What is going into this space, just east of the Ballard bridge? Read on.

So what’s happening with that empty lot south of the Ballard Blocks? A second Ballard Blocks complex is planned, and some businesses have already signed on. A couple different theories as to why the space development for that block was previously put on-hold include the financial strife of the former recession and another, the drainage problem the area is reportedly plagued with.

Looking east from the Ballard bridge at the current Ballard Blocks complex. New development will be to its right.

PCC Community Markets will almost certainly be the anchor business located at 1451 NW 46th Street, on the west end of the block next to the Ballard bridge. Permits have not been issued yet, but last year the city conditionally granted approval for this building project to move ahead, although the decision can be appealed through January 25th. A new 25,000 square foot co-op is planned to open in spring 2019, with a projected 100 unionized jobs. It will be interesting to see how this store melds with our many other nearby grocery options: Ballard Market, Safeway, QFC, Fred Meyer’s food section, a New Seasons store under construction, and right across the street, Trader Joe’s. This PCC store will not replace the Fremont store, which will receive an upgrade.

The proposed new site, look west.  Renderings: Weber Thompson

A walkway and seating area will lead from PCC between two businesses on the east end of the block, which will include West Marine. The all-things-marine/boat store will be located on the southeast corner and will also have about 25,000 square feet in their 2-story building. West Marine has two other established stores in Seattle as well: Shilshole Bay and Interbay. The future 12,000 sq. foot 3rd floor in the 5-story building on the northeast corner of the block is reserved for Bright Horizons childcare center, according to the leasing company, Real Retail. A fun feature of Bright Horizons’ space is a planned skybridge that will lead to West Marine’s roof to access an area for kids to play outside.

At the time of this writing, some spaces were still open for lease. There’s a retail kiosk space with about 950 sq. feet available near the southeast corner. In the northeast building, floors 1 & 2 would work for retail, and floors 4-5 are set up for office spaces, with a large rooftop deck. Total parking around or underneath the entire south Ballard Blocks will be approximately 300 stalls.

Seattle Apartment Vacancy Rate at All Time Low Now, but Will Ballard be Overbuilt?

Ballard Hjarta IIAccording to a Seattle Times article, apartment vacancy rates in Seattle are at an all-time low. In the past few years, the Seattle rental market, especially in Ballard, has shifted from a tenant-market to a landlord-market. What does that mean for people searching for apartments? High rents.

Using the basic economic theory of supply and demand, there hasn’t been much new supply. The amount of new apartments is one-third of what was offered in 2009. Additionally, demand is higher, MUCH higher. People who can afford houses are fearful to buy, so they are staying in apartments, despite the evidence that it may be more affordable to buy. Additionally (and this is my own theory), the economy is picking up, meaning more young professionals can afford to move out or live with fewer roommates than before. Demand has skyrocketed and that has caused the Seattle vacancy rate to be under 5%! The higher rents are definitely noticeable in Ballard.

Fortunately, Ballard is working hard to meet that demand. It is impossible to not see the cranes that dot the horizon as you look across Market or look up 15th or 24th. Tenants should feel some rent relief in the next year or so. However, some are worried that Ballard may be overbuilt. In my opinion, I think people will continue to flock to the neighborhood. But I’ve said that in previous posts. What do you think?

If you’re interested in seeing what’s available in the apartment market in Ballard and the surrounding areas, use the search tool here.

Ballard Bank Approved for New Building

Ballard Hjarta IIThe DPD has approved plans to replace the Ballard building at 2020 NW Market, home of the Washington Federal Savings and Loan Building. The new Washington Federal Savings and Loan Building in Ballard will keep the same address, but designs show a 9,000 sq.ft structure with parking for 13-14 cars. EHS Design describes the early structure designs as “a new old building” and that it will be a “nice backdrop to the Carnegie [Library].”

For more information, please view the report here. If you would like to submit a design appeal, it must be received by January 26th, 2012.

Ballard’s Cultural Center Fundraising for its New Home

Although Oslo is over 4,000 miles away, the Nordic countries have a major impact on the identity of Ballard. Although some say Ballard is losing its appeal, the former fishing village honors its Scandinavian history regularly. It is very much a part of being a Ballardite. To recognize its origins, Ballard’s Nordic Heritage Museum will be moving and expanding, becoming a more prominent symbol of downtown Ballard. The Nordic Heritage Museum will be in its fundraising stage for the next six months, as it raises money for the $55 million construction of its new museum and cultural center at 2600-2800 Ave and NW Market St. in Ballard, according to the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce.

