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Pioneer Square board hears about development plan for Qwest Field lot

The Pioneer Square Preservation Board will meet Wednesday morning (March 2) in City Hall to hear details of what might be the most remarkable construction project in the neighborhood’s history: a high-rise in Pioneer Square.

Real-estate developer Kevin Daniels and his firm, known for re-purposing old commercial buildings, are seeking to build four, new towers on what is now the county-owned, north parking lot of Qwest Field.

If approved, the $255 million project, called Stadium Place, would eventually create millions of square feet of residential, office, and retail space as well as nearly 1,000 covered parking spaces. Two of the proposed towers would rise more than 200 feet above the historic neighborhood of low-rise, stone and brick structures, requiring the current height limits in that area to be doubled.

Already, construction crews are drilling holes in the west side of the parking lot to test the soil prior to driving foundation pilings. The first phase of the project would be to develop the west side of the parking lot.

Pending approval, crews plan to break ground in late summer and start pouring the foundation, said Daniels of Daniels Real Estate Co., the developer of record on the project. Daniels is also the president and chief operating officer of Nitze-Stagen & Co., the developers responsible for renovating Union Station and the Starbucks Center among other buildings. Most of Nitze-Stagen’s projects are in Pioneer Square or south of downtown.

The 10-member Preservation Board meets on the first and third Wednesday of every month to review construction and development-related matters affecting Pioneer Square. Most of its agenda items pertain to small matters like new signage, repairs to a building’s facade, or the installation of a store awning.

One of the larger concerns currently before the board is the fate of the 619 Western art building, currently in the path of the planned waterfront tunnel. The Stadium Place project represents a substantially larger footprint and a more prominent place in the city’s skyline.

Before ground can be broken, two environmental concerns have to be remedied, Daniels said. Engineers have discovered a large deposit of creosote 35 feet below ground on the east side of the parking lot, almost certainly the result of the rail activity there. The deposit is more than 100 years old and needs to be encapsulated. Removing or disturbing the creosote, which is below the water table, would cause more harm than leaving it there, Daniels said.

Crews also plan to remove soil contaminated with petroleum at the corner of Occidental Avenue and King Street, where a filling station once operated 70 or 80 years ago. Abatement, rather than encapsulation, is the preferred remedy at Occidental and King. Developers have yet to reach final agreement with the state’s Department of Ecology on environmental remediation.

The developers of Stadium Place also have yet to secure financing for its construction, but Daniels said several lenders are very interested in the project. While many developers seek to sell after they build, Daniels Real Estate does not, which lenders have found appealing, he said.

“Because of the scale of the overall project, we intend to start on the west block first,” Daniels said. “In the first phase of the west block, we will be concentrating on apartments.”

When the Preservation Board gathers, it will hear details of only the preliminary portion of the project.

The first phase of development on the lot’s west side will create 687,598 square feet of apartments and 18,580 square feet of retail space. Of the 787 apartment units built, 100 will be designated as below-market affordable housing as defined by the Seattle Housing Authority. The first phase is the larger of the two planned phases and the more expensive, accounting for 70 percent of the total budget.

Stadium Place is expected to be completed in 2015 and will include three apartment towers of varying height. 

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