After that, they’ll begin work on a Final EIS for summer release.  We’ll let you know when.

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Open House: Klee, Unit 634 – Sunday, April 3rd

March 30, 2011 by  
Filed under Klee Suites & Lofts

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Klee Lofts ~ 2717 Western Avenue ~ Unit # 634

$299,999

MLS# 169533

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011 ~ Open from 12 noon  to 2 p.m.

Your Host is James Stroupe

206.910.5000  ~  james@stroupe.com

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And now we’re into April.  It’s a time of new beginnings… and time for you to look at this beautiful large, top floor one bedroom, one bath home!  Its spacious kitchen is great for creating everthing from intimate dinners to holiday galas.  It also has a large den which can easily be turned into a home office, study, or an entertainment area.  The den can even be converted into a second bedroom!  Or, if you prefer, book the Klee’s Guest Suite for visitors instead.  Want more?  Here you go:  it also comes with adjoining storage, plus a great parking space — no car neighbor!  The deck is double-sized and private, with a southwest view of the Waterfront and Elliott Bay.

The Klee’s main common rooms contain numerous original works of art by Northwest artists, the most prominent being a series of glass waterfalls by Nancy Mee in the entry lobby.  In the center of the Klee community is a courtyard, where you can cook steaks on the grill or simply relax among the garden setting.  Other amenities include an on-site manager, media room, fitness center, a 24-hour computer room with internet, fax and printer, plus a club room with adjoining deck. 

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AND, you can leave your car in that spiffy parking space of yours, then stroll  to restaurants or shopping on Western Avenue, the Waterfront or First Avenue.  Pick up fresh produce and fish from Pike Place Market, steps away.  Seattle Art Museum’s Sculpture Park is one block north.  No car?  Rejoice, all you pedestrians… the Klee scores a perfect 100 on walkscore.com!

Simply put, some of the best that Belltown has to offer is right outside your front door.  Come visit us at the marvelous Klee Lofts and Suites on Sunday.  If you’re unable to attend but would like to schedule a private showing, just drop us a line at urgent@stroupe.com.

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South Lake Union Changes: Good? Bad? Your Call

March 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Land Use

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What do the words “height”, “density”, “commercial” and “residential” all have in common?  They’re all a major part of the plans to reshape the South Lake Union neighborhood.  Changes of all kinds are coming to this area–  and you can hear all about it on Monday evening.

Draft EIS note: "Source: South Lake Union Urban Center Neighborhood Plan, 2007"

Draft EIS note: "Source: South Lake Union Urban Center Neighborhood Plan, 2007"

First, let’s look at the definition of the South Lake Union Urban Center as determined by the City:  SLU covers nearly 340 acres and is located in the center of the City of Seattle.  Geographical boundaries are the Lake Union Shoreline to the north, Denny Way to the south, Interstate 5 to the east and Aurora Avenue to the west.  Adjoining neighborhoods place SLU north of Downtown, with Capitol Hill to the east and Uptown to the west.  The City went deeper into its SLU definition by identifying six “neighborhoods”, referred to as Dexter, Denny Park, Waterfront, Westlake, Fairview and Cascade.  The map to the right roughly outlines these areas.

A Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the South Lake Union Height Alternatives was written by the City of Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development.  You can find the plan on this link.  Review it in the sections they have outlined instead of all at once… the full Draft EIS is 659 pages long.  It’s a pretty dense report, as you can imagine, so if you’d rather cut to the chase, here’s some highlights.  The Draft EIS addresses:

  • A more diverse and attractive community by providing a mix of housing types and  land uses, plus defined building types and heights.
  • Using height and density increases to help meet other neighborhood goals such as increased affordable housing and open space, plus other public benefits through incentive zoning.
  • Enhancing street-level pedestrian quality with public view corridors and retail activities .
  • Accommodating growth while maintaining a transportation system of street networks, transit and non-motorized travel. 
  • Maintaining utility systems including electrical, water, sewer and storm drain systems.
  • Ensuring adequate zoned development capacity for long-term growth.

draft eis 2There is no master plan for South Lake Union – yet.  Monday’s meeting will cover four initial ideas called Alternatives.  They’re defined as follows:

Alternative 1 – outlines the greatest potential for height and density increases for commercial and residential development

Alternative 2 – mid-point between Alternatives 1 and 3, it contains lesser height and density increases for commercial and residential development

Alternative 3 – provides the least potential for height and density increases, and only deals with  residential  development

Alternative 4—“no action”, retaining existing zoning, and no height increase incentives

We pulled an attachment out of the Draft EIS which better outlines how the Alternatives stack up the various areas of planning.  You can open it here:  slu draft eis alternatives

draft eis 3To learn more about the City’s plans for South Lake Union, come to a public meeting exploring the Draft EIS on Monday, March 28th, at Unity Church, 200 Eighth Avenue N in downtown Seattle.  The meeting will start around 5:30 p.m.  with an Open House, where City staff and the consultants will be available for questions. The public comment portion of the meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m.  Can’t make it?  Don’t worry.  We’ll be there, and we’ll follow up with a report on the evening’s events.

