To say life is busy at Pioneer Square is an understatement! From building rezoning to preservation, the changes now occurring in Seattle’s oldest neighborhood are fast, huge, and potentially historical. With change, of course, come a few growing pains.
Pioneer Square is on the north end of what the City of Seattle deems “South Downtown”, stretching across the International District and over the Stadium District. The City does not set official neighborhood boundaries, but the Pioneer Square zone is roughly bordered by Alaskan Way S/Occidental Ave S; S Royal Brougham Way; 4th Avenue S; and a little north of Yesler Way. More on that later.
In April, 2011, the Seattle City Council ratified new building heights for South Downtown. Addressing concerns that area development was not keeping pace with the rest of the city, hopes were that the new height limits would spur construction and stimulate growth. It got a little heated when the talk came to Pioneer Square.
Developers and the Downtown Seattle Association wanted heights up to 180 feet (18 stories if you calculate 10 feet per story). Preservationists argued that this would be way too high, and radically alter the face of Pioneer Square (also on the National Register of Historic Places). Preservationists further stated that increased heights in surrounding neighborhoods would still draw people to Pioneer Square without threatening its culture and character.
Compromise was made. Zoned as Pioneer Square Mixed, buildings may go as high as 100 feet as long as they’re not more than 15 feet taller than the adjacent buildings. Some areas could rise to 120 feet (without the 15-foot restriction) when certain provisions were met. Part of the entire new South Downtown rezoning plan, these provisions include: Affordable Housing; Historic Preservation; Public Safety; Parking; Economic Development; and Walkability.
The City’s recent focus on Pioneer Square began in June 2010 when it released a plan called Pioneer Square 2015, A Strategy for Seattle’s First Neighborhood. This link points to how we’re doing one year later.
More changes are occurring to encourage growth in the area. The City is now laying conduit under First Avenue for fiber-optic broadband internet, and Comcast has been selected as the service provider. Access begins in September.
Businesses are giving Pioneer Square a second look, and moving in! Two examples are Onehub, specializing in file sharing resources, arriving from Bellevue and Jones Soda, currently at South Lake Union, relocating near CenturyLink Field.
Pioneer Square’s legacy is important to the history of Seattle. On the historical side, the Trail to Treasure was introduced in May, 2011. Its goal is to bring the story of Seattle’s beginning to life through a walking tour of Pioneer Square. There’s still much to do to complete the full project, but you can currently hit a number of stops (and some side trips) that helped shape the history and development of Pioneer Square, and Seattle/Puget Sound itself. Pick up a free map at the Cadillac Hotel (which is also a national park) at 319 Second Avenue S, or you can download it here.
The Alliance for Pioneer Square is dedicated to promoting Pioneer Square’s history and its local/tourist destination. The Seattle Square, in Occidental Park, will run through the fall. This outdoor market operates on Thursdays from 4:00-9:00 p.m with vintage and craft vendors, plus a rotation of food vendors and music. Finally, catch Pioneer Square’s monthly First Thursday Art Walk. This is the oldest and largest ArtWalk in Seattle, ongoing for nearly 30 years.
We’ll continue to keep you informed as Pioneer Square evolves—in both body, and soul.
This year’s federal filing deadline has been moved to Monday, April 18th. More about why later, let’s get to work on deductions! We riffled through a few websites and came across a few items we hope you know about… or should be made aware of.
Refinancing points– Any points you pay to refinance your home can be deducted on a monthly basis over the life of the new loan.
Old refinancing points– Unamortized points can be deducted in the year of a new refinancing. And, if you can refinance a 2010 loan in 2011, you can write off the remaining balance in 2012.
Homebuyer Tax Credit—If you received the $7,500 repayable credit in 2008, you’re now liable for repayment at $500 per year. The $8,000 first-time homebuyer credits of 2009 need no repayment.
Property Tax Deduction—You were able to claim $1,000 on top of the standard deduction for 2009, but not in 2010. Congress let it expire.
Energy Savings Home Improvement Credit— You may be eligible for a 30% credit (maximum $1,500) for skylights, outside doors, windows, pigmented roofs, furnaces, water heaters or central air installed in your primary residence.
