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January 17, 2000

Artists lofts coming to Pioneer Square site

  • Artists lofts coming to Pioneer Square site
  • By SAM BENNETT
    Journal Staff reporter

    The Pioneer Square Community Development Organization plans to convert the former Star Theater on Occidental Avenue South into a five-story artist loft apartment building.

    The $3.3 million project will provide an option for artists who have been squeezed by the cost of living downtown, according to Sheila Prieur, project manager for the developer.

    "It really provides a needed niche for artists," Prieur. "There's a lot of artists being displaced as properties in Pioneer Square are being developed. They want to live here, but it's getting to the point where they can't afford it anymore."

    Artist lofts
    The architecture firm Stickney Murphy Romine designed the $3.3 million artist loft building at 117 Occidental Ave. S.
    The mid-block development at 117 Occidental Ave. will involve tearing down the single-story, turn-of-the century structure that once housed the Star Theater. The building in recent years has served as an auxiliary workspace for Empty Space Theatre.

    The new building will have 20 studio units ranging in size from 560 square feet to 750 square feet. They will be available to those making 50 percent to 80 percent of median income, with rents from $500 to $800.

    The ground floor will have 3,000 square feet of commercial space, part of which may be leased to CleanScapes, a Pioneer Square nonprofit organization that cleans the city's alleys and sidewalks.

    The building will reflect Pioneer Square's architectural tradition, without leaning too heavily on the stocky, brick Romanesque style.

    "We're trying to pick up on the Pioneer Square flavor," said Doug Ito, project manager with the architecture firm Stickney Murphy Romine. Black metal balconies and narrow, double-hung windows will be patterned in the Pioneer Square style.

    Funding for the project will come from the city's housing levy, bonds, transfer of development rights program and mitigation funds from Vulcan Northwest. The Community Development Organization will own and manage the building.

    "It's our first housing development project," said Prieur, whose organization facilitates development of housing in Pioneer Square. The current building, she said, is "just an ugly little thing" that has been remodeled several times since its days as the Star Theater. "It's still a great location."

    Construction is scheduled to begin this summer, and the building should be complete by August 2001.

    For more information on the Pioneer Square Community Development Organization, go online to http://www.pscdo.org/.


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