While not as flashy or as large as the highrise projects here, if you look on the DPD website at the permit bulletin page, there are lots of single family house lots that are subdivided and replaced with 3-4 townhomes, especially in the CD but all over. I think it's exciting for the urban fabric of seattle overall, a big downtown is great and should obviously be the primary focus but an overall densification and urbanization of seattle's currently primarily single family neighborhoods would do so much for the energy and vitality of the city.
Monorail is coming in at 2.1 billion and opening december 2010. I say kill it now.
The original renderings had columns 3 feet in diameter. The columns are now 4'9''. They're gigantic. I'm sorry but it's so ugly, it'll ruin 2nd avenue in downtown. They really ought to just scrap it and use the money for light rail north or if they must, design light rail for that corridor so it can tie into the rest of the regional system.
Stupidity IMO, it just seems so expensive and so ugly and so wasteful to use a different technology than is being used for the rest of the region. 4'9''!!!!!
Monorail's building, debt costs balloon to $11 billion
By JANE HADLEY
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
It will cost more than $11 billion to pay for the 14-mile monorail Green Line project and the debt to finance it, according to documents made public yesterday.
That's more than triple what Sound Transit will pay for construction and debt service for its 14-mile light rail line from downtown Seattle to Tukwila.
The total also is more than five times the construction tab alone for the monorail, a ratio that troubles state Treasurer Mike Murphy.
"You've got to be kidding me," Murphy said yesterday. "That's ludicrous."
He said the typical principal and interest payments on a state project amount to double the construction cost of the project. That ratio would suggest a total cost of less than $4 billion for the $1.9 billion monorail.
Monorail officials said Monday that they would overcome budget obstacles by extending collection of a Seattle car-tab tax until 2050 or beyond. Murphy said the state ordinarily does not issue bonds longer than 25 years, because there is no "economic advantage."
In addition, the monorail expects to pay higher interest rates than Sound Transit -- up to 7 or 8 percent for junk bonds, which will pay for part of the project Seattle voters narrowly approved in 2002.
The monorail has been forced into some unconventional financing arrangements because the project is about 20 percent more expensive than expected and because its motor-vehicle excise tax revenue is 30 percent less than expected. Seattle residents pay 1.4 percent annually of the state-calculated value of their vehicles.
OnTrack, which bills itself as a monorail watchdog group, was critical of the tax extension plan.
"There's a huge price with extending the term of the bonds out as long as they're going," said OnTrack policy analyst Krista Camenzind, calling $11 billion "an amazing amount of money to pay for bonds."
"The kids who graduated from high school this month will be paying this monorail tax for their entire working life and maybe into their retirement, but they had no say in planning or approving the Green Line," she said.
City Councilman Richard Conlin, who has been a monorail skeptic, said it's too early to draw any conclusions, but he added: "When I heard there was 45 years of payments, it's troubling. I really need to look at that very carefully."
Of the $11 billion in debt service, he said, "That's a ton of money."
The City Council must ultimately approve construction of the West Seattle to Crown Hill line on city streets.
Longtime monorail critic Henry Aronson said the extended tax bite would make it difficult and perhaps impossible for Seattle to pay for other transportation projects, such as any future monorail lines, extending light rail or replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the state Route 520 bridge.
"The monorail board seems perfectly happy to mortgage four generations of taxpayers to pay for one-fifth of the monorail plan offered to the voters in 2002," he said.
Monorail spokeswoman Natasha Jones said the $11 billion number looks big because it includes inflated future dollars.
"It does look like a big number when you get out that far," she said. "We opted to spread that over a larger period of time. These are choices we all make in our everyday life. Do you pay off your mortgage in 15 years or do you spread it out over 30 years?"
Jones noted that the monorail is a "tangible asset," not clothes or food or a trip. "This is a 100-year system we're aiming for," she said.
It's reasonable not to put the entire cost on current users, she said.
Paying for future extensions of the monorail or other transportation projects "is a discussion the community will need to have," she said. "They can look at federal dollars or other taxing mechanisms."
Murphy, the state treasurer, said he ordinarily does not get involved in local issues but made an exception for the monorail.
"I have a several-inch-thick file on these guys. Everything I have seen just does not pencil out," he said. Murphy says he does not believe the monorail will have enough income from the car tab tax to pay for the debt.
He said the monorail's finance director, Jonathan Buchter, recently asked for a meeting, but Murphy told Buchter he had already met several times with him and "now I want to meet with your board." A meeting is set for early July. State Auditor Brian Sonntag, who is also concerned about the project, also plans to be present.