Health insurance premiums—Self-Employed: Deduct the full amount of your self-employed health insurance premiums to the extent of your net income if the expense is included in your adjusted gross income. You can also deduct health insurance premiums when you calculate your self-employment Social Security and Medicare taxes. Premiums paid after March 30, 2010 for kids up to age 27 are deductible. On the other end, self-employed seniors age 65 and up can deduct Medicare premiums. Employer Paid: All health insurance premiums, including some long-term-care (depends on your age), can be deductible. Add these to your medical expenses, and if they exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income, ka-ching!
Tax expenses – You can include tax-planning and investment expenses but the total needs to exceed 2% of adjusted gross income. Includes tax preparation fees, plus tax-planning legal or accounting fees. The tax part of estate planning is deductible, too.
Investment expenses — Annual broker fees, directly paid IRA fees, even your security deposit box. You can also deduct investment-related subscriptions such as Barron’s, Forbes, etc., and get receipts for your investment-related newsstand pickups, too. Long-distance phone calls to your broker and investment adviser are deductible, so are parking fees and mileage when you visit them.
Charitable contributions—This is an auditing minefield, so keep good receipts. Pay by credit card and the deduction is taken on the year you made the charge, and not the charge card payment. Don’t forget receipts for cash transactions, too. If you donate through your company payroll, save your annual report.
Donated items— Items dropped in a donation box also bring on auditing risks because you don’t get a receipt. Many feel more comfortable either dropping items off directly at the nonprofit, or having the nonprofit pick them up. Most will give you a receipt where you fill in the amount. If you’re not sure how to calculate value, ask the charity for a suggested amount. Be fair about actual value.
Educator expenses– If you’re a K-12 teacher, aide, instructor or principal, you may be able to get an above-the-line deduction of up to $250 for materials such as books, supplies, or equipment.
Higher education expenses—If you or your kids attend college, the American Opportunity Credit is worth up to $2,500 per undergraduate student. A Lifetime Learning Credit is worth as much as $2,000 per return. Compare and see what’s best.
Continuing Education courses: You can’t deduct expenses to qualify for a new business or profession. However, you can deduct continuing-education courses taken to either maintain your business/professional license, or to enhance your business-related skills.
Business gifts and Greeting Cards: Greeting cards to clients and prospects are a deductible advertising expense. Gifts you purchase for clients are deductible but limited to $25 per person per year. Companywide gifts are deductible in any amount, as long as it’s reasonable.
The April 18th filing deadline is thanks to Emancipation Day in Washington, DC. This District of Columbia holiday, celebrated on April 15th this year, honors Abraham Lincoln’s freeing nearly 3,100 slaves nine months prior to his Emancipation Proclamation.
These tips are meant to be guidelines only. Restrictions apply in some situations. The IRS has a very comprehensive tax website, even an online filing system. You can access their information through www.irs.gov , or toll free 800-829-1040, or consult your tax professional with any tax questions you may have.
The South Lake Union Urban Design Framework (UDF) is completed and you’re invited to join the party! Sponsored by the City of Seattle Department of Planning and Development, it’ll be held on Tuesday evening, February 8th from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. at the Cascade People’s Center, located at 309 Pontius Ave N (cross is Thomas Street and two blocks west of Eastlake Ave E) in South Lake Union.
The UDF is a collaboration among South Lake Union’s neighbors, City staff and design professionals. Their goal is to establish a shared design vision and implementation strategy for the future of the SLU neighborhood. Recommendations range from specific actions, such as creating a new community center at Denny Park; to broader strategies using building form and land use controls to create and maintain an active and inviting lakefront.
Key elements of the UDF include recommendations to create community gateways signifying entrance into distinct neighborhoods; developing neighborhood ‘hearts’ to serve as focal points of the neighborhood for people to gather and interact; and, to develop a network of great streets including green streets and festival streets.
Finally, the UDF will complement the City’s soon-to-be released Draft Environmental Impact Statement studying potential increases in height and density in the neighborhood. Together, these documents will guide zoning code changes, design guidelines, infrastructure investments, streetscape planning, and a variety of other programs and policies shaping the public realm of South Lake Union.