Expected to be completed in late 2014, the new Nordic Heritage Museum will highlight the past and present of Scandinavian history, as it morphs into a neighborhood hub west of 24th. Looking at early conceptual designs, the future neighborhood hub will resemble a fjord and feature exhibit space, an auditorium, event space, classrooms, a Nordic classroom, and more. It will be three-stories high and occupy 65,000 sq. ft, linking the retail center of Market St. with the business area of Ballard and the Ballard Locks. What I’m especially happy to hear is there is a Finnish native on the architect team, who specializes in Scandinavian design. Staying consistent with Scandinavian design, the new Nordic Heritage Museum will also have sustainable elements.

With the right planning, the Nordic Heritage Museum can have a very positive impact on Ballard. As the only pan-Nordic museum in the United States, it has the potential to be a tourist attraction, as well as an educational center. With all the real estate construction and changes happening in Ballard, it’s nice to know that Ballard isn’t forgetting its roots.

Is Ballard Being Overbuilt With Apartments?

The Sunday Seattle Times had an interesting article regarding the possibility that Seattle may be overbuilt with apartments in the coming years. According to the article visuals, there are more than 6,000 apartment units currently in construction and over 16,000 units in the pipeline. However, some predict that Seattle will have more than enough demand for the apartments in the coming years. Here’s the article for more information.

Ballard especially has experienced a significant increase in apartment construction. Just walk down 15th Avenue and you’ll see the former vacant lots loaded with machinery. Or walk down Market Street and see cranes on 14th, 13th, and even around 24th. I’m not even naming all the Ballard lots that will be experiencing development. Total, Ballard has issued permits for 748 apartment units.

While some are concerned Ballard will be overbuilt, let us not forget the desirability of the neighborhood. Seattle Weekly considered it one of the top neighborhoods in Seattle.

What do you think? Do you think Ballard will fall victim to numerous vacancies in the future or do you think young adults will flock in? Tell me your thoughts.

Ballard’s Hjarta Phase Two Passed Environmental Review

Ballard Hjarta IIThe Ballard development, Hjarta II, will be moving forward, as it received environmental approval. The proposed Ballard building, planned for the lot at 1537 NW 56th St, will be seven stories high, with 102 residential units above four live/work units, and 86 parking spaces.

Originally proposed in 2003, the Ballard construction had to be halted and was only restarted in 2010, with a Design Review meeting. To look at what you can expect in Ballard from Hjarta II, check out the project plans here. If you do have a comment or appeal to the design, you have until December 26th, 2011 to submit it to the Hearing Examiner.

Looking at the design and the other commercial designs, Ballard is shaping up to be much different in the next 5-10 years.

Ballard is Home to the 1st Zero-Energy House!

A Ballard couple recently completed construction on the first zero-energy Seattle residence. It uses air-tight SIP construction to keep the Ballard home insulated, as well as a highly efficient heat pump. As a source of heat, there are large, triple-pane, south-facing windows and heated, stained concrete floors.

Using the 6,000 watt solar panel, the Seattle residence costs nothing to heat. To build the first zero-energy home, the Seattle couple spent a little over $410,000 to buy and build the Ballard lot, but with Washington State’s solar incentive program, it will bring costs down to under $400,000. For more details, check out the Seattle couple’s blog or the Ballard News-Tribune article.

Potential Ballard to Downtown Rail Line To Be Studied

In today’s Seattle Times, Mike Lindblom reported that Sound Transit is planning to study the potential of a possible rail line from downtown to Fremont to Ballard, running along Westlake. Originally, Sound Transit officials planned to do this research later in the decade; however, they are speeding up the timetable and planning to fund the $2 million study in next year’s budget.

On the plus side, I’m glad that Sound Transit is making Ballard a priority. With all the new construction, Ballard is growing rapidly. If there isn’t proper transit and more of it, Ballard is going to turn into a complete grid lock. Some residents are even brainstorming their own Ballard lines, as indicated by the Ballard Spur. The study will look at offering the potential of street cars, light rail, and buses to serve Ballard residents’ needs.

Although I’m not a mass-transit professional, I see a few positives in the proposed potential route. First, I support the idea of linking up with the South Lake Union Trolley and the Downtown Seattle light-rail. That’s a no-brainer. Also, it’s a great idea to run through the dense neighborhood of Fremont; SPU would be another great option for the route.
However, I hope the study looks at a few potential cons with the proposed route. First, it’s suggested to run up 24th Ave NW. Why not 15th Ave NW, which would be easier for non-Ballardites to get to? Second, the route goes through NW Market St. If it’s a light rail or streetcar option, that would turn NW Market St into a nightmare for cars.

Many initial readers are expressing similar concerns in the article comment section, especially regarding why we’re spending money on a study, as well as route suggestions. I only hope the study is able to obtain the results we’re looking for and actually accomplish something. I really hope the study isn’t wasted money. It wasn’t long ago that we studied a potential Downtown to Ballard monorail line extension, which resulted in absolutely nothing. I’m not bitter. Nope.