"When we see folks going off the deep end, we feel it's important to comment on it," Murphy said. "The number keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger and they haven't turned a spade of dirt yet. That's the issue for me. I would never ever, ever indebt the state of Washington in the way they are indebting the citizens of the city of Seattle. It's unconscionable what they're doing."
The Seattle Monorail Project released its voluminous report Monday detailing finances. Buchter has insisted that the numbers do pencil out. However, he was gone yesterday and will be for the rest of the week, Jones said.
Murphy said the monorail "did a tricky thing" when it told voters debt would be capped at $1.5 billion in 2002 dollars. That means that the debt is "an open-ended deal" and the more time passes, the higher the debt cap is.
Richard Borkowski, president of People for Modern Transit, said there are many uncertainties hanging over the project.
"The price keeps going up and they're delivering much less than what was voted on," he said. "They're buying fewer trains, the frequency is less, there are fewer stations."
Jones said the critics have been claiming "the sky is falling" for the past three years.
"We've risen to every challenge that's been thrown our way," she said. "We've been able to do all the things critics have said we couldn't do. We've done a great thing. We've delivered an elevated-automated transit system citizens have been clamoring for decades."
The project will bring 2,100 jobs every year for construction, she noted. The monorail is scheduled to open Dec. 1, 2010.
To pay for the 14-mile monorail project and the debt to finance it, more than $11 billion will be required. That's more than triple what Sound Transit will pay for construction and debt service for its 14-mile light rail line from downtown Seattle to Tukwila.
# Monorail construction costs and debt service: $11 billion.
# Sound Transit's Central Line construction cost and debt service: $3.24 billion.
I'd assume downtown, it is next to the water though so that elimates a lot of potential sites.
A Few things
Seattle has a very very strong retail market, because there just isn't a lot of supply coming online. I'd expect there to be retail on the 2nd & Pike and 2nd & Pine projects, but are those formally part of the plans? I was thinking toys r us on one side, needless markup and a fcuk on the other, in my dreams.
How goes approval of increased heights in downtown Seattle? I hope it happens soon! With everyone predicting an end to the housing bubble by the year, Seattle's market seems pretty healthy, prices not super sky high but job growth is strong and Seattle is a bit of a destination city(say moreso than Portland). But the GMA still exists and people need houses. Again 100k+ more people in Seattle by 2025. Gotta put 'em somewhere.
Also Greg Nickels is still unopposed, so it looks like he'll be sailing into reelection so we can expect continued push for higher heights in the neighborhood urban centers which is excellent.
Is the cascade apartments the neptune project, you can see them from the freeway, it looks like quite the large wood frame development. Man I really want them to up the height limits so denny can grow! And let's get cracking on light rail north and the viaduct! Go seattle go!
In other news first hill has been cut from the link north route.
Board cuts First Hill rail station
By Eric Pryne
Seattle Times staff reporter
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A reluctant, almost apologetic Sound Transit board yesterday dropped First Hill from its plans for a light-rail line between downtown and the University of Washington.
The vote was 12-1, with Seattle City Councilman Richard McIver dissenting.
"This is a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't vote," said Metropolitan King County Councilwoman Julia Patterson, D-SeaTac.
A deep-underground station in the dense, job-rich, pro-transit Seattle neighborhood had been part of Sound Transit's plans for nine years. Only in recent weeks did agency staff members raise serious questions about its construction risks, citing a recently completed analysis and the agency's experience excavating a similar station under Beacon Hill.
Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl recommended Tuesday that the First Hill station be scrapped. "I understand nobody wants us to drop First Hill," she told the board yesterday. "I don't either."
Officially, the board won't make a final decision until at least December, after an environmental review is completed. But judging from most board members' comments, there was nothing tentative about yesterday's vote.
"We made a 100-year decision here today," said Metropolitan King County Councilman Larry Phillips, D-Seattle.
The decision could have political implications. Brian Parker, representing the board of a First Hill condominium, said he would vote and work against future Sound Transit ballot measures. State Rep. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, whose district includes First Hill, said the neighborhood's past support for Sound Transit "will turn into opposition, even for my tax-loving constituents."
After the vote, King County Executive Ron Sims and McIver proposed that the agency take one more look at whether the First Hill station could be built using different methods or in a different location to reduce risks.
That motion was tabled until Aug. 11.
Sound Transit planners estimated eliminating the First Hill station would drop the cost of the downtown-university line from $1.85 billion to $1.5 billion. But Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels said that "even if we had enough money, the construction-related risks of the First Hill station would put the entire project at risk."
What's more, he added, retaining First Hill could cost $1 billion because it would threaten $650 million in federal grants the agency is counting on to build the line.
The Bush administration has recently tightened cost-effectiveness requirements for projects seeking federal money. Sound Transit says that, with a First Hill station, the project wouldn't qualify.
