Belltown Real Estate


WeWork inked a deal last Thursday, August 3rd for an expansion to its WeLive co-living program at 3rd Avenue and Lenora Street. The plan is for a 36-story building with 384 apartments plus co-working space, common areas and retail space on the ground floor. There will also be five floors of secured parking underground.

WeWork is working with Martin Selig Real Estate to develop the project.

In a statement, the head of WeLive, James Woods, said, “Together, WeWork and the Selig team are creating a building that will provide Seattleites with a place to live, work, and play, and create opportunities for both the We community and the Seattle community to come together and connect.”

The building is projected to open in 2020.

An historic Belltown basement where bands like Soundgarden and Pearl Jam got their start is being threatened with sale of the property, which would likely lead to development.

The Black Dog Forge, with its hallowed basement practice room, is currently leased and co-owners Louie Raffloer and Mary Gioia learned on May 18th that they had just two months to vacate the building. The building owners are putting it up for sale. “(I) nearly threw up everything. We were standing in the middle of 25 tons of art supplies. We were very nauseous about that,” Raffloer said.

Raffloer and Gioia operate a blacksmith forge above the basement, and rent the practice space to bands to this day.

For 25 years, the 30-foot basement practice room has been used by artists and musicians including Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, The Briefs and Presidents of The United States of America. “At the time in Belltown, there were bands making noise coming out of windows on every block,” Raffloer said. “There were clubs that blared music out to the street. There was never a class of people that was here to be offended.”

But now this beloved space may be looking at its last days. However, members of the artistic and musical communities are fighting to save it. Charity Drewery, host of Stalking Seattle: A Rock and Roll Tour (which tours the basement and other music landmarks around the city) is attempting to raise money via a GoFundMe in order to buy the building and save it. But with the real estate market as it is, their chances are less than slim. As of the date of this post, only $5,790 of the $4 million goal has been raised.

Drewery has hope, however, “There’s so much money in this city, there’s got to be somebody that would be willing to buy this place and continue to lease it to them,” Drewery said.

Featured photo source: GoFundMe

By Stephen Cohen

Seattle real estate may be going through a sphere stage — a period of circular reasoning, if you will.

Amazon‘s Spheres workplace at Sixth Avenue and Lenora Street downtown certainly added some softer edges to the city’s landscape, but while “Bezos‘ balls” are dwarfed by the surrounding buildings, a proposed skyscraper would place its orb atop its 46 stories.

The proposed building at Third Avenue and Virginia Street is being designed by Vancouver, British Columbia firm Westbank to house 453 apartments above retail and office space in what is now a parking lot.

But the most apparent feature is a glass and steel sphere perched atop the building, roughly 500 feet above the city streets below.

The dome, at nearly 60 feet tall, will house amenities for the tower’s apartment dwellers, such as the pool, according to a GeekWire report.

And while it might look an awful lot like the spheres of Amazon’s new campus, the company said the dome was inspired by Buckminster Fuller and his work on geodesic domes.

At 499 feet tall, the tower would also include 103,480 square feet of office space spread across six floors below the 38 floors of apartments. The first two floors will be retail space, according to the report.

Westbank has two other active projects in Seattle, and was involved in an earlier project in Bellevue in years past.

The project is set for a design review meeting later this month, but details on when the project might break ground weren’t immediately available.

Syndicated from

Want to peruse local artwork and also give your input on what you’d like our community to look like in the future? Stop by Thursday evening, April 27th  from 6-9 pm at Makers’ space (92 Lenora St.) in Belltown. The meeting is held by Project Belltown, a community-driven group, who would show maps, plans, and would like your ideas for how this neighborhood can thrive in days to come. Local art and imagery will be on display, and there will be food and drink as well.

Project Belltown has six areas of focus for improvements:
Creative Placemaking: Preserve and promote an art and entertainment district as a neighborhood center for Belltown; as a heart of Belltown. Invest in our public realm: our historic buildings, parks, alleyways, sidewalks, and open spaces.

Economic Development: Develop strategies to market and promote Belltown businesses, both as a destination for tourists and as a walkable community. Look at strategies to preserve affordable commercial rents, and align development with desired uses.

Environment: Implement the Growing Vine Street public art and water-reclamation project, build more green street projects. Promote sustainable development and explore the implementation of an EcoDistrict throughout Belltown.

Health & Safety: Advocate for increased community policing, while pursuing additional neighborhood strategies to address homelessness. Expand on community workforce development programs and increase access to services for those in need.

Mobility & Connectivity: Improve connections to the Waterfront, Pike Place, and the Seattle Center. Promote mobility through a Belltown Connector, pedestrian, and bike connections. Build out east/west connections to Denny Triangle.

Workforce Housing: Develop a Belltown-based strategy for affordable and workforce housing. Consider a district to preserve existing housing, in alignment with HALA recommendations, and using an expanded TDR program to fund new workforce housing. Consider incentive programs tied to up-zoning.

Interior of Makers, where meet & art will be held. Photo: Makers site

Makers, where the meeting will be held, is a co-working space for entrepreneurial spirits who see the benefit of a shared working environment, camaraderie, and resources.

Come join us!

By Daniel Beekman

Seattle leaders say a proposed upzone of downtown and South Lake Union would help make the city more affordable and diverse.

But some Belltown residents are worried it would fail to stop their downtown neighborhood from becoming more expensive and exclusive.

