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August 24, 2016

Wilshire downsizing project at 403 Dexter

Journal staff reporter

Rendering by VIA Architecture [enlarge]
Last year Wilshire proposed a 25-story, 226-unit tower for 403 Dexter Ave. N., but now the building has been reduced to eight stories with 91 units.

It's down, it's up, it's down again.

Los Angeles-based Wilshire Capital Partners acquired the former Wright Exhibition Space two years ago for $4.1 million. The approximately 12,000-square-foot property at 403 Dexter Ave. N. is located mid-block between Harrison and Thomas streets, and faces east.

Wilshire initially considered putting a seven-story, mixed-use building there, but last year the company announced new plans for a 25-story, mixed-use tower with 226 residential units. Documents filed with the city mentioned the 2013 South Lake Union rezone as the reason for the change.

This month, following the first round of early design review, Wilshire reduced the plan to eight stories, 91 apartments, about 50 parking spaces below grade and 3,000 square feet of commercial space.

The shrinkage is puzzling at a time when there's so much activity on Dexter and in SLU in general. Apartment buildings, once leased, are selling quickly and for high prices. And Wilshire is an active, savvy player in this area, currently developing mixed-use projects at 427 Ninth Ave. N. (26 stories) and 525 Boren Ave. N. (seven stories). It can build tall and short.

The 427 Ninth tower has not even broken ground yet, but the project sold in May for $16.25 million to Hong Kong's Create World America.

The Seattle office of Canada-based VIA Architecture is designing all three projects for Wilshire.

Just north of 403 Dexter, Mill Creek Residential is building a seven-story, 294-unit Modera South Lake Union, located on the old Hostess Bakery site. South of 403 Dexter is a one-story teardown, once home to PrintWorks, at 401 Dexter Ave. N. That 4,690-square-foot parcel is owned by West Coast developer Kilroy, which is developing the full block to the south that was formerly home to KING Broadcasting. That project is called 333 Dexter.

As to why plans for 403 Dexter were so drastically reduced in scale, one hypothesis is offered by Bryan Stevens of the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections. Last fall, he said, there was talk of the city easing restrictions about tapering floor plates above 85 feet, making it more economically feasible to build taller. “However,” said Stevens, “the City Council did not approve this proposed amendment to the code.”

Both the Kilroy and Wilshire properties are hemmed in by an L-shaped alley. Kilroy bought 401 Dexter as part of the larger KING transaction, for $1.8 million, after Wilshire bought 403 Dexter.

Might it not make more sense for them to partner and build higher, even with floor plates tapering above 85 feet? Together they'd have over 16,000 square feet of land to develop. Or will Kilroy next announce plans for 401 Dexter — none have been filed with the city — for a project that is the same height as whatever Wilshire builds?

Calls to Kilroy, Wilshire and VIA were not returned.

To date, VIA has only made massing studies for 403 Dexter, though Wilshire's website still shows a rendering for the 25-story tower, with the one-story PrintWorks building at its feet.

No contractor has been announced for 403 Dexter. Synergy Construction is currently working with Wilshire and VIA on 525 Boren.

(Editor’s note: The story has been changed to correct the name of the contractor on 525 Boren.)


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

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