Board and staff members vowed to look at other ways to improve transit service to First Hill, including exclusive bus lanes and priority for buses at traffic signals. Phillips offered a new idea: a rail shuttle in a short, shallow tunnel between First Hill and the proposed Capitol Hill light-rail station.
McIver argued the board was making its decision too hastily. First Hill, a major employment center, was being "irrevocably ripped from the system with a two-day notice," he said.
But Metropolitan King County Councilman Dwight Pelz, D-Seattle, who is running against McIver for City Council, called the vote "an act of leadership. ... We are making a decision today to move light rail forward."
According to the article year, westin has 891 so the Sheraton in it's unexpanded form is almost as large. Good for seattle go infill go hotels!
I wonder how the convention market is, given how much expansion of convention space seems to be bank rolled by local governments trying to boost their downtowns, Denver comes to mind, seems like there might be a glut of space. How is seattle holding up, I don't think the WS convention center is that big relatively either.
Developers would have to contribute money for parks and public open space for the first time in Seattle under a proposal announced yesterday by Mayor Greg Nickels.
Nickels wants to impose "impact fees," common in other Washington cities, as a way to "make growth pay for growth," said Nickels' spokesman Marty McOmber.
The mayor's plan would apply only to the city's most crowded neighborhoods. It represents an effort to balance Nickels' development agenda in the city's six designated urban centers, where city leaders hope to funnel future growth.
Nickels, who is running for re-election this year, will not send legislation to the City Council until next year. But McOmber said Nickels wants to start talking about impact fees now because they're linked to his "center city" strategy to allow taller buildings in neighborhoods in and near downtown.
Developers now are required to provide open space in new projects — but that space is on-site, geared to tenants, and does not have to be public. It often takes the form of rooftop decks and plazas.
In rough terms, Nickels is looking at charging developers $1 to $2 per square foot on new projects, McOmber said, with the money set aside to acquire and develop new parks. City planners project that center-city neighborhoods will need 12.3 acres of additional open space to balance population growth expected to occur by 2024.
The fees would apply to residential, commercial and office projects in all six urban centers: Uptown, South Lake Union, downtown, Capitol Hill/First Hill, the University District and Northgate.
City Councilman Peter Steinbrueck said the timing of Nickels' announcement was curious.
Chairman of the council's land-use committee, Steinbrueck has questioned Nickels' center-city strategy, which is modeled partly on planning goals in Vancouver, B.C.
Steinbrueck has hired two Vancouver planners as consultants to analyze the mayor's plan. The two planners are scheduled to make recommendations to the council Monday. He said the consultants have pointed out a lack of downtown open space.
"I'm very pleased," Steinbrueck said. "My Vancouver consultants already are having an impact."
McOmber disagreed. "This is not a response [to Steinbrueck]. This has been in the works for a while," he said.
The mayor hopes to raise about $57 million through impact fees, McOmber said, enough to buy about half of the desired open space. City leaders would have to figure out how to raise the money needed to buy the rest and maintain all of it.
Seattle has struggled in recent years to fund park maintenance. Steinbrueck said the city might find money for new parks by renewing the $198 million parks levy voters approved in 2000.
Some prominent developers were not aware of the mayor's proposal yesterday. Lyn Tangen, a vice president at Vulcan, which owns 60 acres in South Lake Union, said she would not comment on the plan until she saw more specifics.
"It's long overdue," said John Barber, a citizen advocate for open spaces. "I think it's moving in the right direction, but we don't have a lot of details and I'm not sure it's directed at projects that neighborhoods have already designated for open space."
by Clayton Park
Journal Business Editor
Eddie Bauer plans to move its headquarters in mid-2007 from Redmond to downtown Bellevue, where it will become the anchor tenant of a new office skyscraper across the street from Bellevue Square shopping mall.
The apparel retailer will bring 600 workers to Bellevue's central business district when it moves into its new corporate digs: nine floors of a 28-story office tower that is set to begin construction in January.
The office tower, which will be named the Eddie Bauer Building, is the final piece to a massive mixed-use complex called Lincoln Square, which has been nearly a decade in the making so far.
The first phase of Lincoln Square -- a 16-screen movie theater, retail shops, restaurants, a Westin hotel and an underground parking garage -- is on schedule to open Nov. 1, said Bellevue Square developer Kemper Freeman Jr., who took over the partially built Lincoln Square site in 2003 after the project's previous developers ran into financial difficulties.
The other component to the project -- a 148-unit luxury condominium tower -- is set to open early next year.
``It's really exciting to get this thing started,'' said Freeman of the office tower project. He said Eddie Bauer officials initially expressed interest in possibly moving to Lincoln Square two years ago, shortly after he purchased the property. The final details to the lease deal were completed on Wednesday.
