Sunday, February 24, 2008

Yet Another Interesting CRS Comment

This just in, in response to my last post with the first conceptual design for the Christian Restoration Center property.

Harritah said...
Clarification of some points since the community seems to want to discuss this construction:

Yes, the community is interested in the plans for large-scale construction around their homes. And the Rudeen/Beacon Hill Ventures folks have been pretty good so far about responding to my inquiries (thank you!).

1. Jim Claeys is a long-time Beacon Hill resident. He grew up here on the hill and has watched the progression of what current landlords have done and are doing to buildings. Mr. Claeys has a list of potential retail tenants in line for the space/s of the new building. Relax, you'l like them assuming that the "dotted line" gets signed. Mr. Claeys will not be at liberty to discuss who they are or what kind of business they are probably at this point. In commercial real estate, this is a common practice. I doubt nail salons are on the short list anyway.

I think it's becoming more and more common in Seattle for developers to reach out to neighbors about what sort of retail they would like to see move in. I think the old model of a developer building a new structure and then surprising the neighbors with the nature of the retail establishments is on its way out (especially in areas with vocal neighbors).

Personally, I'm assuming the very best of the Beacon Hill Ventures folks, and waiting for them to ask the community's input on what kind of retail should go in there. Jon Hager, the new property manager contact, said he's been taking suggestions from people about what sort of retail should go in. I would be surprised if it turned out that Jim Claeys and the Rudeen folks didn't actually care what the neighbors think about this. The reason that some of us are fretting about more nail/hair/tanning salons, FedEx centers, malt liquor quickie marts, and chain food is that these are the types of establishments that do go in when there is insufficient community involvement in the planning phase.

2. This blog was never on my radar. However once a comment was sent to me, it was I, who forwarded a copy of the blog to Mr. Claeys regarding the property. I believe he then contacted his business partners.

Thanks! I also contacted the development company directly.

3. There will be an exclusive interview with the Beacon Hill News coming out shortly in which more information will be shared with the community.

That's great--I'm very much looking forward to reading it. I wonder, though, why information about commercial property development should be "exclusive." In my ideal world, it would be open to all, as early as possible. I guess I'm new-fashioned that way.

4. Know that Mr. Claeys/Developers wanted to remove the old building and fence off the property in preparation for the construction and to stop dumping/tagging, but it was THE CITY OF SEATTLE who refused and told him he couldn't do this. At least Mr. Claeys has been "Johnny-on-the-spot" and hauled out trash when it was brought to his attention.

As I've said before, the Beacon Hill Ventures folks have been fantastic in their quick response to the complaints about the property. I guess that's part of the reason why I have so much hope that they're going to want to work with the community on the final plans for this project.

Personally, I think we, as the community, should cut him a little slack and be good neighbors back to HIM.

Yes. I try to be a good neighbor to everyone who is good to me. Personally, I'm trying to be fair here, but I'm calling them like I see them. I think the published design looks pretty decent, and I'm hopeful about it. I'm also impressed with the quick responses I've gotten from the Beacon Hill Ventures ownership group, and I'm hopeful they'll continue to want to interact with us.

It's the Beacon Hill News's place to lead cheers about new development (and school bake sales, and local clubs, and children's dance performances, etc.), and land exclusive interviews with the local bigwigs and get steady advertisement revenue from the local business owners. And that's fine--that's the traditional role of a community newspaper.

But this is different. This is one (not particularly informed or connected) community member's personal research into what is going on in the neighborhood and an open invitation to everyone else to comment openly on what they think about all of it. And I think this openness and lack of cheerleading makes it valuable in a different way from the Beacon Hill News. I'd love it if everyone could try to be nice, but I think it's most important that they say what's on their minds about what's going on. Besides, I bet these seasoned real estate professionals have fairly thick skin and can handle some criticism and candid suggestions.

Why? Several reasons pop to mind but two of which are:
1. If you want the sort of businesses you've blogged about, then be kind to the man and supportive. You are far more likely to have him as a fellow Beacon-Hiller listen to suggestions if you've not railed against him and his efforts to begin with

I hope I'm not really coming across as railing against the developers. I certainly railed against the dumping of hazardous and disgusting materials on the site (OK, and I also expressed some concern over the type of designs that Rudeen has executed on in the past), but I'm not railing againist the development itself. I'm just asking them to start a dialogue with the community about the property. A public meeting would be a great place to start.

