The Dream becomes Reality

Julie Currier, Senior Development Manager, with cornerstone

What began over five years ago is finally coming to past.  Last week,the official groundbreaking of the new Slate Apartments & Lofts was held and a cornerstone was pressed and set.  Finally, a neighborhood that always knew its potential is coming to life.  What a long strange trip its been.

Back in 2007, the Interbay Neighborhood Association was created to take control of an area of Seattle that had long been ignored.  Interbay was originally designated an industrial and manufacturing corridor.  On the west side of the railroad tracks the Port of Seattle unloaded Nissan cars, and on the east side the majority of the land lay fallow and empty around the National Guard post.  No matter how much the city and industrial supporters tried, manufacturers were not interested in Interbay and took their business to the Kent Valley or up to Everett which had less land restrictions and lower leases.

The residents, businesses and stakeholders grew tired of waiting for something to happen in Interbay, and frustrated with the obstructionist that kept the area dark and abandoned.  Members of  the Interbay Neighborhood Association knew that the area could keep its light industrial identity and also bring commercial improvements and housing together.  The dream was to build a progressive and innovative community that would address Seattle’s goals for green construction that was supported by rapid ride bus service, bike paths, green zones, alternative energy and services.  Some imagined Interbay as a neighborhood similar to Granville Island in Vancouver, BC — an industrial backdrop to a variety of exciting services.   It seemed like an easy win to rezone Interbay so that this dream could become reality, but powerful lobbying groups and Mayor Nickels commitment to keep Interbay industrial blocked the rezone effort for years.  A determined effort of leaders on Queen Anne and Magnolia stood behind the INA, and over time the City Council garnered enough votes to allow Interbay to move forward.

Laying the foundation

And then the economy tanked and the original stakeholders couldn’t acquire the funding to begin building apartments.  Meanwhile, TRF purchased an area of Interbay on 15th Ave. W. with Whole Foods as its anchor tenant.  This created a lot of interest in Interbay and investors began to see the possibilities of what could be.

The Freehold Group, the main landowner and visionaries of the area around Interbay/Dravus sold a portion of its properties to Unico, along with the proposed monorail site on 15th Ave. to Goodman Real Estate.    Then things really began to happen.  The closed Soundtrack Tavern and abandoned houses were demolished, storage sheds and empty warehouses were removed and excavation began in earnest.   Unico’s plans to build  Slate Apartments & Lofts generated a lot of excitement in the community with the Seattle Times writing a cover story of Interbay having the potential for being one of the most exciting new neighborhoods in Seattle.

Jonas Sylvester, Senior VP of Investment and Development

Last week, key players in Slate Apartment & Lofts project gathered with the development as the backdrop. Speeches touched upon the long journey to get to this point and what the new apartments will bring to the area.  Although the rain and wind howled the tent’s refuge for the ceremonies brought everyone together to share stories and excitement of what Interbay will become.  The photos illustrate that what once was a dream is now becoming a reality.

Onward and Upward (finally)

Slate Apartments & Lofts will be completed in spring of 2013.  Anyone wishing to learn more about the apartments can go to Unico’s site.  The Interbay Neigborhood Association wants to thank everyone who advocated for the rezone effort and kept the dream alive.

Advertisements

Interbay’s Firestation — Something Unique

Most of us want to have a firestation nearby.  Probably not if you live across the street when the sirens go off and the trucks roar out of the station, but certainly when you’re in need of help and your house is on fire.  By 2014, Firestation 20’s new location in Interbay will be ideal for its strategic access to 15th Ave. W.  and overall support from Interbay and Queen Anne residents.

It will go in across the street from the Interbay Golf Course’s driving range.    Although it may ruin someone’s swing when the sirens go off the trucks and crew will be able to trigger street lights to get them on their way.   The station will be built on a dead-end street where Four Seasons Laundry currently is and will sit across from a storage complex.

