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Brian Miller
Real Estate Editor

September 1, 2016

On the Block: Cyrene apartments on schedule; Bertha is not

Two years ago, the DJC wrote this about Mack Urban's plans for a 16-story tower at Western Avenue and University Street: “The apartments are expected to open in June of 2016. That is the same year the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which runs along the west side of the site, is scheduled to be torn down.”

We all know how that turned out.

The viaduct replacement tunnel was stalled for two years — roughly from December 2013 to December 2015 — while Bertha was stuck and repaired.

Meanwhile Mack Urban went forward with the Cyrene, at 50 University St. It broke ground in May 2015 and is projected to open in January, according to Mack Urban's Dayna Dealy. The building sits on land owned by Enwave Seattle (formerly Seattle Steam), with a 99-year lease.

Rendering by Ankrom Moisan [enlarge]
The Cyrene is rendered here with the viaduct gone and glorious views to the west, but that won’t happen until at least 2019.

“Everyone thought we were crazy for committing,” laughs Dealy, “and maybe we were. We were assuming the viaduct was going to be down [by now]. It's our commitment to the waterfront. We don't have any partners. We put our money into the project.”

Meanwhile a marketing website, cyreneseattle.com, has been set up for leasing the Cyrene's 169 apartments. “We are taking reservations,” says Dealy. The full website will launch later this month, with a nearby leasing office — likely on Western — to open in October. Mack Urban will act as its own leasing agent for the Cyrene, which has 112 parking spaces above and below grade.

FYI, the Cyrene is named after a small steam-powered ferry that was built in 1891 at the nearby Colman Dock.

On the commercial side, Gibralter's Laura Miller is handling the leasing for the Cyrene's almost 4,000 square feet of west-facing retail space. Dealy admits that with the viaduct sitting there, “The retail's gonna be tough. I'm thinking five- to 10-year leases.” She mentions a test kitchen as one possibility.

Construction offices occupy the few storefronts that face the viaduct in other buildings (such as Waterfront Place, for instance). A few Crossfit gyms and mini-storage operations have sprung up along the noisy, retail-challenged sections of Western Avenue, where the roadway has been under near-constant repair.

For now though, the Cyrene's quieter side faces Western, even though there are Enwave plants nearby on both sides of Western that will supply heat to the building.

As the last bits of scaffolding are being removed, the Cyrene presents handsomely to the Harbor Steps — developed by Harbor Properties (later Harbor Urban, now Mack Urban). Ankrom Moisan designed the Cyrene. Exxel Pacific is the general contractor. Hewitt, Andrea Bartlett and Mercedes Fernandez Interior Design are also on the project team.

To the west, the spectacular view side, is the deafening roar of the viaduct and seawall reconstruction. The Cyrene has a deck on the seventh floor — where the building setback begins — that's about eye-level with the viaduct's upper roadway.

The viaduct won't come down any sooner than 2019 — if Bertha stays on schedule. By that time, the tunnel should be open and the viaduct closed. As for removing the viaduct, no city or state projections have been made as to how long that process will take.

Then there's the ongoing multi-billion-dollar rebuilding of the entire waterfront, which will last several more years — with varying amounts of dust and noise.

“It'll be different with the park,” says the optimistic Dealy. She envisions Cyrene restaurants one day facing a pedestrian-friendly waterfront plaza, teeming with tourists and locals on their lunch breaks. Or better, lingering after work in bars and eateries.

Unlike most buildings along Alaskan Way, the Cyrene's west face is actually designed for retail — rather than loading trucks and rail cars. (The residents' ground-level gym faces east.)

Ironically, the non-view side of the building may be more desirable for residents on the lower floors until the viaduct comes down. The Cyrene has modern windows and soundproofing, but during the uncertain interim future, Dealy says “a few floors will be discounted” on the west-facing side.

Rents for all the Cyrene's one- and two-bedroom units haven't yet been determined, says Dealy, who adds, “It's a luxury building, high-end.” Indeed, the roof deck and club room atop the 16th floor will have panoramic views of Elliott Bay, Mount Rainier and the Great Wheel — perfect for entertaining.

It's clear from the website that the Cyrene isn't being marketed to penniless millennials: “Cyrene's magnificently appointed homes are well-refined to highlight your personal style. An exquisite and graceful lobby sets a casually elegant tone as you enter.”

What the website doesn't advertise, though now implicit with the Cyrene, is the danger and the privilege of being first to market, even with a premium product.

“We like a challenge,” says Dealy. “It's still a fabulous location.”

Got a tip? Contact DJC real estate editor Brian Miller at brian.miller@djc.com or call him at (206) 219-6517.

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