2. He might have already negotiated other parcels which you wouldn't even know about until much later and I would think it would be cool to have a good working relationship and be "in" with a local developer who likes us as a community.

I haven't been worried that the Beacon Hill Ventures group is going to retaliate against the neighborhood and try to sneak in a bunch of ugly buildings just to spite us. They seem like good professionals. But you obviously know these folks personally--I hope you're not suggesting we have reason to fear them! :)

I noticed the comment about loft live/work spaces. Tho I don't have the numbers at my fingertips, the cost involved to produce this sort of construction might prohibitive on Beacon based on the commercial land values on the hill demolition and constuction costs. It's probably why so many of these opportunities exist in funky, converted buildings.

I suspect you're right. Though it would be great if Beacon Hill started going out of its way to court and develop an artistic community, I don't see this actually happening. We will never be as cool as Columbia City or Georgetown, and I think that's OK. But I also think it's cool that that person brought up the suggestion.

Watch the BHN for follow-up...

Yes, thanks for the tip. But please also understand that information doesn't always have to be exclusively filtered down through official channels. I think folks like to get an early word about what's going on around them, and I appreciate anyone who helps make that happen.


Wendi Dunlap said...

"It's the Beacon Hill News's place to lead cheers about new development"...

I actually would think it's their place to report the news objectively, but maybe I'm just too much of an idealist.

Forest said...

I think Harritah is a bit defensive about the development. Living only two blocks away from the site, I look forward to some revitalizing energy at that site. I also think midbeaconhill is doing an excellent job of getting the word out and CREATING some energy about the prospect of new retail and (good) neighbors. Let's all pitch in together and be open and honest. Set up some community meetings, blog about it yourself, knock on some doors. This neighborhood will support a new development (and all the difficulties that go along with construction of that magnitude) IF we get to be partners in as many phases as possible!!

LM said...

I have found the Beacon Hill News paper to often be out of date. There are posting rules that the city requires of developers. Developers often use local community newspapers due to low circulation to meet those requirements.
Julie- thank you for your post and answering in an open format the questions raised by our BH Mayor.
I do think the community should know who Mr. Claey is talking to to rent retail space in this new building. Retail is very important- why can't the negotiations be public? If not the names of the companies, then the type of business; maybe share rental sq/ft pricing.

JvA said...

I just asked them for the types of retail they're talking to and for the approximate square footage of each retail space -- I'll let you know what I hear back!

cirocco said...

Why are the developers regarding community interest with what seems like defensiveness and hostility? I thought your earlier concerns were expressed in a balanced way that made it clear that the neighborhood simply wanted to be involved and informed during the development phase. I didn't think you adopted a combative position--I never read anything here as "railing against [Mr. Claeys's] efforts." Telling you to "relax," that you "weren't on [his] radar" and you need to "be kind to the man"? In the midst of a lecture on being diplomatic, this phrasing seems misplaced.

steve said...

All conversations up until now seem to me to be completely normal in the face of big, new, undefined development in a neighborhood that has a history of crappy unappealing architecture (if you can go so far as to call it architecture). Look around the hill and you can see why we're a little skeptical. I think Harritah's comments that you need to relax and cut him a little slack are just reacting to the obvious skepticism. Keep in mind that it's difficult to read tone, sarcasm, lightheartedness, etc, and I think it's easy to imagine that some of the comments on the blog earlier about this subject (including some of my own) could be construed as aggressive toward the developer. In our defense, we can't help it, we've come to expect that developers are going to shove down our throats whatever they darn well please. I think it's clear in your posts, JVA, that you have a renewed sense of hope and enthusiasm that this development can be a positive contribution to the neighborhood, and it's unfortunate that Harritah didn't perceive it as such.

the paper noose said...

The business press (Puget Sound Business Journal) locally has encouraged developers to get in tight with local community institutions, including their blogs (embedded bloggers???). As a blogger who proudly wears the badge of "critical of development" it just doesn't make any sense to me that those folks could imply in any way that you are being somehow over-critical.

What they are not used to is people paying attention to the boring details of planning and development that slips past the public until it's too late to make one's voice heard. That is what makes then feel feel defensive, in my opinion. Let them be nervous.