Columbia City Station Area
Columbia City Station Area

There’s another development project in the pipeline for Columbia City, and the growth is creeping ever closer to the station. This one is about a block east of Link, at the Zion Prep site, and consists of 244 units in six buildings. That’s the good news.

The mixed news is that the project also includes 222 parking spaces, 93 in the buildings and 129 on the surface.  Overall, that’s a decent ratio for new construction. There are two ways to look at the surface spaces: they’re terrible for pedestrians, but they’re also potentially more temporary. The optimistic view is that as they prove the market for these units and the extent the parking is overbuilt, they can convert some of that space into more housing.

The bad news is that the City’s zoning for this parcel is pathetic: Lowrise-3, which is what limits these buildings to 3 or 4 stories. That parcels zoned like this exist over four years after Link opened is, frankly, astonishing. According to Council Spokesperson Dana Robinson Slote, there are no plans to review the site’s zoning, and on a “quasi-judicial matter” Councilmembers aren’t able to comment. The Mayor’s office didn’t answer an email on the subject.

The project would join the recently completed Greenhouse Apartments and 193 apartments over a PCC currently under construction. People can comment on this project through November 6th at the link above. As always, if you live nearby (or would like to) your comments are especially valuable.

15 Replies to “Another Project In Columbia City”

  1. So if Lowrise-3 is not the right zoning solution for this area, what is? Does the Columbia City station surrounding area need a comprehensive zoning review?

    1. Most likely a low MR zoning or possibly NC-1/2 on the north end of the lot if the city wants to emphasize Alaska as a pedestrian commercial connection between Rainier Vista and Columbia City. LR zones have a lot coverage max of 50% and an open space requirement of 25% I believe. On such a large lot that doesn’t really make very much sense.

      1. The large lot is the problem.

        If the city were serious about helping to flesh out the 2/5-mile corridor between desirable Columbia City proper and the train station that most don’t even recognize as so close (thanks to all the dead zones), it would have tried to facilitate a transition from Zion Prep’s owners to a redevelopment plan that reconnected streets, created complete blocks, and orchestrated opportunities for many owners to develop small-lot, continuous-frontage low-rise, so as to create a new, continuous, fully-fleshed-out, functioning, genuinely urban neighborhood.

        Less Yesler Terrace, more like the Columbia City that provides a model of what desirable urbanity looks like right next door!

        As long as our codes and our financing models and heights-matter-more-than-results obsessives encourage massive monoculture redevelopments by a single owner, we’ll end up with failures of tactile urbanism (doubling as failures of statistical density) like this one.

      2. There’s still a lot of work to do in design and permitting before the shovels hit the dirt. Is this proposal the best that can be achieved under the city’s zoning rules or are the developers stuck in a 1968 urban planning time warp? Either way, a tremendous amount of money is going to spent redesigning this property.

    2. I have to agree. I mean we have a whole diatribe for Conlin this week in STB saying how much he supports satellite development along transit.

      I would think they could allow higher rise development at stations (if they provide the needed resources they displace) and if they curtail the radius in which development can occur and if they can be taxed to fund any increased resources necessary to push people in and out the stations.

  2. This is a perfect example of the council and DPD saying one thing and not doing the planning to make it happen. This site is literally 200ft from the station.

    1. Most of the Rainier Vista buildings that face MLK are 4 stories with GFR. GreenHouse is 5 stories tall without GFR. The Angeline project looks like it will be 6 stories with a PCC on the ground level. The Zion project is 3 & 4 story buildings, so it’s a little shorter than some of the other developments.

  3. The GreenHouse apartments have been a huge success for the developers. Occupancy level and rents are meeting expectations and the building was recently sold for $32 million. There are 124 units in the GreenHouse (with ????? parking spaces), so the Zion project will build about twice as many units in six 3 and 4 story buildings (and include abundant parking). Where will the parking be located? If it’s in an adjacent lot that can be converted to higher uses in the future–okay. But if the extra parking is situated in a manner that would make it difficult to improve site in the future–not okay.

  4. At least the LR3 zoning means that the site won’t be choked with streetscape-killing vacant retail.

  5. I never understood why the “Station Overlay” zoning is not centered on the station. Most of all the overlay is north of the station.

  6. That the council was so delinquent about upzoning near stations is a scandalously inept failure of basic governance.

  7. Last time I took the train to seatac I thought half the ride was through the countryside. Why is that?

    1. Probably because it’s mostly industrial or poor in that area so there hasn’t been a lot of development. It’s going to take a while for development to get going, but assuming they allow upzoning it’s definitely on its way.

  8. Maybe it’s same DNA-flaw that sends me ballistic having to look at the world through the inside of an ad that defaces a bus window my taxes paid a lot of money for.

    Or the fact that the window-lines on the whole front sections of ST Express’s new forty foot buses now go past my face at the level of my chin. Could be designers honestly notice how many people spend an entire bus ride with their eyes on an i-pod screen, in addition to the plugs in their ears.

    Seriously calls the theory of natural selection into disrepute- by now Nature’s own workings should have eliminated these traits from our species’ cellular chemistry.

    For me, the number of floors on a building register less fury than the fact that so many of them leave a huge space in an otherwise-beautiful amount of world and sky defaced with a presence so visibly ugly, where the only thing not cheap is the rent.

    Said it before, will say it again: the Black Hole of Calcutta personified density.


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