The UDF is available online. You’ll find it on the DPD website by clicking onto this link. It’s a 40 page .pdf file so it may take awhile to download. And don’t forget to join the UDF Completion Celebration on Tuesday, February 8th at Cascade People’s Center from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m.!
We recently reported on parking updates, and now we’ll look at mass transit. Most of us have experienced a late or no-show bus, some even deciding that $20 of parking is worth 40 minutes of wasted time. However, new technology could now change your mind. AND, if mass transit access is a factor in your real estate purchase, we’ve come across a link for that as well. Click on the titles below for these websites:
ONE BUS AWAY – is an online bus tracking system, using data feed supplied by transponders of its various transit companies. There’s even an “Explore” tool which allows you to search for restaurants, businesses, parks and other amenities “One Bus Away”!
Get real-time arrival information, on the stop of your choice, for the following transit companies:
- Metro Transit
- Washington State Ferries
- King County Marine Division (Water Taxi)
- Sound Transit
- Community Transit
- Pierce Transit
And, you’re able to access this in a number of ways:
- Web Interface
- Touch-Tone Phone
- SMS Text
Plus, there are native OneBusAway client setups for:
- Windows Phone 7
Finally, OneBusAway is a local business! It was developed at the University of Washington by grad students Brian Ferris and Kari Watkins, with additional funding by Nokia Research and the National Science Foundation. It’s an open-source system and the group is working towards offering the service to other cities nationwide. OneBusAway was also a 2010 winner at the Washington Technology Industry Association’s Industry Achievement Awards.
RIDER ALERT – Sign up for your bus route and Metro’s “rider alert” tool delivers text or e-mail alerts about your bus in case of construction, special event re-routing, or snow emergencies. It’ll also zap you an email with schedule changes and holiday information.
METRO APP CENTER – There are a number of apps and mobile tools which developers have built using Metro Transit data, and they’re free for you to download at this site, including OneBusAway.
REAL ESTATE — For those who want to buy in an area with mass transit options, there’s a local link in the Metro App Center for estately.com. Click on Options. The right hand column has a “choose” link under Mass Transit where you can type in a Metro route number, and properties either along or close to that bus line appear. You can check out neighborhood walkability scores and yes, parking too. Run in conjunction with NWMLS, it provides a lot of information and can be confusing to wander through. Just contact us at this Stroupe Group link and we’ll help you find what you’re looking for, in fewer steps.
There’s still some glitches with OneBusAway and Rider Alert, most recently when buses changed to snow routes during the recent Thanksgiving week storms. In 2011, these should run smoother when Metro buses are equipped with GPS systems. Technology comes at a price, though– fare increases for most passenger groups go up in January. However, mass transit is easiest on the environment, your wallet and your driving sanity. For most of us, mass transit is the only way to fly.
Among Seattle’s great neighborhoods are a dozen monthly Artwalks, and they’re ready for holiday shoppers! All types of media are featured, but most Artwalks also have music, food and special events, too. Artwalk hours are from 6-9 pm unless otherwise noted. Below is a timeline of what’s happening when during December, as well as when Artwalks are held year-round. Click on the neighborhood name for their weblink.
December 1st (first Wednesdays)
Wallingford – One of the largest of the neighborhood art walks, most located right on 45th St N.
December 2nd (first Thursdays)
Pioneer Square – This venue is so big, it’s best to check their website where you can choose what kind of art you’re searching for.
Chinatown – This month, they also have Shop-o-Rama events on Saturdays from December 4-18.
December 3rd (first Fridays)
Fremont – You don’t need a First Friday to party at Fremont, but this month also hosts the Annual Lenin Lighting! Join the fun at 5 pm and stay for shopping at many venues.
December 9th (second Thursdays)
Capitol Hill –Hours for the Blitz Capitol Hill Arts Walk runs from 5-8 pm. Wander around more than 50 venues, with activities varying every month.
