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August 9, 2016

Urban Visions buys Alaskan Way site, and a LUPA is part of the $13M deal

Journal Staff Reporter

Gerding Edlen had planned to build 200 units of market rate housing in an 11-story structure. Greg Smith said it’s too early to know what he’ll do with the property.

In the shadow of the doomed Alaskan Way Viaduct, a very well-positioned parking garage sold for $13 million last Friday, according to King County records.

The site is at 316 Alaskan Way S., on the corner of South Jackson Street. A three-story structure built in 1909, which became a garage 10 years later, sits there today on a 20,766 square-foot lot, which is large for Pioneer Square.

The seller is listed as 316 Alaskan Way LLC and the buyer is UV 316 Alaskan LLC, which is associated with Greg Smith's Urban Visions. The seller is affiliated with Portland developer Gerding Edlen, which had acquired the property two years ago for $12 million.

Gerding Edlen had planned to build 200 units of market rate housing in an 11-story, L-shaped structure, with 6,500 square feet of street-level retail and parking for 79 vehicles, both below and at grade.

The team included architect WTGBD, a joint venture of Weber Thompson and GBD, and general contractor Lease Crutcher Lewis.

In July 2015, the Pioneer Square Preservation Board voted 7-1 against the project, which had attracted intense opposition — including from residents of a four-story condo complex at 80 S. Jackson St., just to the east.

Seattle Department of Neighborhoods approved Gerding Edlen's plans in October 2015, but last February, the city's hearing examiner overturned that decision. As part of the deal, Urban Visions inherits from Gerding Edlen ongoing legal proceedings on file with King County Superior Court.

In court papers dated June 20, the 316 Alaskan Way LLC names as respondents the city of Seattle and individuals associated with the Save Our Square committee, some of whom live at the 80 S. Jackson condominium.

Court records show the following schedule for the LUPA, or land use petition act appeal, to overturn the hearing examiner's decision: appellants' brief to be filed Aug. 22; the city's response, and that of other named parties, to be filed Sept. 19; and a hearing before Judge Bill Bowman on Oct. 24.

Speaking on Monday, Smith said he wasn't surprised by the opposition to the project but he was surprised by the hearing examiner's ruling. He declined to comment on the LUPA.

Smith said the deal came together in the last 90 days. He did not say whether any brokers were involved.

Will Urban Visions keep the old design team or start with a fresh sheet of paper for the project? Smith said, “It's too early” to say.

While Gerding Edlen wanted to build quickly, Smith said, “We are very flexible. I'm a much longer term thinker. I don't think quarter to quarter.” Given the uncertain timing of the waterfront tunnel completion and demolition of the viaduct, he said, “We will be prepared to move forward whenever the market's right.”

This would have been Gerding Edlen's first project in the historic district. Urban Visions, by contrast, owns over 10 properties in Pioneer Square, and 316 Alaskan is just the latest addition to its portfolio.

Smith promised “more sensitivity” in future plans for 316 Alaskan.

“We're very committed to our neighborhood,” he said. “I look at Pioneer Square in a very historical way, and I love what's it's about. We've been involved in Pioneer Square for decades and decades.”


Brian Miller can be reached by email at brian.miller@djc.com or by phone at (206) 219-6517.

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