The best part of all is that Firestation 20 will be a state of the art building in design and LEED certification.  It also will include an intriguing sculpture.  Bruce Wynn, Executive Director of the Interbay Neighborhood Association was invited to serve on the arts panel to select who would be commissioned to create the public art piece.   “I’m delighted that  Rob Ley was selected.  The light installations he has done in Los Angeles are eye-catching, sophisticated and beautiful.  For those of us that have worked for years to end the blight of Interbay, Rob’s artwork will be a great addition.”

Rob did his homework to hone in on what would inspire his creation which he is calling Opposing Forces.

“The piece located at Fire Station 20 is an extension of the observations I made during the time spent riding along with the fire fighters at Station 20.  One of the many discussions we had centered on how wind and water were the major factors in how fire is controlled.  Wind, which fuels the flames, was the element outside of their control, while water was the extinguishing element that they are heavily trained to control. Water may present itself as a gentle natural rain or as an incredibly forceful stream, controlled by the able hands of fire fighters. Wind, as well, may be experienced as a gentle breeze or as a gusting gale force fueling a nearly uncontrollable fire.”

This piece is a combination of these natural elements, diametrically opposed in their roles in fire fighting. The piece is made from 3/4″ stainless steel tubing, formed in long strands and welded together to create an abstract representation of wind and water.  The piece is placed on the west side of the building such that it engages those on the sidewalk and street and positioned in a way that it helps to frame the entrance to the build. The artwork design process will follow the fire station construction schedule with an anticipated 2014 completion date.

Updates on the artwork design will be included with the building information. For project information, please visit the Fire Facilities and Emergency Response Levy’s Web site, http://www.seattle.gov/firelevy/. For more information about the artwork, contact Public Art Project Manager Marcia Iwasaki, (206) 233.3946 or marcia.iwasaki@seattle.gov.

So Close, and yet So Far

When Unico and Goodman Real Estate are done with the construction of their apartments there will be over 350 people living off Dravus Street.  The outcome is the first phase of Interbay from a primarily industrial area into an affordable and ideal place for people who would rather get around on a bus, bike or their own two feet.  They will have two green belts a block away, a grocery store across the street, rapid ride bus service a few steps away, and the Ship Canal Bike Trail…….. almost a mile away. 

Of course if you are heading downtown you can link up to the Interbay Trail that takes you to Elliott Bay Park and the waterfront, but what if you want to go north to connect to the Burke Gilman Trail, or east to Lake Union and all points beyond?

Yikes!!

You can take your life into your hands and cross over 15th Ave. W. and merge with cars coming together at a five points interchange at Nickerson St.  If your nerves are still intact you will then have to weave your way across train tracks and industrial lots until you find the Ship Canal trail.

Or you can go west over the train tracks, head a half mile north to Emerson, and then a quarter-mile east.  That’s about  a mile detour to get to a point where you begin going east on the trail.  Once on the trail you will be able to begin enjoying your bike ride that finally is taking you where you wanted to go a long time ago.

The Long Way Around

What a hassle and inconvenience.  The Interbay Neighborhood Association is coming together to do something about it. Once  across Dravus on 16th Ave. W., bike riders and walkers can head straight north to the end of the road — 1/8 of a mile away with a handy link to the Ship Canal Trail.  Unfortunately, there is no trail there and is occasionally the home of a variety of folks living in tents.  That’s fine.  We can all get along, but not with a dirt trail that is strewn with litter and other things you don’t want to know about.

Of course, nobody in their right mind is going to take this route as it is.  The Seattle Bike Master Plan has always considered adding spur trails that provide safe and easy access to their bike super highways such as the Ship Canal Trail and Burke Gilman.  This is why the Interbay Neighborhood Association is writing and submitting grants to all possible avenues to acquire funding so that a fenced-in and well paved trail can cross the 75 yards under Nickerson and Emerson St to the Ship Canal Trail.  Seems like a no brainer, but funding is tight and the grants are competitive.

If this bike path can get built, car drivers will be thrilled with fewer chances of collision with bikes on Dravus, 15th Ave. W., and Nickerson.  Queen Anne, Interbay and Magnolia bike riders can get off the main arterials as quickly as possible.