Freeman said he has already received ``informal agreements'' for the financing needed to build the office tower, which is expected to cost $130 million. The total cost of the Lincoln Square project is expected to be around $500 million, he said.
Eddie Bauer sold its headquarters campus in Redmond to Microsoft Corp. in August 2004 as part of its then-parent company's Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.
The retailer, which is now owned by a new parent company called Eddie Bauer Holdings, leases the three-building campus from Microsoft on a three-year lease that is set to expire in the summer of 2007.
Eddie Bauer has approximately 400 stores throughout the U.S. and Canada. The chain recently closed its 34 Eddie Bauer Home Stores, including one at Bellevue Square, to focus on its apparel business, said company spokeswoman Lisa Erickson.
Fabian Mansson, president and CEO of Eddie Bauer, said in a statement issued Thursday that one of his company's priorities was to find a new headquarters site within the Greater Seattle area that was in a strong retail district.
``We really hit the sweet spot with this location,'' said Erickson in describing Lincoln Square, which is located in the heart of the Eastside's largest city, surrounded by office buildings, condos and apartments, and Bellevue Square -- one of the Puget Sound region's largest and most successful shopping malls where Eddie Bauer already has an apparel store.
``To be in a hub where people are working, shopping and living is such a great opportunity for the brand,'' Erickson said.
Erickson said the company also wanted to remain within the Greater Seattle area. She said Eddie Bauer's headquarters staff is evenly split between Eastside and Seattle residents. The company moved its headquarters to Redmond from Seattle in 1973.
Freeman said he was told by an Eddie Bauer official during his initial talks with the company that the retailer wanted its headquarters in a vibrant downtown setting so its employees ``would think that high service and high energy is normal'' and thus make it ``a better company.''
The official, Eddie Bauer vice president of real estate Mark Borison, ``went on to say `It would be similar to having a continuous (motivational speaker) Lou Tice seminar for our employees,''' recalled Freeman, who added, ``It's better verbiage than anything our own marketing department could ever dream up.''
Freeman said Eddie Bauer will occupy a total of 200,000 square feet of space on floors nine through 12 -- roughly 40 percent of the total 540,000 square feet of leasable space that will be available in the new office tower.
Eddie Bauer's decision to move its headquarters to downtown Bellevue was hailed by several Eastside observers as a positive development that will benefit area retailers and restaurants and likely encourage other developers to proceed with new office building projects as well.
``It's awesome. We're ecstatic,'' said Betty Nokes, CEO of the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, upon learning the news. ``It brings another great company headquarters to town,'' she said, noting the recent arrival of Symetra Financial Corp., a company that moved its headquarters and approximately 1,000 workers to downtown Bellevue from Redmond in July.
Bob Wallace, a longtime Bellevue business leader who heads a real estate development and property management company called Wallace Properties, said ``It's incredible news, not just for (Freeman's company) Kemper Development, but for the whole community to bring a headquarters of that quality to downtown Bellevue.''
Tom Bohman, an office broker with Cushman & Wakefield in Bellevue, said the signing of Eddie Bauer at Lincoln Square will likely be ``the catalyst that will jumpstart the next round of office development'' in the city's central business district.
Jeff Jochums, an office broker and senior vice president with Colliers International in Bellevue, said ``With the Eddie Bauer signing, it's going to send the message to other firms that this (Lincoln Square) is a viable project.
``It's (also) a healthy chunk of pre-lease that could encourage other developers to kick off their projects.''
Bohman and Jochums rattled off similar lists of likely candidates to proceed with new office developments in downtown Bellevue:
* Hines and Washington Capital, who are considering reviving the long-stalled Technology Tower project.
* Schnitzer, which owns property on the north side of the block where the city's Meydenbauer Center convention complex is located.
* Equity Office Properties, which recently dusted off plans for a proposed City Center II tower near the downtown Bellevue transit center.
* Bentall Capital, which could give the green light to completing the final portion of its Summit office complex.
The addition of new office towers could make it easier for companies interested in moving to downtown Bellevue or in expanding their presence there to find available space, the brokers said.
The office vacancy rate for Bellevue's central business district is currently less than 10 percent, down from nearly 30 percent a few years ago, and is expected in continue to dip in the coming months, said Bohman.
Jochums offered similar assessment.
On the other hand, both brokers agreed that the market demand for office space is not likely to be enough to justify building all four office towers, in addition to the Eddie Bauer Building, so it will probably be a race to see which of the aforementioned developers are able to get their projects off the ground first.
``It'll be interesting to see how things unfold over the next year as you see other players jump into the game,'' said Bohman.
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