Another date to keep in mind is April 11th.  This will be the last day you’ll be able to provide comments to the City.  From there, they’ll review all the input and start work on the Final South Lake Union EIS.

We’ll keep in touch as the South Lake Union plans progress.

Alex? No. Volta? No. Foreclosed? Well…

March 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Belltown, Featured

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Suppose you gave an auction and nobody came?  That was about the size of it when, after no bidders came forward to buy the troubled Volta property on March 18th, East West Bank went ahead and foreclosed. 

volta 1The saga of 2233 First Avenue began with development of a project called Alex in the fall of 2007, owned by an LLC headed by Saltaire Construction.  Located at the prime Belltown location of First Avenue and Bell, this boutique project was mapped out for eight stories plus a penthouse level.  There would be 20 floorplans to choose from, units from 600 – 1,200 sq ft, upscale features, a rooftop lap pool, priced between $500,000 and $2 million. A loan was made through Washington First International Bank for $12 million.  Alex was scheduled to open in the fall of 2008– when, in its first streak of bad luck, the economic roof caved in.

Fast forward to March 2010. Construction nearly finished, it was decided to give the Alex a second chance at life by  repackaging it under the name of Volta.  Why Volta?  We checked wikipedia.org to see if there was a meaning beyond the name of a river in Ghana.  Sure enough, listed was an Italian physicist named Alessandro Volta, whose claim to fame is inventing the electric battery.  ”Alessandro” paid homage to the original building name, and its location on Bell Street was one block away from… Battery Street.  There you go. It was also repriced from $299,950 to $1,095,950 (for a penthouse shell), and amenities changed to a rooftop deck, dog run area and green space. 

Things were looking up when three months later, bad luck struck again!  The project was blindsided with a bank closure on  Washington First International Bank that June.  East West Bank, located in Pasadena, California, became the new lender.  Finally, on January 20th, 2011, East West announced that at $1.48 million in arrears plus interest and fees (on a second WFIB loan of $1.4 million), the Volta was headed for auction.

volta2That brings us to today… where we discover that the luck at this address may finally be changing.  2233 First Avenue was appraised at nearly $5 million by King County, and its location in the heart of Belltown offers amazing views of Elliott Bay, Mt Rainier and downtown.  In reality, this property is pretty hot at the moment– we’ve heard that up to 35 buyers are very interested in it!  East West is most likely biding its time a bit longer before settling on a buyer who will allow them to bleed the least on their balance sheet.  Not so lucky was WF Capital Inc., which provided a $3.75 million loan in late 2008.  There were also a number of construction liens on this still-unfinished project, and some lawsuits are still pending.  It may be some time before the property shakes free from the ashes, and rises once and for all.  However, we’re betting it will do just that.

We’ll be watching this one carefully, and will keep you posted on any developments.

Hjärta – Living Green, and Making Green

March 14, 2011 by  
Filed under Featured, Hjarta

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rsz_hjarta_kitchenHear what you will about home sales in Seattle, but we continue to find success stories all over the place.  The latest news is that Ballard-based Hjärta Condos has closed 13 sales in three months! 

There are two reasons for this tremendous burst of success.  The first one is price reductions.  A review was done on every unit and pricing was readjusted accordingly.  Low HOA dues and FHA financing are also helping to close deals. The second is that Hjärta is currently the only LEED Silver-certified suburban Seattle condominium development.  Constructed of concrete and steel, it also includes high-performance fiberglass windows, a central gas boiler instead of individual water heaters, and energy-efficient elevators.  Hjärta owners average a 30% reduction in energy bills.  Buyers are finding this competitive with buildings of wood frame construction.

rsz_hjarta_deckHjärta’s Ballard location is only 10 minutes north of downtown Seattle.  It’s also within walking distance of public transportation, locally-owned shopping, dining, salons, coffee shops, movie theaters, groceries and recreation. Speaking of recreation, the area is pedestrian and bicycle-friendly.  Old Ballard Avenue is nearby, as is Market Street, plus you’re a mile away from the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks.  

rsz_hjarta_bathThere’s some great amenities, too.  Hjärta’s rooftop garden provides raised beds for vegetables, flowers and herbs. Add some lush professional landscaping and it provides a peaceful retreat from the day, not to mention spectacular city, water and mountain views.  An elegant common area features a pool table, catering kitchen, fireplace and internet access. Comfortable for socializing, it also opens to a private, inviting outdoor deck. It’s the perfect place to host old friends or meet new neighbors.