If you would like to help make this path possible please write Bruce Wynn, Executive Director of the Interbay Neighborhood Association at wynn4u@comcast.net  I will make sure you know how things are progressing and perhaps have you pitch the plan to those than can make this trail a reality.

Until then, take a virtual trip on the Ship Canal Trail and enjoy!

Out with the Old……..

Demolition on the site for the upcoming 236-unit Slate Apartments & Lofts has begun. For additional information on Frequently Asked Questions, please click here and be sure to check back often for ongoing updates.

 

Imbibing in Interbay

With a bike or a strong pair of legs you can’t beat Interbay for offering some of the best places to toss down a cold one, red or white one, strong one or hot one.

Interbay offers a world class backdrop to your thirst.  Let’s start at Fishermen’s Terminal.  With the northern fishing fleet at your feet, Chinnok’s and the Highliner Pub and Grill can’t be beat.  If you time your visit to Chinook’s right, you can eat an endless mound of fish and chips with a full service bar.

Just around the corner is the new Highliner Pub and Grill  Formerly a salty dog tavern with live music and pool tables (yea, I kinda miss it), it now offers great food put together by Jason McClure, executive chef of Sazerac bar and restaurant in downtown Seattle.  They take the freshest fish available from the Wild Salmon Seafood Market each day.  Along with other pub fare they offer 15 beers on tap and banks of TV’s to cater to the sports enthusiast.

As you leave Fishermen’s Terminal, find the bike path (which is finishing the final link underneath the Ballard Bridge this year), and make your way over the tracks to the Boxcar Ale House.  This place is party central at night with serious karaoke and trivia nights.  Locals love the no pretentious vibe, cheap drinks, and endless games of pool.   During the day, rail workers and mechanics chill out after a long day of clanging and coupling train cars.   This place is the real deal and reminds me of the old Roadhouse Bar in Fremont – bikers and all.

If a true Irish pour of Guinness is what you’re after, head south on Gilman W. and take a right turn at the Arco Gas Station up to Mulleady’s Irish pub.   This place is beautiful inside and has a romantic and cozy atmosphere.  If you’re looking for a place to get to know someone over Shepard’s Pie, drinks and darts, this is the place for you.

Time to get some air and stretch those legs.  Get on back down to Thorndyke and find the bike path that heads south to the cruise ship terminal.   The bike path hugs the lowlands of Magnolia and goes underneath the Magnolia Bridge.  Pause at Smith Cove and take in the massive cruise boats, grain ships and fishing vessels.

If you really want to hang on Elliott Bay, follow the water west to Maggie Bluffs — voted favorite outside dining by many locals.  During the summer this place next to Elliott Bay Marina is the ideal place to have a Mojito, Margarita or crisp glass of wine.  The food is great and the background can’t be beat.  If the weather is on the chilly side and you’re looking for something a bit more upscale, hit the bar upstairs in the Palisades which has amazing food at happy hour.

I was told to never mix the grape with the grain but our next two stops will toss that advice out the window.  Head back east to 15th Ave. W.  and jog south a block to Ward Johnson Winery.   This is a place for discovering new wines and scoring some good deals on cases (when you come back with your car).  This is what one person had to say about Ward’s winery – “15th avenue was lost once I stepped inside; this could have been any other small, self-contained “warehouse” winery, even if it did stand out for being brighter, whiter, and better-lit than average. Beach Boys blasted from the sound system in a way that made it clear that the winemaker was at work nearby while in-between visitors, so I admired the local artwork until a casually-dressed middle aged man emerged from behind some steel tanks and a set of glass double doors.”

And now for the grain and the hottest new trend – custom made vodka (along with whiskey and gin in Woodinville).  Cross over 15th Ave. W. and go a few blocks north.  Next to a consignment shop you will see a wall with octopus tentacles wrapping around a bottle.  Behind the walls of Sound Spirits, Steve Stone will happily pour you a taste of his award winning vodka called Ebb + Flow – a single malt vodka make from 100% Washington Palouse Malted Barley.  Most days of the week Steve is working on another batch and encourages everyone to drop by and sip the latest.  He offers tours and shares methods distilling vodka.

