Revised plan still calls for Interbay growth

A proposal by local business and property owners to revitalize the Interbay area near West Dravus Street by turning it into a Hub Urban Village is dead in the water; the city said no.

But the Interbay Neighborhood Association has come up with another approach that might achieve the same goal. It involves a zoning overlay that would increase density in the area by raising the heights of buildings, said association member Jeff Thompson.

Speaking last week at a meeting of the Queen Anne Community Council, he said change is necessary because the area is marked by blight, leaving a neighborhood that is "in essence abandoned."

While that may be, the city didn't agree that turning the area into a Hub Urban Village was a solution because it didn't qualify for the designation, said Bob Morgan, a central staff member for the Seattle City Council.

On the other hand, he said, a zoning overlay that would allow more intense mixed-use development in the area is a possibility the city is willing to explore. The city council amended the city's Comprehensive Plan to allow for the change, and council members also passed a resolution specifically addressing development in Interbay, Morgan said.

The resolution calls for the Interbay Neighborhood Association, the Ballard Interbay Northend Manufacturing and Industrial Center, and neighborhood stakeholders to come up with a recommendation about the overlay for the council by July 1. The Department of Planning and Development will also make its own recommendation about adopting the zoning change, Morgan said.

Among the goals listed in the res-olution are calls for preserving and enhancing the existing industrial employment base by improving access routes and infrastructure to promote business growth. "A big part of what we're looking at is how to create jobs in the northern [industrial] part," Thompson explained.

Also listed in the resolution are the goals of providing opportunities for "higher-density transit-oriented development" and creating "workforce housing in a new pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use center."

"We are specifically looking at apartments," Thompson said. However, family housing hasn't been ruled out, and housing for seniors is another possibility, he said. "We're trying to create a framework where the very best can be created."

The framework would allow 65-foot height limits for much of the area, along with a 125-foot height limit for the top of the tallest buildings, Morgan said. That might be a tough sell, he con-ceded. "There has not been universal acceptance of that by council members."

Architect David Hewitt has come up with a proposal shown in an elaborate model that calls for buildings with a 40-foot height limit on Dravus Street and, to the north and south of those, taller buildings bracketing 40-foot-tall structures.

A monorail station is planned for Interbay, even in the latest proposal to come up for a vote in November. But a monorail station wasn't a factor in the effort to revive the area, said David Bolin, a member of the neighborhood association.

"It would be a shame if that disappeared," he said of the stop. But city planning documents have called for increasing transportation options in the area since the early 1990s, Bolin added. "Clearly, there's more ability to serve it with more transportation links."

Making the area more pedestrian-friendly is another goal of the neighborhood association. "The idea is a place people can walk to," Thompson said.

One suggestion along those lines is making the sidewalks along Dravus Street 20 feet wide, as well as turning the alley between 16th and 17th avenues west north of Dravus into a right-of-way, he said.

Many of the changes will require a public investment, and the 46-member Interbay Neighborhood Association would form a Local Improvement District to come up with the cash for that, according to Bolin. The city council resolution calls for the formation of an LID as well.

However, private investment would be necessary to finance construction of the large mixed-use buildings envisioned in the proposed plan, he said. But there is already some interest in that, including from Bolin's company.

"We own property in the industrial area, and we own property in the commercial area," he said of the Freehold development group. The QFC grocery on West Dravus would also be involved because owners are interested in expanding the store, Bolin said.

Both Magnolia and Queen Anne support the revitalization effort, because it would be good for those neighborhoods, he added. "This is recognizing you can change the paradigm, which is a blighted mess," Bolin said of the plan.

Staff reporter Russ Zabel can be reached at or 461-1309.

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