SLU site coming to market

A once-in-a-lifetime development play is slowly unfolding in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, where the city is getting ready to sell some large properties.

Together the mostly vacant properties on Mercer Street and Aurora Avenue North total 2.75 acres and are near some world-renowned institutions and businesses, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Allen Institute and Amazon.

The idea stems from an effort by the city to use its assets in the area to create “opportunities for all city residents,” according to a Request for Qualifications, which the city issued last year.

Developers are buying up properties in South Lake Union, where a new Amazon-occupied office building sold last week for a record price. Investors are eager to stake claims in the neighborhood, whose population grew from just over 4,000 in 2009 to more than 5,300 in 2014, according to the Downtown Seattle Association. The DSA says that employment in South Lake Union increased 42 percent between 2009 and 2013.

Given these numbers, it’s a safe bet that interest among developers will be high. But first the city has to hire a real estate consultant to help market the properties for sale and negotiate the dispositions.

The largest property is between Mercer and Roy streets and Dexter and Ninth avenues north. Also up for grabs is the north half of the block at the southwest corner of Roy Street and Dexter. Zoning on both properties allows for 240-foot tall residential buildings and 160-foot tall commercial buildings, though buildings would be limited to 216-feet tall on the part of the larger parcel that’s in the flight path of Kenmore Air on Lake Union.

The city wants the consultant to help come up with “a clear, strategic and achievable vision defined through principles which will guide the redevelopment of these properties,” according to the RFQ. The city will consider a mix of uses, including affordable and market-rate housing, commercial buildings and places for the community to gather.

“The vision and principles are not meant to be either prescriptive or proscriptive, but rather to be used to evaluate the responses for an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable community,” the RFQ states.

Disposition of the properties is still months away. The winning real estate consultant’s contract will run for nine months and be subject to an extension.

Initially, the city’s schedule called for naming the consultant on Jan. 10 and executing the consulting contract by Monday, but no selection has been made.

“Our schedule published in the notice has slipped just a bit,” Jason Kelly, spokesman for the city Office of Planning and Community Development, said Tuesday. “It will take a few more days.”