West Seattle – Over 60 merchants covering West Seattle Junction, Alki Beach, Admiral District, Morgan Junction, Fauntleroy District and Delridge. This month’s hours are extended for late night shopping.
December 10th (second Fridays)
Greenwood/Phinney –Located along Phinney Ave N and Greenwood Ave N.
December 11th (second Saturdays)
Ballard — Start at the south end of Ballard Ave, work your way up the street to Market and beyond!
Central District — Held at 23rd Ave and E Cherry St from 1-5 pm.
Georgetown – Art Attack at over 30 venues, covering the neighborhood, the Horton Building, south of Corson and North Airport Way.
December 16th (third Thursdays)
Belltown – Art, food and music all around Belltown.
Upper Queen Anne – No active website available. Look for the balloons in front of participating venues along Queen Anne Ave N.
If you’d like to see all the Artwalk information at a glance, Seattle Councilman Nick Licata has a great arts link. Check it out for all kinds of Seattle culture information. And happy shopping!
Ready or not, it’s Holiday Time! Downtown Seattle’s holidays link is loaded with information about entertainment and arts events, shopping, dining and fun in general. But where, oh where, can you park?
GARAGES: TRY e-PARK!
The City of Seattle recently introduced e-Park, a guidance system providing short-term (approx 2-4 hours) parking information in real time. At a glance, e-Park signs can guide you to available parking spaces throughout the Downtown Retail Core and Pike Place Market, a combined total of over 4,500 parking spaces. Here are the e-Park locations:
Republic Parking at Third and Stewart Street Garage
Washington State Convention and Trade Center
Pike Place Market
Unico Properties at the Puget Sound Plaza/Cobb Building garage
Pine Street Group and Ampco Parking at the Pacific Place Garage
Washington Athletic Club
Second Avenue, near the southwest corner of Second and Virginia
Fifth Avenue, near the northwest corner of Fifth and Lenora
The system is pretty simple. At key entrance points to downtown, signs guide drivers towards participating garages with available short-term spaces. The sign above will tell you, in real time, how many spaces are available in each garage.
You can also plot your parking strategy ahead of time by visiting www.seattle.gov/parkingmap. This is an interactive citywide parking map, displaying e-Park and on-street parking information, garage and lot locations, rates, and hours of operation.
The e-Park system is not a new one. Guidance system technology is commonly used throughout Europe and in our country, has caught on in Portland, San Francisco and San Jose. Seattle’s program is unique because in addition to city garages, we also partner with those that are privately owned. Watch for the program to expand into Pioneer Square and the Central Waterfront within the next two years.
METERED PARKING: LATEST NEWS
In recent days, the Seattle City Council made compromises with Mayor Mike McGinn on this hot-button issue. Meter rates will increase up to $4 an hour, BUT not in all neighborhoods.
Two parking studies will be done prior to any changes. The first one will take a look at current space usage. The second will assess whether to tailor parking rates to specific neighborhoods, and adjust those rates depending on the time of day. The goal is to have 85 percent of the street spaces filled.
The council agreed to extend parking-meter hours from the current 6 p.m., until 8 p.m. instead. However, they rejected McGinn’s plans to charge for Sunday parking, bringing sighs of relief to a number of business owners relying on free parking for weekend customers. At this time, it looks as if no changes will take place until at least 2012.
PARKING METERS & PAY STATIONS: HELP INFO
Questions about a credit card transaction? Call 206.684.PARK
Problems with a parking meter or pay station? Please call 206.684.5260. Best to report this, because it’s illegal to park at a nonworking meter.
Want to pay or contest a parking citation? Call 206.684.5600
General questions about pay stations? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 206.684.ROAD
And remember… your parking stub is good for anywhere in the City. Say you pay for time downtown, then need to run to Capitol Hill. Keep it on your window, for when you park the second time, whatever minutes are left on your stub still apply.
We haven’t forgotten those who Go Green… there’s some great mass transit links online that you may not be aware of, and we’ll spotlight them in a separate article. Watch for it!
