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June 13, 2000

Denny Triangle eyed for mixed-use complex

  • Office space, residences, a grocery store and other retail in 1.1 million square feet
  • By JOE NABBEFELD
    Journal Real Estate Editor

    Cutting-edge urban grocery developer Don Milliken has approached Paul Allen's Vulcan Northwest about creating a huge project at the junction of South Lake Union and the Denny Triangle.

    Milliken expects to submit a master-use permit application this week for a new Lower Queen Anne Safeway store topped by 50 condos.

    The proposal for the Quinton Instruments block is very preliminary and Vulcan says it would compete with ideas streaming in from other developers.

    But to envision Milliken's 1.1 million-square-foot suggestion, imagine a complex the size of the entire Union Station redevelopment south of downtown Seattle plopping down on the corner of Westlake Avenue North and Denny Way, near the Seattle Times' headquarters north of downtown Seattle.

    Milliken proposes a combination of offices, residences, a large grocery store and other retail on the block that is now occupied primarily by the vacant Quinton Instruments building and a surface parking lot.

    Milliken said the idea is so preliminary that it's too early to talk about publicly. But his company's Web site says the project would consist of 100,500 square feet of retail, 237 residential units, 210,000 square feet of offices and 1,100 underground parking spaces.

    The residential portion would break down into 27 townhomes facing Lenora Street and Ninth Avenue and 210 "flats," according to the site. Of those flats, 120 would be in two residential towers.

    Milliken said the Web site, which carries preliminary sketches of the proposal, wasn't posted to publicize his idea but rather to use privately in the long process of promoting it to Vulcan and others.

    "It's not news," Milliken said. "We're hopeful, but it's the one that's furthest from reality."

    Allen spokeswoman Susan Pierson Brown said: "The proposal they have submitted to us is one of many we've received and evaluated for that property and we do not have an agreement with anyone at this time."

    Microsoft co-founder Allen owns more than 25 acres in the South Lake Union area. The first 11 acres reverted to him after the Seattle Commons proposal failed in 1996 and he has steadily bought more since then. Vulcan representatives have said they don't have a concerted plan for redeveloping the properties other than to listen closely to what the community wants.

    South Lake Union and the Denny Triangle are both expected to undergo massive redevelopment during the next decade, along with continued construction of housing all over the adjacent Belltown area. Real estate observers say the demand for housing and offices near downtown is well-demonstrated and what stands out most in Milliken's proposal is the supermarket.

    Planners have long said a full-scale grocery store will play a pivotal role in the success of the rapidly emerging downtown housing market. But when one gets built becomes a chicken-and-egg game; one can't happen until there's enough housing to support it but having one supports the creation of more housing.

    "We would all love one down here," said Karen Anderson-Bittenbender, a vice president for the active Belltown housing developer Intracorp, which made a hard run the past two years at placing a supermarket in Intracorp projects but couldn't do it.

    Roy Nelson, chairman of the South Lake Union Planning Committee, said: "A grocery store is sorely needed, but I've been told good luck because the economics on it are hard. It's especially needed here with all the subsidized housing for people who don't have cars and have to pay a lot to buy what they can at limited corner stores."

    Lower Queen Anne now has the nearest grocery stores -- and Milliken has teamed with Safeway to convert a small, old Safeway store there into a bigger, new store topped by 50 condos.

    Lower Queen Anne
    Vulcan Northwest is fielding a number of proposals for the Quinton Instruments block, including developer Don Milliken's plan for a retail and office complex.

    This long-planned proposal is much further along and is now starting to look like it will happen. Milliken said he expects to submit a city master use permit application this week.

    The 15,700-square-foot Safeway store was built in 1958 on First Avenue West between Mercer and Republican streets. Milliken and Safeway proposed replacing that with a 35,000-square-foot store and 3,800 square feet of other retail above one floor of underground parking and below 50 condos. At least eight of the condos would be townhomes, Milliken said.

    "We hope to start construction in January," Milliken said.

    Sienna Architects of Portland designed the project.

    Vancouver, B.C.-based Milliken developed the Larry's Market in Lower Queen Anne and the QFC-anchored Harvard Market on Capitol Hill, both considered pioneering efforts.

    Safeway is also planning to redevelop its under-sized downtown Bellevue grocery store into a larger store topped by between 350 and 392 apartments. Residential developer Avalon Bay Communities is the lead developer of that project, with Milliken involved as developer of about 20,000 square feet of other retail on the site.

    Early material submitted to the city of Bellevue indicated 392 apartments would go on the downtown Bellevue site, but Avalon Bay executive Steve Wilson said he expects the number will be around 350.


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