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Updated Thursday, November 22, 2012 at 06:41 PM

Vulcan on shortlist to renovate Yesler Terrace

By Bob Young
Seattle Times staff reporter

The Seattle Housing Authority announced Tuesday it will partner with either Paul Allen real-estate firm Vulcan or Forest City Enterprises of Los Angeles on a proposed $300 million makeover of Yesler Terrace, a project unprecedented in scope and scale in the United States.

The housing authority solicited qualifications earlier this year for a master-development partner and three firms responded: Vulcan; Forest City; and Hunt Companies of El Paso, Texas.

Hunt was eliminated from consideration as a finalist after the authority reviewed its expertise in mixed-income, mixed-use projects.

Vulcan is known locally for its dramatic transformation of South Lake Union; the company said in its proposal it would approach Yesler Terrace in a very similar way.

Forest City, a 90-year-old publicly traded company, would partner with the Jonathan Rose Companies, which describes itself as a green real-estate firm headquartered in New York. Most of the two firms' projects have been east of the Mississippi River. Combined they have developed 47,000 housing units and 17 million square feet of office space, including The Yards in Washington, D.C., and Central Station in Chicago.

"Either of these candidates will be an excellent partner," said Andrew Lofton, the housing authority's executive director. "There are very few firms that have the resources and deep expertise for an ambitious project such as the redevelopment of Yesler Terrace."

Yesler Terrace opened in 1941 as Seattle's first public housing project. Just south of Harborview Medical Center on First Hill, it is within walking distance of downtown and offers spectacular views of Elliott Bay and Mount Rainier.

Yesler's 70-year-old apartments and aging infrastructure need replacing, according to the authority. It plans to sell some of the 30 acres to a private developer to finance new public housing.

A private developer would build about 3,000 high-rise, market-rate apartments and condos on the property, as well as office towers up to 300 feet tall.

The housing authority hopes to use $145 million from property sales to rebuild Yesler's 561 well-worn apartments, along with streets and water and sewer lines. Residents would be relocated during phased construction that could take up to 20 years.

In all, Yesler Terrace is zoned for up to 5,000 housing units, 900,000 square of office space, and up to 153,000 square feet of retail and community space.

The authority's vision for a dense, vertical, mixed-income neighborhood is "untested anywhere in the United States," according to Matthew Gardner, a land-use consultant hired by the city.

Interviews with the finalists will be held next month. The housing authority then plans to select one of the teams and negotiate with them. It hopes to sign a contract next year.

Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or byoung@seattletimes.com


JOHN LOK / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Yesler Way, at left, passes over I-5 from downtown Seattle into the Yesler Terrace, a housing project to be redesigned and rebuilt over a period of 20 years.




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