Mayor Ed Murray is moving ahead with a deal for Seattle to transfer development rights for the property across from City Hall and is looking to work out a revised project with Touchstone Corporation, with a groundbreaking later this year.
Mayor Ed Murray is moving ahead with a deal for Seattle to transfer the development rights for the troubled Civic Square project to a new company, he said Monday.
Triad Development submitted a request last week asking the city to transfer its rights to build on city-owned property across from City Hall to Touchstone Corporation, and the mayor has agreed to entertain the proposal.
Before finalizing the deal, officials will spend 60 days negotiating a new structure for the project with Touchstone, said Fred Podesta, Department of Finance and Administrative Services director.
Since 2007, when officials chose Triad to remake the block between Cherry and James streets and Third and Fourth avenues, the plan has been for the city to transfer most of the property to Triad in exchange for the company building a $25 million Civic Square plaza on part of the site, alongside a high-rise residential and office tower.
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Triad struggled to line up financing for the project during the economic recession and has been unable to start work on it since then, despite two contract extensions. The property includes an entrance to the Pioneer Square light-rail station.
“This new agreement will allow us to move forward with a vibrant Civic Square development that includes public open space and light rail access,” Murray said in a news release Monday. “I look forward to working with Touchstone as we get this project moving. We aim to break ground this year.”
Triad’s relationship with the mayor broke down in October after a City Council candidate accused the developer of trying to strong-arm him into helping settle a lawsuit against the company.
Murray vowed to end the city’s relationship with Triad, saying the episode didn’t “represent the values of our city.” Noting Seattle’s ongoing real-estate boom, he said officials would seek a new and better arrangement for the block’s development.
But rather than let Triad’s contract expire at the end of last year, Murray gave the company extra time to try to transfer its rights.
On Monday, Podesta declined to comment on how much money Touchstone might pay Triad for those rights. “We’re not a party to the agreement between Triad and Touchstone,” he said.
A Touchstone representative declined an interview request, while Triad didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
Podesta said negotiations between his department and Touchstone will be “around the margins” of the project.
“We want to get this thing moving,” he said. “We expect that what gets built there will be pretty much what’s already been permitted to be built there. There could be some changes in the financial terms.”
Touchstone must submit a financing plan, project schedules and other materials to the city by May 11, according to Murray’s news release. If the mayor approves, he’ll then send legislation to the City Council.
Podesta declined to speculate on whether the revised project will include on-site affordable-housing units. The lack of those was a criticism leveled at the project by a group of tenants who sued Triad and the city last year.