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November 22, 2019

SLI plans kit-built units for Mercer Mega Block

Real Estate Editor

Image provided by Alexandria Real Estate Equities [enlarge]
The Alexandria Real Estate project would have 364 apartments, 213 of which would be affordable to families with incomes at or below 85% of area median income.

When Alexandria Real Estate announced its agreement in September to buy the city-owned Mercer Mega Block for $143.5 million, the architects for the three main building on those nearly 3 acres were not announced. There were renderings for two office towers on the larger east portion, and for the apartment tower to the west at 615 Dexter Ave. N.

Now we know who's designing the latter. An early plan has been filed for that corner, at Roy Street, which says that the project will use the patented Sustainable Living Innovations “kit of parts” construction method (commonly called modular or prefab). SLI is a venture of architect CollinsWoerman and Renova Capital Partners of Denver.

At 615 Dexter, the new plan is for an 18-story building with 364 units. Of those, 213 will have rents affordable to families with incomes at or below 85% of area median income.

The early plan also mentions solar power and wastewater-capture systems. The corner totals about half an acre; the old BluZebra warehouse building will be removed.

Though Alexandria's unsigned September rendering for 615 Dexter looks to have about 16 stories, not 18, the very regular apartment stacks and steel exoskeleton were significant clues. SLI's pre-assembled wall and floor panels are manufactured off-site then jacked into place, from top to bottom, from within the exoskeleton. Each unit within a stack is an identical clone. SLI's first demonstration project was 47+7 in the University District, which sold in 2017, not long after completion, for almost $9 million.

Alexandria's PR shop declined to comment.

There are at least two other SLI apartment projects in the works: 15 stories with 112 units at 303 Battery St. in Belltown; and 21 stories with 176 units at 901 Madison St. It appears that Renova will buy both properties. The Belltown plan is much further ahead in planning and permitting. There's also a 38-story, 424-unit SLI plan at 1800 Terry Ave. (a site owned by local investors), though that project may have stalled.

Separately, NBBJ is planning an 11-story office tower directly to the south at 601 Dexter (aka Copiers Northwest). That corner, at Mercer Street, sold to Alexandria for $28.5 million in June, prior to the Mercer Mega Block announcement. At this point, it's really part of the whole assemblage — as is the corner at 701 Dexter, which Alexandria also owns. That planned 10-story office building, by ZGF Architects, predates all the other projects above.

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

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