The Seattle City Council’s July 16 vote on the Alaska Building is either a hollow victory or a triumph. Either way, it’s unlikely to result in adding any housing units near Pioneer Square, as city officials had originally been promised.
Last Monday, the council voted 6 to 3 to cap any addition to the building at 100 feet. The building’s new owner, developer Kent Angier, had sought a taller addition in order to turn the building into a Marriott Hotel. According to the Seattle Times, he may now simply turn it over to an office developer who has offered to buy the building from him.
When the city sold the building at Second Ave. and Cherry St. two years ago for $8.5 million, it was with the understanding that Angier would turn its 15 stories into workforce housing – apartments or condos at or below market rate. Otherwise, councilmembers say, they wouldn’t have agreed to sell the property for $500,000 to $1 million less than what they could have gotten from an office developer.
But a funny thing happened on the way to signing the sale contract – no one at the city got the promise of housing in writing. If they had, councilmembers say, the restrictions would have forced the city to take even less for the building.
So they relied on Angier’s word and, as he recently stressed to the Times, the deal he made on the building had “no restrictions,” regardless of any discussions at the time.
The vote doesn’t prevent Angier from turning the Alaska Building into a hotel; it just forces him to put housing into any addition that exceeds 100 feet. UNITE/HERE, the hotel workers union, fought for the legislation in an effort to prevent the building from becoming a non-union Marriott.