Conclude your liquid tour of Interbay by retracing your route via the bike path or just head north down 15th Ave. W. to Fishermen’s Terminal.  As Interbay continues to grow, more restaurants, pubs and bars are sure to follow.  Stay tune to this website for the latest info, and ya’ll get home safely now.

Unico building 236 Interbay apartments

By Jounal Staff:

Unico Properties is starting construction on the 236-unit Slate Apartments & Lofts at 3040 17th Ave. W., in the Interbay neighborhood.

Fish Mackay Architects designed the project, and W.G. Clark is the contractor. Bank of America Merrill Lynch is the construction lender.

Unico declined to provide the project cost or anticipated rents, though a year ago Unico Senior Vice President Jonas Sylvester said a development of this size “does not come cheap.”

In a project fact sheet, the Seattle-based company said Slate will target renters who want to live close to downtown but have “a little bit more room for a little bit less rent.” Eighty percent of the units will have market-rate rents. The rest will be set aside as affordable housing.

The six-story project will have retail space at the corner of 16th and Dravus. The housing will wrap behind existing retailers Starbucks, Red Mill Burgers and the Pandasia restaurant. There will be 204 parking stalls and charging stations for electric cars. Units will have 9-foot or higher ceilings, and many will have patios or small balconies.

Amenities will include a fitness center, an outdoor terrace, media room, conference room, p-patch, dog walk, dog-wash station and bicycle workroom. Web-based software that provides real-time bus information will be installed in the lobby.

Unico will re-use some materials and fixtures from Russell Investments Center, a downtown office tower that it manages.

Known as an owner and manager of office, medical office and retail, Unico began acquiring and developing multifamily properties about five years ago.

Slate will bring its apartment portfolio to more than 1,535 units in the greater Seattle and Portland areas, according to Unico’s website.

Apartment builders target long-ignored Interbay

By Eric Pryne
Seattle Times business reporter

Virtually nobody lives in Seattle’s Interbay neighborhood despite its proximity to popular areas like Ballard and Queen Anne, but developers such as Unico hope to change that with new housing projects.

Prominent Seattle developer Unico Properties plans to break ground in the next few weeks on a project in Interbay that will provide the gritty neighborhood with something it long has lacked:  Residents.

This aerial photo shows a view of Interbay looking south, with West Dravus Street at the bottom of the photo and 15th Avenue West on the left. Unico Properties' planned 236-unit apartment complex would be built on most of the block at the center of the photo, below the golf course and playfield.

Almost no one lives in this valley between hilly Queen Anne and hilly Magnolia. “It’s always been a place people passed through,” says Bruce Wynn, who heads the Interbay Neighborhood Association.  He and other advocates of the neglected area have maintained for years that Interbay could become a vibrant urban center if only a critical mass of people lived there.   Unico’s 236-unit apartment complex should provide the first big infusion. More apartments are in the pipeline.

Unico calls its project Slate Apartments + Lofts. That’s partly because Interbay is a blank slate whose story hasn’t yet been written, says Jonas Sylvester, Unico’s senior vice president for investment and development.   He anticipates the story will have a happy ending: “In five years,” Sylvester says, “you’ll look at this neighborhood and say, ‘Duh! Why didn’t we see that coming?’ ”

Between 2 bays
Interbay, as its name suggests, once was a marshy area between two bays, Elliott and Salmon.  A garbage dump operated there for decades. During the Depression, Interbay was the site of one of the city’s “Hoovervilles,” shantytowns for the homeless.  BNSF Railway’s sprawling, century-old rail yard remains a dominant presence.

Today people come to Interbay to golf at the city-owned nine-hole course or to watch college soccer matches at Interbay Stadium.   They come to work in factories that make everything from cutting boards to harps. They come to shop and eat at the new Whole Foods shopping center near Interbay’s south end, or at the QFC and restaurants that line West Dravus Street to the north.

