Seattle history serving as foundations for rapid growth



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Posted on May 23, 2014 at 7:52 AM

Updated Friday, May 23 at 9:15 AM

SEATTLE -- It's easy to see the skyline of Seattle changing these days.

But on some of the busiest corners below the construction cranes and high rise buildings, old brick facades built in the early days of Seattle will go unchanged. Developers are embracing old historic buildings to serve as the foundation of high-rise buildings.

"It’s no easy feat to hold up a 100-year-old building while you excavate underneath it" said A-P Hurd, Vice President of Touchstone, a developing company that is transforming Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood.

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Touchstone’s biggest project is Troy Block at the corner of Thomas Street and Boren Avenue N. Developers are preserving the Troy Laundry buildings brick structure and revitalizing the interior to serve as an entryway to the two 12-story buildings going up above it.

"You have this really fun juxtaposition of old and new," said Hurd. "It creates a great texture to the city."

Many developers are capitalizing on the red hot real estate market by closing in on these historic sites. They are protected as landmarks by the City of Seattle. And, if developers want to take on complex projects at these sites, they must also clean them.

South Lake Union was once home to bustling laundromats and industrial factories that often contaminated the soil. Today, Touchstone and others are weighing the cost of cleaning up these sites with the investment of office and retail space.

"Those things can more than offset and add value to the project in the long run," said Roger Valdez, director of Smart Growth Seattle. "I think the labor community should be proud of what they did here 100 years ago, just like the development community is proud we are preserving and building here."

Being so close to Interstate 5, traffic backups are common in this area. And with the addition of thousands more residents, there is concern that the pace of growth is surpassing the capacity.

According to Seattle’s Office of Economic Development, the city added nearly 15,000 new jobs between 2012 and 2013.

"These jobs have to go somewhere," Hurd said. "If we put these jobs where there is transit, we can take cars off the road. This is absolutely a plus for everyone who wants to get around South Lake Union."