Nissan’s first zero-emission, all-electric car, the Nissan LEAF, will be hitting Seattle streets in December. And where will you plug them in? In August 2009, a $99.8 million goverment grant to Electric Transportation Engineering Corporation (eTec) was awarded to set up electric car networks in five cities nationwide. Seattle’s portion will be used to set up around 2,550 charging systems, enabling drivers to use electric vehicles throughout the region with the security of knowing a charging station is nearby. AND, under this program, LEAF buyers will also be offered a free 220-volt charging station for home use, similar to the power level you’d use to run your dryer.
With an agreement between local goverments and Nissan North American in place, both Seattle and King County are working to get these cars into their carpools, as well as encouraging buyers to get them on the streets. Zipcar users both public and with the city will be able to drive a LEAF, too, because Zipcar is also an eTec program partner.
Plug-in locations are still being determined throughout King County, but currently scheduled for setup in Seattle are as follows:
Central Library Parking Garage- 4 stations
Fauntleroy Ferry Dock- 6 stations
King Street Center- 8 stations
Pacific Place Parking Garage- 5 stations
Pike Place- 2 stations
SeaPark Garage – 6 stations
Seattle Center, 5th Ave Parking Garage- 5 stations
UW Foster School of Business- 1 station
The LEAF is a five-passenger hatchback with sporty handling that can go about 100 miles on an eight-hour charge. At current Seattle City Light electric rates, the LEAF would cost approximately $200 to drive 10,000 miles, or around 2 cents a mile. With the same scenario, a gas-powered vehicle based on 25 mpg would cost approximately $1,220, at $3.05 per gallon. One hears about the high cost of purchasing an electric car, but the LEAF is scheduled to be priced in the range of a typical family sedan. And, you’ll be able to set your mobile phone to activate the air conditioning and the charging performance wirelessly.
If you’d like to take the future out for a spin today, Nissan is sponsoring a test drive in Tukwila from Friday through Sunday, November 12th – 14th. Register ahead of time at https://www.drivenissanleaf.com, select Events in the left column, then Seattle, and a registration form will pop up. Allow around 60-90 minutes for the test drive. If you want to go on a first-come, first-serve basis, the event takes place at Westfield Southcenter in the parking lot area north of Macy’s. Hours on Friday and Saturday are from 7am – 5pm, and Sunday from 8am- 4pm.
The Danielle, a boutique community of 31 one and two-bedroom homes, got off to a roaring start this past weekend. Not only did their Open House bring in over 150 attendees, but 40 percent of the community is now sold!
There’s a lot going for The Danielle. Located a block west of Ballard Avenue and two blocks north of Market Street, you can easily walk to a new QFC plus cafés, restaurants, boutiques and services. And speaking of walking, walkscore.com gives The Danielle a score of 98 out of 100. Need more than that to keep in shape? Three fitness centers are also within walking distance.
Homes range in size from approximately 646 to more than 1,250 square feet. You can barbecue on the 2,000 square foot rooftop deck, sporting great views of the Ballard Locks plus Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. Want more privacy? You also get your own large deck, patio or terrace. Hardwood floors are featured throughout, with large kitchens and four different styles of wood cabinetry. Some homes include dens and gas fireplaces, and even heated tile floors in the bathrooms. There’s also no problem with parking. The Danielle’s garage is access-controlled, with one parking space per bedroom.
Premium finishing touches on The Danielle should be completed by the end of November. Prices start at $229,950, and they are FHA-approved. If you’d like more information or to check out this special place, just contact us at this link and let’s talk!
Belltown residents still mourning the loss of their beloved Flying Fish restaurant, rejoice! Some new venues are set to fill their former space at 2234 First Avenue, and it’s all good! Marcus Charles has leased the entire space and will convert it into a café, butcher shop, cheese counter and produce store. The project is called Local 360, so named because it’s Charles’ goal to have nearly 90 percent of all products sold originate within 360 miles of Seattle. Local 360 will be the general contractor and Mallet Inc, a Seattle design and construction firm whose track record includes Café Presse, Spinasse and Stumptown 12th Avenue, will be the designer. The Local 360 venues are scheduled to open in December.