That’s enough about amenities for your soul… how about some for your body?  Aside from the ease of walking and biking, Hjärta also has a private Yoga Room which provides mats, straps, blocks and other accoutrements for resident use.  Its Workout Room is perfect for a good cardio or weight workout, with natural daylight and a TV to keep you moving.

rsz_hjarta_lroomCurrently, one bedroom homes start at $259,950. A one bedroom corner unit with 917 sq ft is priced at $319,950.  They also have two bedroom homes.  One recently sold at $379,950, and a corner unit with an outdoor patio is currently priced at $409,950.  Penthouses on the 7th and 8th floors are also available.

 All in all, Hjärta offers a nice mix of green, high-rise living in a neighborhood setting.   If you would like more information or to schedule a private tour, just drop us a line at urgent@stroupe.com.

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Gallery Condominiums – Looking Back, and Ahead

March 13, 2011 by  
Filed under Featured, Gallery

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rsz_gallery_stack_2bThe story began on March 4th, 2011, the day before 24 units of Gallery Condominiums were scheduled to go up for auction—with a press release announcing there was now NO auction!  An eleventh-hour decision by Gallery Condominium, LLC and auction coordinator Accelerated Marketing Partners radically shifted the March 5th  auction at the Grand Hyatt to a non-compete buy on a first come, first serve basis at the Gallery itself.  

There’s much to speculate about the sudden format change.  Adding to the confusion was the press release itself.  It stated that the Sales Event would only be opened to potential buyers who officially registered during the auction campaign.  Later, we were told that the public could preview the homes that Saturday morning, then sign up at the Gallery Sales Information Center for the afternoon sale. 

A number of price incentives were in place, but tighter credit requirements and expensive conventional financing slowed the purchase process.  Buyers needed more time to obtain financing pre-approvals, and were allowed seven days to finalize their purchase.  Of the 24 homes offered that day, only eight were sold. 

rsz_gallery_stack_1The Sales Event may have been a little too much and way too late–  but the Gallery story may still have a happy ending.  We checked with management and a week later, sales are running on a positive note.  Three more homes have sold since the March 5th event, with three offers pending.  There are a total of  29 units open, building occupancy is now at 87%.

And, we still feel that the Gallery is a great property for a first-time buyer, a professional or an empty-nester.  Situated at 2911 Second Ave (at Broad St), Gallery captures Space Needle views to the east, and Elliott Bay panoramas to the west. Its crossroads location allows you to easily zip up to Queen Anne, out to Ballard or South Lake Union, or into Downtown Seattle.  No car?  Their WalkScore is ranked 92 out of a possible 100.

rsz_1gallery_bottomFloorplans offer maximum use of space. Interiors include European-styled kitchens with custom cabinetry, slab granite or microcrystal countertops and premium stainless steel appliances; floor to ceiling windows; hardwood floors; and generous balconies.  Amenities include a full-service concierge, two-story lobby, Owners Lounge, plus an exclusive Supper Club and Sky Lounge to accommodate your special events.

The Gallery is back to traditional sales methods, with prices 10%-15% lower from the most previous listings. Open one bedrooms range from $225,000 to $315,000. A two bedroom, two bath is going for $459,000. Homes are available on all sides of the building—three with water views, others with great views of the Cascades and Downtown.  There is also special pricing for homes located on the lower  levels. 

Check out our Gallery website, GalleryinBelltown.com for more information. If you would like to schedule a private tour, just drop us a line at urgent@stroupe.com.

