Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has struck a new deal to develop a residential tower on an full-block opposite City Hall that’s been a hole in the ground for more than a decade.
Mayor Ed Murray has struck a new deal to develop a residential tower on an empty block opposite Seattle City Hall that’s been troubled by economic and political problems for years.
Under the tentative deal announced Friday, Murray said Bosa Development would pay $16 million to build on the city-owned block that’s remained a large hole in the ground while construction cranes have sprouted on the blocks around it.
Bosa would pay another $5.7 million into a fund for affordable housing as part of the agreement, according to the mayor.
“That square will no longer be an empty block,” said Murray, who wants to use the $16 million to start a city Equitable Development Fund to support “community-driven projects” such as job training.
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A spokeswoman for Bosa, which has offices in San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., said it was too soon for company officials to comment. Bosa recently developed the Insignia condominium tower in the Denny Triangle area.
If the proposal, which must be approved by the City Council, moves forward, it would mark a new chapter in one of the stranger civic sagas of this century.
For 11 years the city’s 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 block, bounded by Third and Fourth avenues and James and Cherry streets.
The City Council insisted on a public Civic Square Plaza for the site, seeing the plaza as a capstone to the campus of a new City Hall, Municipal Court and Police Department headquarters.
The city signed a contract in 2007 with Triad Development, but its plans were stalled by the recession. Triad got extensions on the property.
The plan took a weird twist last year 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 wasn’t clear what the sticking points were for Touchstone. Its executives referred questions to Murray’s office, which said it wouldn’t discuss the contract with Triad.
The agreement revealed Friday is a three-party deal involving the city, Bosa and Triad, which retained development rights to the property.
The deal would have Triad transferring its development rights to Bosa. That is a private deal between the two developers, said Fred Podesta, the city’s director of finance and administration.
The city and Bosa still need to negotiate the final terms of their deal. Podesta said he expected to have that done by the end of the year.
Plans still call for a public plaza and retail on the site, he said. Bosa would own the plaza but provide the city with a permanent easement to design and operate activities there, according to Podesta.
He said building a downtown residential tower was in Bosa’s “wheelhouse.” The city expects to send the proposal to the City Council early next year, with hopes that construction would start in 2018 and finish about 18 months later.
A boom in downtown office construction has brought a greater demand for housing and public amenities in the area, Podesta said.
After the deal with Triad went sour, City Councilmember Kshama Sawant had called for the city to turn all of the old Public Safety Building site into affordable housing.
Mike O’Brien, the only council member at the mayor’s announcement, said the proposed deal “sounds great,” although he hadn’t seen the financial details yet.