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March 08, 2017

Now with bigger site, 820 John to face first design review

Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce

Brian Miller

The 24-story residential tower proposed for 820 John St. will have its first early design guidance meeting next month. Early plans have been filed with the city for the project, which is located immediately north of Denny Park in South Lake Union.

Property owner Rich Reel is partnering with Pillar Properties on the project, to be built on a 21,000-square-foot site at the northwest corner of John and Ninth Avenue North. Reel purchased most of it in 1994 for $885,000. Those two parcels are now held by 9th and John LLC, which is associated with Reel and Pillar's Billy Pettit.

A third 7,200-square-foot parcel is owned by Vashon Island real-estate investor John Goodfellow through Ninth Avenue Associates LLC. Correspondence in city records indicates that parcel is now under contract to sell.

"He and I talked, and we put the deal together," Reel confirmed. "It's a good thing. It'll close sometime in the second quarter of this year." Kidder Mathews' Jeff Loftus is representing Goodfellow in the sale.

Reel had initially proposed 160 units on the smaller site. An EDG meeting announced last fall for 820 John was canceled at his request. "The floorplate was too small, not efficient enough," said Reel. Before, with two parcels, the floorplates above the podium level were about 7,200 square feet. Now they go up to about 10,000 square feet. "That really helps with the efficiency," said Reel.

On the now larger site, the new proposal is for 230 units with 200 parking spaces below grade. "Plus or minus," said Reel, since the unit count will likely shift with future design tweaks. There would also be 2,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. Ankrom Moisan Architects is designing the project. Hewitt is the landscape architect.

In Ankrom Moisan's preferred design, dubbed "phototropism," the south facade facing the park would be broken into three bays canted toward the west. These would allow more sunlight and views to residents, and help break up the building's mass. 820 John would also have a three-story podium, several small rooftop decks, and 15,000 square feet of indoor residential amenity space.

For now, said Reel, his existing building is fully leased. Though the first design review isn't until next month, "We did get a lot of design work done before we put the project on hold." Given the usual development timeline, he hopes the project might break ground in mid-2018. Construction would typically take 18 to 20 months.

Several projects are being planned near 820 John. West across the alley, at 200 Eighth Ave. N., Seattle Unity Church will be razed and replaced by a 28-story tower with 348 units proposed by Greystar. However, massing studies by Ankrom Moisan indicate that the separate new church replacement building, to be designed by Olson Kundig, would be directly west of 820 John. This should help mitigate tower-separation conflicts.

Reel said that Ankrom Moisan is coordinating with Greystar's two architects. Weber Thompson is designing the residential tower, which will be pushed north on the Unity Church site, while 820 John will be pushed south on its site. "We talk to them regularly," said Reel. "We're not gonna have a war."

To the east, a 12-story office tower is being planned for 234 Ninth. Vulcan Real Estate also has plans for a seven-story tower with 129 units at 910 John. And on the full block east of Denny Park, Vulcan is planning a 41-story tower with 464 units, an 18-story office tower and an open-air retail pavilion structure. This mega-project is often called Block 48.

North of 820 John are parking lots and one- to two-story buildings, mostly owned by Goodfellow. Reel said that Goodfellow, an owner of the Banya 5 spa at 217 Ninth, is aware of rising land values in South Lake Union. The parcel under contract is now mostly used for spa parking. Goodfellow's late father Jack was the founder of Goodway Leasing and a significant real-estate investor in the University District and SLU.

While the smaller 820 John project was being prepared last year, did Reel always have the Goodfellow parking lot in mind as a fallback? "I did," said Reel.

The early design guidance meeting for 820 John is set for 8:00 p.m. Wednesday, April 19, at the Queen Anne Community Center, 1901 First Ave. W.

© 2017 Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce. All rights reserved.

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