Follow That Pig! Rachel’s Seattle Tour

March 12, 2011 by  
Filed under Pike Place Market

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rsz_hoof_1Pike Place Market’s  famous and much-loved “unofficial” mascot Rachel the Piggybank has successfully recovered from injuries sustained in a car accident and will be en route back to her home at the Market the week of March 13th.  But, while she’s still hoof-loose and cement-free, Rachel’s going to take a rock star-type tour of some of her favorite Seattle spots before heading home for good.

rsz_hoof_22Rachel became a Pike Place Market mainstay in 1986, where she greets the public under the Market’s famous clock and sign.  As a working piggybank, all proceeds go to the Market Foundation to raise money and awareness for the four human service agencies based in the Market Historic District (Pike Market Medical Clinic, Pike Market Food Bank, Pike Market Childcare & Preschool and the Pike Market Senior Center). 

rsz_pig_cityLife took a strange little turn the morning of February 5th, when a rear-ended taxicab lost control on rain-soaked streets and plowed into a wall of construction fencing at the Market—and also into Rachel. The 550-pound bronze-cast pig was knocked off the pins securing her to the cement and flew about 10 feet, landing on her left side.  

rsz_hoof_4Rachel didn’t die, of course, but she did suffer injuries which needed  a good dose of tender loving care.  She sustained a number of scrapes and small abrasions, but the most serious damage was a 10-inch crack along the top of her left ear and a large dent on her left side.  Fortunately, the dent was a shallow one.  The crack was welded, the abrasions were sanded, and all is well again.  Who did the repair work?  A team of three led by Rachel’s “mom”—her creator, Whidbey Island artist Georgia Gerber.   

rsz_hoof_5Rachel will be zipping around town on the back of the Market’s vintage 1936 farm truck.  Follow the hoofprints down the side of this article for her appearance schedule.  After her final stop at Westlake Plaza, Rachel will return to a hero’s welcome at the Market, scheduled around 1:30 p.m.   We do say “hero” because there could have been a lot more damage done to the Market had she and the construction wall not stopped the car. 

rsz_hoof_6Pike Place Market’s $68.6 million renovation is going strong, and it’s still estimated that everything will be completed by May, 2011.  In the meantime, there is constant movearound of the shops and restaurants in all Market buildings. Their website can keep you updated on the latest news, and you can even register online to get weekly updates on the renovation and the affected businesses for that time period.  In the meantime, enjoy some Rachel-spotting!

The Decatur: Cheaper to Own than Renting?

March 10, 2011 by  
Filed under Decatur, Featured

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decatur awningWe’ve recently received a study claiming that it’s now more cost-effective to own at The Decatur Condominiums than it is to rent in the popular First Hill neighborhood.  This study compares one and two bedroom homes in The Decatur to comparable properties offered at nearby apartment buildings.  It considers variable market dynamics including lower selling prices, FHA financing, historically low interest rates, rising rents and tax advantages for homebuyers.  The chart they provided contains two scenarios tallied over a period of five years aggregating the total housing costs for both renting and owning, and you can tap onto it here– The_Decatur_Chart.

The study also referred to a recent Puget Sound Business Journal article headlined “Ascent of Rent” , which takes a look at rental rate increases, plus the lack of new condominium projects scheduled for development.  This article also covers the number of rental properties slated for construction–subject, as always, to funding availability.    

decatur interiorMore than 80% sold, The Decatur has 146-units comprised of one and two bedroom homes starting from just $187,500.  Built in 1950, the concrete and steel high-rise landmark was substantially renovated in 2006 and 2007, and converted to condominiums before the market corrected.  Prices are now up to 40% below the original sales prices.  Take a look at the links we’ve provided and if you’d like more information or to schedule a private tour, just contact us at urgent@stroupe.com.

Open House: 8309 24th Avenue, Ballard

March 3, 2011 by  
Filed under Land Use

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8309 24th Ave (Ballard), Seattle

4 Bedroom, 2 Bath

$455,000

MLS #  173321

Sunday, March 6th, 2011 ~ Open from 1 to 4 p.m.

Your Host is Jim Stroupe

206.910.5000 ~ james@stroupe.com

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Nestled in a wonderful Ballard neighborhood, this 4 bedroom, 2 bath home is where modern living meets old-fashioned romance.  You’ll find a number of beautiful touches throughout, including hardwood floors, crown molding and wainscoting.  Large picture windows let in plenty of light.  AND, check out that fireplace in the top photo! 

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The main rooms are generous in size, with entranceways easily flowing from one room into another.  The light-filled corner kitchen features tiled countertops, oak cabinets and an informal eating area. 

Of course, there’s more.  The basement is fully finished and carpeted, perfect for a family room, play area, or even a man cave.  And, the fenced backyard is perfect for pets, outdoor entertaining, or to just hang out.  A new, energy-efficient furnace completes the package. 

Own a piece of the classic American dream.  This home has endless potential, a place where special memories are waiting to be made.   Come see us on Sunday!  If you’re unable to make it, just drop us a line at urgent@stroupe.com to arrange for your own private tour.

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