If Marcus Charles’ name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s quickly turning into a Seattle legend. Over the last 14 years, he has owned, operated, and consulted on a number of entertainment / retail properties, including The Capitol Hill Block Party, Neumo’s, Raven’s Brew Coffee, Spitfire and Marcus’ Martini Heaven, among others. He not only is owner of the JuJu Lounge, but as a partner of the newly remodeled Crocodile Cafe, was instrumental in helping to reopen this Seattle music institution. Both venues are located in Belltown, check them out!
And now we move to the fish that swam to South Lake Union. Renowned Seattle chef and restaurateur Christine Keff moved her wildly popular Flying Fish restaurant to 300 Westlake Ave North (corner of Thomas Street) in May 2010. Flying Fish is a sitdown restaturant and bar, open for lunch and dinner. Their private dining area, the Tobiko Room, seats up to 36 for lunch or dinner and up to 70 for a cocktail party or buffet. Flying Fish also hosts culinary events such as the Annual Oyster Frenzy and Keff, a James Beard Award winner, also conducts cooking classes at the restaurant.
The move to South Lake Union also allowed Keff to join a trend of established chefs opening smaller, more accessible spaces adjacent to their primary restaurant. On the Fly opened in August just around the corner at 950 Thomas Street. It features a lighter side of Flying Fish such as take-out lunches, espresso and pastries, a wine market featuring Washington and international wines, and local artisanal goods. On the Fly shares Flying Fish’s kitchen and staff, and allows Keff to personally interact with customers, as well as share cooking tips and recommendations. More than 300 titles from her personal cookbook collection are on display, and she encourages patrons to peruse her favorite recipes. She and her staff do the same when planning the ever-changing menus.
We hope you venture to South Lake Union to enjoy one or both of Keff’s restaurants if you haven’t already, and we’ll keep in touch with you on the progress of Belltown’s Local 360.
Recently, Library Journal.com posted the L J Index of Public Library Service 2010, rating 7,407 public libraries nationwide. 258 of these were designated as “Star Libraries”. In its category, the Seattle Public Library System (SPL) received Library Journal’s highest rating of five stars, ranking # 1 west of the Mississippi and # 3 nationwide. Portland and San Francisco came in at # 11 and # 14 nationwide, respectively, and both received three stars.
In light of this terrific news, we thought it’d be a good time to revisit the SPL, with special emphasis on its crown jewel, the Central Library. Located at 1000 Fourth Avenue, it is not only a marvel in glass, but in the breadth of services it offers. From checking out books to booking a catered event, the Central Library is the last word in community service.
Ready for the Five Secrets?
1. If you’re into genealogy, you’ve hit a goldmine. Logging into the SPL website with your library card number gives you access to a number of databases. The Central Library itself is a repository for many genealogy items AND you can sit at a terminal and enjoy free access to ancestry.com
2. On the first and third Mondays of each month, take a bag lunch to the Microsoft Auditorium on Level 1 (4th Avenue) and treat yourself to a “Thrilling Tale”, read aloud by a library staffer. This starts at noon and runs for about 50 minutes. This is one of a number of lunch hour programs that SPL does.
3. Looking for a unique gift? Level 3 near the Fifth Avenue entrance has a wonderful store called Friendshop, featuring items created by more than 65 Northwest artists. Along with library souvenirs, you can buy jewelry, cards and many other items at prices that won’t bust your budget. This Friendshop link takes you to their website where you can even purchase online.
4. They host a wide range of events, from the daylong “To Kill a Mockingbird” event held in September to a children’s Fall Festival afternoon of stories and craft making. Check their Calendar of Events link for readings, author visits, concerts, classes and more, which cover not only the Central Library but the entire 26-branch system. All of these events are free of charge.
5. SPL has a free mobile app. Learn more about it here.
Library Journal is the field’s leading professional publication and developed its national rankings based on per capita statistics for library visits, circulation, program attendance and public Internet computer use. This year’s ratings were based on 2008 data that libraries reported to the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services. SPL was one of only five libraries in the country in the expenditures of $30 million or higher category to receive a five-star rating. The others included three public libraries in Ohio and the Denver Public Library.