The new development, "Ballard Lofts," is meant to be warm and inviting, with an open courtyard meant for the public to interact with.
No promises for businesses in new development
New apartments being proposed for the block between 64th and 65th on 24th Ave could change the look and feel of the neighborhood in the near future.
Property owner Bill Parks and architects from Johnston Architects PLLC held a meeting at the Neighborhood Service Center Conference Room Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the project. Despite an uproar of online comments, and due in part to relative lack of publicity for the meeting, no community members showed up. Instead, Parks and the architects -- Ray Johnston and Megan McKay -- went over the project with the Ballard News Tribune.
Johnston said that the development is planned as an 18-month project, with construction starting in Spring of 2013 and nearing completion at the end of 2014.
Currently, there are two pieces to the development. The first, which has already been permitted, sits along 65th Ave. The second, which the developers are still seeking a permit for, stretches the first phase out to 64th Ave and encompasses a house and two established businesses, 2 and 1/2 Happy Barbers and The Viking tavern.
Between both phases, the new apartment building (the architects were quick to note that it was not a condominium), “Ballard Lofts,” would house about 90 residential units in five floors, a retail floor on ground level, and a below-ground parking garage, which would either be two or three levels.
Elements planned for the building are meant to create a sustainable, clean, family-friendly atmosphere, Johnston said. An open courtyard is planned to be placed between the two projects to provide an “warm and inviting” space for the residents as well as the surrounding community, he said. A green roof on top and a bicycle garage down below are also ideas the architects are brainstorming.
Businesses, too, are meant to contribute to the inviting, family-friendly environment. Parks has already bought the popular grocery store, Sunset Hill Green Market, which will definitely be in the retail space, he said.
As for the two current businesses, Parks stressed that no promises have been made. The owner of 2 and 1/2 Barbers has expressed interest, Parks said. Parks has also had several conversations with the owner of The Viking, Tim Cannon, but nothing has been settled yet.
“I met with Tim Cannon and I’m open to the idea,” Parks said. “There’s some things we do feel strongly about. (For example) having a pool of people that smoke outside is not the character we want.”
While Parks skirted around the issue of whether The Viking was not family-friendly enough to fit the vision of Ballard Lofts, he did say that, if the tavern were to stay, he would like them to somehow clean up. Parks said he did not know what that would look like, exactly.
His associate Elizabeth Torbet said that people were very polarized on the issue. While there is a certain demographic that loves The Viking, she said that the surrounding neighborhood almost uniformly does not like it because of vomit, smoking and noise.
In the end, the decision is left to Parks on whether to keep either business.
“I can tell you in our negotiations in buying the property that we were very clear and specific that we were buying the property without any promise of any of the businesses moving forward,” Parks said.
Parks had bought the property for the second phase from owners of the Viking in May, Parks said.
Johnston said that a development was a “fairly complex animal to assemble,” and that it would be a while before they start hammering down what businesses will be moving in.
“Unfortunately, things that people want to know most take the longest time to resolve,” Johnston said.
Right now, Parks and the architects are figuring out land use elements of the building, like how to handle parking, rather than hammer out whether or not current businesses will remain.
“People have emotional investments in these businesses, and I can appreciate it, but it isn’t helpful for us to try and design the building,” Parks said.
The development has been years in the making, with roots back in the “Shrink the Condo” movement of 2004, when there was huge community outrage for the planned development on 65th.
Both Torbet and Parks, who had seen packed rooms of still-passionate community members while creating their own plans for the space in 2009, were shocked to see that no one had made it to Wednesday’s meeting.
From talking with neighbors around the area, Torbet said that most people seemed to be “at peace” with the project now.
There is still time for community input, though. On Monday, July 23, the Department of Planning and Development will be holding another public meeting at Ballard High School. Cannon, owner of The Viking, confirmed that he will be there.