Then they go home. Just 11 people reside in Interbay’s core, between busy 15th Avenue West and the railroad tracks, according to census data.  Wynn, whose home is a few blocks away on Queen Anne, says he has no idea where those 11 are.

The blocks north and south of Dravus are a jumble of squat industrial and office buildings and fenced-off storage yards. The few old houses are empty. Even Interbay’s strongest supporters describe it as blighted.  “It’s always been the dumping neighborhood of the city,” Wynn says.

But he and others insist Interbay has potential. It’s close to downtown and to some of the city’s hottest neighborhoods — Ballard, Belltown, Lower Queen Anne.  A flat, nearly car-free bike path links Interbay with the downtown waterfront.  And there is good bus service that should get even better next year, when “Rapid Ride” buses, scheduled to run every 10 minutes during peak periods, start rolling down 15th.

The campaign for a new Interbay began about seven years ago. The neighborhood association and property owners led by developer Freehold Group, which had invested heavily in north Interbay, began pushing city officials to allow taller buildings on the blocks around Dravus.  They said the zoning change was key to attracting residential development, which in turn would allow Interbay to blossom.

The Seattle City Council finally raised the height limit around Dravus from 40 to 85 feet three years ago — just as the economy tanked and financing disappeared.  Now lenders are lending again, especially for apartment projects, and Interbay’s time has come, Unico’s Sylvester says.

His company probably is best known as the developer of the University of Washington’s 10-acre Metropolitan Tract in downtown Seattle. It owns or manages 15 million square feet of office, apartment and retail properties across the West.   Slate, Unico’s Interbay complex, will fill most of the block south of Dravus between 16th and 17th avenues West, property occupied by a deteriorating office building and several vacant houses.

Unico plans to finish the project in spring 2013. Bank of America is providing construction financing.  About 5,500 square feet of retail will front Dravus at 16th.  The apartment lobby will be around the corner on 17th; Sylvester says it will be furnished with light fixtures and paneling salvaged from Washington Mutual’s former downtown headquarters, a tower Unico now manages.

In return for a property-tax break, Unico is setting aside 20 percent of the apartments for tenants whose incomes are slightly below the Seattle area’s median.  The complex will include a workshop for bike repairs, a pea patch, charging stations for electric cars and a lobby kiosk with real-time information about bus arrivals and other transportation options.  Slate’s target tenant? Someone who wants commuting choices, Sylvester says. Someone who wants to live close to downtown but not right in it.

More for less
And someone who wants a bargain, at least compared with new apartments in Ballard or Queen Anne. “We’ll be offering a little more for a little less,” Sylvester says.  That’s probably smart, says Tom Cain of research firm Apartment Insights Washington.  Interbay is virgin territory for apartment dwellers, he says; it lacks the amenities of better-established neighborhoods.  “There’s lots of traffic, and there’s the railroad noise. … It’s kind of an odd area now.”  But if the apartments are priced right, Cain adds, Interbay’s location and good transit service could appeal to some renters.

Unico isn’t the only investor that has targeted Interbay. Seattle Storm co-owner Ginny Gilder bought three properties in the neighborhood earlier this year.  “It’s a great part of Seattle that’s been a little neglected,” she says.   Now, in partnership with Goodman Real Estate, a big-time apartment developer, Gilder is seeking permits for 118 apartments on one of those sites, across 16th from Slate.

The city’s Queen Anne/Magnolia Design Review Board is to consider the four-story project Dec. 7.   Freehold, the developer that led the campaign to rezone Interbay, sold Gilder all three sites. It also once had an ownership interest in the property where Slate will be built. The company still owns several other properties in the neighborhood.  “Those two [apartment] projects are really going to transform the area south of Dravus,” says Jeff Thompson, Freehold’s president. “After all this time, I couldn’t be more delighted that things are finally coming together.”

Wynn concurs. “It’s been a long time coming,” he says.