Coming: Seattle's densest residential block

Developers jostle at Third and Cedar in Belltown, where a new building will go up right in front of an existing condominium tower.
Crosscut archive image.

The low building will be replaced by a 26-story tower, with Seattle Heights behind.

Developers jostle at Third and Cedar in Belltown, where a new building will go up right in front of an existing condominium tower.

Seattle's most densely populated neighborhood (that would be Belltown) is about to get even denser with a 298-unit, 27-story residential apartment tower at Third and Cedar Sts. The quarter-block parcel is occupied by a handsome one-story building that housed the Washington Lung Association. It will be separated from an existing 26-story condominum building by a narrow alley, creating the city's densest single block.

A spokesman for the general contractor, Andersen Construction, says demolition work will begin next week. Construction, beginning with six levels of underground parking, is expected to take two years.

How dense will the block be? A neighborhood of single-family homes like, say, Wallingford, has room for up to eight 60-foot building lots between cross streets, or 16 dwelling units per block. The Belltown block, by comparison, will have 539 dwelling units.

Construction permits were awarded only after the developer, Wood Partners, scaled back its plans to develop the entire half-block along Third between Vine and Cedar. Wood paid a $239,000 indemnity to the homeowners association of the project's across-the-alley neighbor, the 239-unit, 26-story Seattle Heights condominium, which had claimed the proposal violated a number of zoning restrictions. (Disclosure: I lease a studio apartment in Seattle Heights, but am not an owner.)

Wood also agreed it would not develop its adjacent, quarter-block property at Third and Vine, site of a Rite Aid store, for at least ten years, and would keep any future development on the Rite Aid site under 85 feet in height. Even so, the new apartment building will have a major impact on northeast views (toward the Space Needle) for many Seattle Heights residents.

The new development comes three months after another residential high rise in the neighborhood, the 26-story McGuire Apartments, was demolished because of construction flaws. Steve Orser, a former executive with that project's co-developer, Harbor Properties, is now the Seattle-based vice president for Wood Partners. The venerable Harbor Properties, founded by the late Stim Bullitt, has just been sold to a New York real estate private equity firm AREA and the Los Angeles developer, Urban Properties LLC for a reported $75 million. Things are hot in the multifamily market, particularly in Seattle.

The settlement allowing the new (unnamed) project at Third and Cedar, which will be apartments not condominiums, includes a payment by Wood Partners of  $120,000 in Seattle Heights legal fees, and another $150,000 for a "shoring license" and loading bay to protect the alley access to Seattle Heights's parking garage.

Meantime, Harbor Properties has begun renting units in the 15-story Alto Apartments across Third Avenue from the new project, the former home of Crosscut's offices in 2010. The half-block McGuire site is currently standing vacant.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Ronald Holden

Ronald Holden

Ronald Holden is a regular Crosscut contributor. His new book, published this month, is titled “HOME GROWN Seattle: 101 True Tales of Local Food & Drink." (Belltown Media. $17.95).