A full block west of Seattle City Hall will remain a fenced hole for now, as Mayor Ed Murray says that a development deal fell through because of financing problems.
It’s one hole the city of Seattle hasn’t been able to fill.
Although construction cranes sprout around its prime location, the full block just west of City Hall will remain undeveloped for the foreseeable future.
Mayor Ed Murray announced Thursday that the latest development deal for the property fell through. “Unfortunately, no parties have been willing to commit capital to finance the project,” Murray said in a statement.
The mayor said it was time to explore other options.
For 11 years the plan has called for selling the parcel, site of the city’s Public Safety Building until its 2005 demolition. In exchange, a developer would create office, residential and retail space, plus a public plaza on the site bounded by Third and Fourth avenues and James and Cherry streets.
Murray said the city should assess whether the design is viable. City Council President Bruce Harrell said it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
“It seems at this point, given its checkered past, that we need to start over,” Harrell said. “We just need a fresh start. Some of the assumptions back in 2005 may not be valid.”
In 2005, the council insisted on a public Civic Square plaza at the site. The plaza was seen as a capstone to the building of a new City Hall, Municipal Court and Police Department headquarters.
The city signed a contract in 2007 with Triad Development, but that was stalled by the recession. Triad got two yearlong extensions on the property.
The plan took a weird twist in October when Murray vowed to end the city’s relationship with Triad once and for all after a City Council candidate accused the developer of trying to strong-arm him into helping settle a lawsuit against the company.
In March, Triad asked to transfer its interest to another firm, Touchstone. The city gave Touchstone 60 days to line up investors.
Touchstone tried to finance a mix of office, residential and commercial space but was unable to do so, Murray said. The city would have owned and maintained the public plaza.
It’s not clear just what the sticking points were for Touchstone. A call to its executives was referred to the mayor’s staff who did not return calls. Triad CEO Fred Grimm did not return a call.
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The mayor’s statement said “we will not be publicly discussing contract issues” with Triad.
A couple of sources speculated that developers may have missed the window of opportunity at the site. With considerable office development under way in that part of downtown, investors might be worried about overbuilding in the area.
“We’re not under their tent to know what’s causing their impediments,” Harrell said. “I think our path forward should be clear. Meet with Triad to see what impediments they might have had. And see what our legal options are.”
When that might happen is unclear. Harrell said he’d like questions answered this summer before the council’s budget deliberations in the fall.
City Councilmember Kshama Sawant said now that the city appears to be starting over, it can “afford to turn it into housing for Seattleites being priced out of their homes and city. The original deal with Triad should never have been signed, and Mayor Murray should never have extended it, but we now have the opportunity to do something positive with that space.”