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July 17, 2017
The Commuter Building, at 815 Western Ave., has been owned by the Jacobi family since the late 1970s. Five years ago, the family added the small parking lot on the south end of the block, at Columbia Street, paying $1.75 million to control the block.
Early last year, the Jacobis floated plans for a 14-story residential tower, to be designed by Olson Kundig.
That plan may be dead, and now Martin Selig has his eye on the property.
In documents filed with the city, Selig and architect Perkins + Will propose an office and residential tower there. It could have about 170 units, 160 parking spaces, 9,200 square feet of ground-floor retail and 280,000 square feet of office space.
Total project size would be about 430,000 square feet, on a property that measures about 33,750 square feet. Current zoning allows structures up to 170 feet.
The site is bounded by Western, Columbia and Marion streets, and Alaskan Way. The Columbia Street viaduct on-ramp now runs above the south end of the block. That ramp will be removed, probably beginning in 2019. The overhead easement deducts about 3,000 square feet of development potential, but the easement presumably expires with the ramp.
Queries to Selig weren't returned before deadline.
The Jacobis are prominent in local real estate, since John W. Jacobi founded Windermere Real Estate in 1972. But the 815 Western site is owned by the family, with no connection to Windermere.
On Friday, a spokeswoman said the family will continue to own the building, has no plans to sell and has filed no plans to redevelop.
But last year, when the Kundig design was being considered, Jacobi property manager Greg Gustafson told the DJC, “In our opinion, the property is at the end of its useful life as it is now. With the viaduct coming down, we are going to be under a transition period, and we are looking at what to do next.”
When the Alaskan Way Viaduct is gone and the waterfront is rebuilt, a potential new tower on the site would have an unobstructed view of Elliott Bay and the planned new ferry terminal. (That phased project will likely begin this year and finish in 2023.)
Such a tower would also block western views at The Post, which is directly to the east.
The three-story Commuter Building was built in 1906, and another floor was added later. It has offices above retail, with Dania being the most recognizable tenant.
The Marion Street pedestrian walkway to the ferry terminal is partly attached to the building, but the city plans to replace the walkway.
A second, smaller four-story building on the Jacobi block is now a parking garage. It is also 111 years old, and was damaged by the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake. The building was closed as a precaution during drilling for the viaduct replacement tunnel, and reopened for parking last fall. Neither building has any historic protections.
A new project at 815 Western would be one of several being built along the waterfront in anticipation of the viaduct removal.
Immediately north of the Commuter Building, the Maritime Building is being renovated and expanded for future tenant Big Fish. Recent apartment buildings include The Post, Cyrene and 80 Main.
Urban Visions is planning a speculative new office building at 316 Alaskan Way S., and Hudson Pacific Properties has nearly completed its office building at 450 Alaskan Way S. Saltchuck Resources is taking half of that space.
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