The upzone would enable new buildings to climb one or several stories higher than is now allowed.

Though it would trigger a new Mayor Ed Murray program requiring developers to create rent-restricted housing, the developers would be allowed to pay fees to the city rather than include the affordable units in their own buildings.

And downtown, officials have said, they expect developers of high-rise buildings to choose to pay those fees.

The fees would serve a worthy purpose: The city would use them to help nonprofit organizations develop rent-restricted housing.

But Murray’s program wouldn’t require that housing to be located in the downtown neighborhoods generating the fees.

The Belltown residents say the affordable units funded by the fees would most likely end up in neighborhoods far from downtown, where land is cheaper.

“This legislation would treat our neighborhood like an ATM,” Evan Clifthorne, of the new community group Project Belltown, wrote in a letter to the City Council last month.

Downtown and South Lake Union are among more than two dozen parts of the city that Murray wants to upzone this year and next, each in tandem with the requirements of his Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program.

The mayor has said the MHA program can produce 6,000 units of rent-restricted housing in a decade, and he’s counting on downtown and South Lake Union development to generate about 2,100 of those units.

The council got started in February, approving an upzone of the University District. A final vote on the downtown and South Lake Union upzone is happened for Monday.

In certain neighborhoods, debates about Murray’s plan are following a familiar script.

Some homeowners are accusing the city of acquiescing to overdevelopment, while some urbanists are slamming the mayor’s critics as “not in my backyard” obstructionists.

Belltown’s narrative is somewhat different, says Merlée Sherman, a 24-year-old food educator raising two children with her partner in a 250-square-foot studio apartment.

Sherman and her neighbors aren’t afraid of density. Belltown already is very urban. And they aren’t particularly upset about what the upzone would do. They’re more upset about what it might not do — help people of all incomes remain in their neighborhood.

“I want other families to be able to live downtown,” Sherman said earlier this month. “We walk everywhere. Everything is accessible. You’d think 250 square feet would be hell, but when we walk outside we have everything.”

Sherman discussed the upzone with Clifthorne after taking part in a Project Belltown “visioning event” last month. They and some of their neighbors say the legislation should ensure the construction of affordable housing in Belltown. They say it should also consider the needs of people struggling to climb into and stay in the middle class.

The MHA program is set up to create housing for families making no more than 60 percent of the area’s median income. For a single person, 60 percent of the median is about $40,000 per year, and for a family of four, 60 percent is about $55,000 per year.

By giving Belltown developers the option of paying fees and by helping households making below 60 percent, “you say no” to some middle-class workers, Sherman said.

“You say no to the insurance broker, to the mechanic, the list goes on,” she said.

Terique Scott, who moved to Belltown from Cleveland four years ago, shares Sherman’s perspective. The 30-year-old Belltown Community Council board member says a neighborhood “where you still have black, white, rich, poor, homeless” has become less diverse as rents have soared.

“There should be more workforce housing,” Scott said, sitting around a meeting with Clifthorne and Sherman in the Makers co-working space on Lenora Street. “They’re just making it low-income and high-income. They’re killing the middle class.”

Fees option

Clifthorne, who was an aide to former City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, says council members are well-meaning and says the MHA program is a good idea, overall.

But some details of the plan bother him. Clifthorne says the fees option exists partly because developers believe low-income tenants make their buildings less marketable.

And he says the upzone could exacerbate segregation between neighborhoods by using luxury buildings downtown to fund affordable housing in less-wealthy areas.

“The perception that we can’t have poor people living close to rich people is a driving factor,” Clifthorne said.

For a better Belltown, the city could let downtown developers include units for households making up to 80 percent of the median, he says.

The council also could boost incentives for developers who buy existing buildings near their luxury buildings and then keep the rents affordable, Clifthorne says.

Finally, the MHA program could allow developers to spend less on the rent-restricted units they include in their luxury buildings. The program now requires a building’s rent-restricted and market-rate units to have similar dimensions and amenities.

“We’re not being creative enough,” Clifthorne said.

Councilmember Rob Johnson, who ushered the upzone through the council’s land-use committee, says he understands the anxiety in Belltown but stands by the plan.

The fees option is valuable because construction dollars go further in neighborhoods such as Rainier Beach and Lake City, Johnson says. In other words, a downtown developer paying fees rather than including units means more affordable housing.

“There’s a natural tension around this throughout the city,” Johnson said.

Though the MHA program doesn’t require the city to use the fees in the same neighborhoods where they were generated, the program makes proximity a consideration, the council member says. The city has a track record of funding low-income housing in all sorts of neighborhoods, including Belltown, Johnson notes.

By targeting families making no more than 60 percent of the median, Johnson says, the program is meant to help people making up to just above the minimum wage.

That’s different from most of Belltown’s existing affordable buildings, which are reserved for people making no more than 30 percent of the median, he says.

Another angle

Clifthorne doesn’t expect the council to make any drastic changes Monday in response to Belltown concerns, he says.

But another angle on the upzone could lead to heated debate. Councilmember Lisa Herbold plans to propose an amendment that would increase the requirements on downtown developers, who are being asked to do less than developers elsewhere.

She says the upzone, as proposed, could yield fewer affordable units in some cases than Seattle’s existing Incentive Zoning program, which is voluntary for developers.

Syndicated from The Seattle Times.