Dearborn Street Development Conditionally Approved

The redevelopment of the 10-acre Goodwill site at 1400 South Dearborn St. has been conditionally approved (h/t Central District News). Read all the gory details here (pdf). Most significantly, the developer’s request for a contract rezone from 65 to 85 feet was granted, with the key condition that 400 residential units be provided.

This proposal has been controversial, as noted here. I continue to be decidedly ambivalent. I like it because it is much better use of the land, and it will be great to have new housing and retail on that site. But I also dislike it for several reasons:

  • Overall, it’s just too damn big. Big developments inherently lack the diversity in building form, age, use, style, cost, etc. that are essential ingredients for a vibrant city.
  • It’s overparked. 2300 parking stalls. And Seattle wants to be the greenest city in the U.S. Hello?
  • The car-centric design deprives the development of the granularity that would more appropriate for an urban village. Ideally the street grid would extend through the site in both directions to allow maximum permeability for both cars and pedestrians. But the requirement for massive structured parking decks terminates the grid on the south and west. You have to walk up two flights of stairs to enter the site on foot from Dearborn.
  • Oh, and apparently I’m in favor of banning big box stores from Seattle.

13 Responses to “Dearborn Street Development Conditionally Approved”

  1. Jason

    But I *LIKE* Target. Having one within longish walking distance of the I.D. light rail station would be good.

  2. dorian gray

    Nicely done Fuller Sears! Way to stick it out for years! You’ve had to deal with the dumbest of mouthbreathers determined to keep the neighborhood a slum. You understood retail REQUIRES parking to get signed leases, and retail activates the streetscape unlike anything else creating (gasp) a desirable area to live -in the Central District no less!

    Pay no attention to reactionary blogs who have yet to plug a cap rate into an excel spreadsheet trying to make a project economically feasible. You did it.

  3. Toby

    Gotta say I disagree with the above. The big box nature of the development does nothing to increase the quality of the “slum” it’s in. If you think that that Little Saigon is not doing well now (a view which i personally don’t share), imagine how it’s going to be when much of the business that currently flows to the small businesses is diverted by the new big boxes.

    A redevelopment on the Goodwill site isn’t inherently a bad thing, but when it’s a bland and monolithic all it does is perpetuate the same urban planning issues we’ve been struggling with sine the 50’s.

    The last thing Seattle needs is a brand new mall in the heart of the city. And that’s what, in essence, this project is.

  4. michael

    “Anybody out there who’s got a project that has any sort of greenhouse emissions associated with it, they would be well advised to talk about that in their SEPA documents,” Manning [Director DoE] said. “The (legal) risk exists today and frankly, I’m surprised that the litigation hasn’t surfaced.”

    I wonder how they discuss the GHG emissions resulting from the 17,000 additional trips/day this project will generate in their SEPA docs…

    Good thing for this project that the State is still a couple years off from mandated GHG mitigation…

  5. NBeacon Jon

    This is welcome step in the process. It’ll be nice to have some more shopping alternatives nearby without adding to my carbon footprint by driving to exotic lands like Bellevue and Tukwila.

    I see people deriding the aesthetics of the design here, and I don’t understand. You get the feeling that a field of weeds, garbage, and god knows what is more desirable. Are they maybe expecting the Riviera with 25 parking stalls and 400 bike racks?

  6. Andrew

    17,000 trips a day is a massive over estimation.

    But here’s the real question, since a Fry’s is going in there, are (absolute max-end) 10,000 trips a day better than 5,000 trips from the city to Renton each day?

    It’s pretty obvious.

  7. Rob A

    This will be a good addition to the city IMHO. It is close in, allowing people to do their shopping near where they live, versus driving to Northgate, Renton or some other burb. Sure, people may still drive to get there, but driving 2 miles is surely a lot better than driving 20 miles. The affordable residential is also a big plus. Sure, it is big, but it is A LOT of units and still nice densification.

  8. danb

    dorian gray: Readers of this blog understand that developers are not magicians and must answer to the realities of the financial system. Time to let go of that straw man.

    I am interested in understanding why our economic and political system isn’t doing a better job of enabling development that better suits the needs of the future, primarily with respect to global warming and peak oil.

    As I’ve said and commenters have noted, the Goodwill project is good in some ways, bad in others. I can’t help critiquing a project that sacrifices good urban design for parking, especially when considering the heightening need for us to reduce car dependence in the future.

    How smart a use of land and resources will those 2300 parking stalls seem in 20 years? Maybe the homeless will live in them.

  9. David Sucher

    “How smart a use of land and resources will those 2300 parking stalls seem in 20 years?”

    Depends on whether the garage is designed for easy adaptation to another use.

  10. Andrew

    I am mister transit (I started the Seattle Transit Blog, after all) but do you really think people won’t be driving in 20 years? Even if getting in a car is expensive, people will still do it for the big-purchases.

    Not like now, I’m sure, but we still will be, even after oil becomes expensive:
    http://www.google.com/search?q=site%3ASeatrans.blogspot.com+coal&rls=com.microsoft:*&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&startIndex=&startPage=1

  11. danb

    Andrew, no, of course I don’t believe cars will disappear in 20 years. But will a project like Dearborn make sense then? I’d say probably not so much. Buildings last a long time.

    Your comparison regarding trips to Renton makes sense only if you assume that it is necessary for people to shop at big box stores. It is quite possible that the big box model will not survive in the world of peak oil and GHG gas emissions regulation. As I argued in a previous post, big box is unsustainable on many levels.

    http://hugeasscity.com/2008/03/09/ban-big-box/

  12. Japhet

    It seems that there are three objections to this project, and neither of them seems particularly well informed or valid.

    1. The parking garage is too big. The reality is that very few people can survive in Seattle without a car, and no retail tenant will sign a lease without adequate parking, so if we want urban retail (which we say we do) we need parking garages. The great thing about parking is that they are land banks, if Seattle ever gets around to providing a transit system, then that garage can be redeveloped. Anytime the City doesn’t have to pay for the construction of a parking garage, we (as citizens and taxpayers) win. That means fewer public resources are squandered on an unsustainable investment.
    2. Big box stores are evil. You shop at Target, IKEA Home Depot, etc., and so do I. If you can afford to shop at the downtown boutique stores for your everyday necessities, then bully for you, but the rest of the city can’t. Besides, these stores are tenants; if the economy shifts to make them less desirable, then they will close and be replaced by smaller stores. This argument is irrelevant to the discussion.
    3. This development will hurt local businesses. This is contrary to just about everything I know about retail. The new development will draw thousands of new customers to the area from the adjacent, wealthy neighborhoods of Capitol Hill, Madison Park, Madrona, and Mt Baker, as well as middle income residents of the Rainier Valley and the central district. Once they are in the area, they are more likely to spend money at other businesses. The businesses around the center will benefit tremendously from the development; not the reverse. This argument is unequivocally false.

    Fundamentally, this project takes a dilapidated, ugly site, that serves a fairly small population and turns it into something that contributes to the community, and accomplishes many of our goals as a city, and takes us one step closer to sustainability.

  13. michael

    It all may be moot anyhow because even if the developer gets final approval, they have admitted that given the current market, it wouldn’t make sense for them to move forward. Will the market ever be right for this kind of (suburban)commercial development inside a city center? Are there better uses for this site? Makes me wonder.

    I would say that your conclusion that this project takes us one step closer to sustainability brings the concept of sustainability to new levels of meaninglessness.

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