The team that developed Proctor Station, the large mixed-use building being constructed across from Mason Middle School, is in the early stages of planning a second development two blocks away.
The potential development is so new it has no name or concept drawings, said Erling Kuester, one of the partners working on the project. It would be residential units on top of commercial space, he said this week.
The project is planned for the intersection of North 25th and Proctor streets, facing Metropolitan Market. Kuester and his business partners, Bill Evans and Gig Harbor-based construction firm Rush Cos., own every parcel on the south side of the block except for Proctor Dry Cleaners.
The new project will follow the concept of Proctor Station, Kuester said. Proctor Station drew some criticism when the community learned it would be built to 65 feet, or six stories — the maximum height allowed in the business district under city zoning laws.
“You always want to go to the maximum height,” Kuester said this week, “but the question is, what will it look like? You want it to be beautiful, pleasing to the eye both looking in and looking out.”
Community opposition to the potential project is simmering with anger that once was directed at the size of Proctor Station, which is six stories high and has 151 apartments atop ground-floor retail and underground parking. When plans for Proctor Station were revealed, many people expressed surprise and anger that such a large building would be allowed, though the rules that encourage such dense development went into effect years earlier.
Since April, people have been communicating through a Facebook group that has been dominated by discussion of the potential new development and the changes coming to the business district and surrounding neighborhood. The group, Residents and Friends of Proctor, plans a meeting May 27 at the Wheelock Library.
Randy Asbjornsen, who lives a few blocks away on North Union Street, believes another building at such height and density will “ruin the ambiance of the neighborhood.” He said the only people who want such large projects are those who will benefit financially from them.
“It’s all about money,” he said Wednesday.
Evans and Kuester have said they want to ensure a strong future for the neighborhood, where they live and work. For two decades, the men have acquired land parcel by parcel with the goal of building dense developments. They started acquiring land across from Metropolitan Market in 2000.
The men and Rush Cos. have spent $895,000 since mid-April to buy two of the three remaining Proctor-facing parcels on the southern half of that block: The converted house that now holds Proctor Frozen Yogurt and a clothing boutique, and the small yellow house next door. The only parcel on the south half of the block that they don’t own is the one that holds Proctor Dry Cleaners.
The development group is in negotiations with Jack Manning, who has owned the dry cleaners since 1967. He’ll sell, he said, if the price is right and if the new owners clean up the environmental contamination that is an inevitable part of the dry cleaning business. He wouldn’t provide specific numbers.
“I’m fine here the rest of my life,” said Manning, who is 76 and said he never expected to retire. “If they want it, they can pay the bill for it.”
Manning said he’s hearing from community members upset over plans for the mixed-use building. He believes he’s being boycotted by some of his longtime customers simply for negotiating with the development team. One woman asked if he’d consider selling to a community group so it could hold up the project.
“People are fuming,” he said. “I understand both sides. It’s business.”
Kuester said the project would proceed with or without the dry cleaner’s corner lot, though it’s not ideal. There is no firm deadline yet for concluding negotiations with Manning, he said.
Neighborhood business owners welcome more customers, but they and the residents share a concern over parking. Proctor Station has parking stalls, but they are available only for tenants for an additional cost, leaving many to wonder if residents won’t simply park on the street for free. Parking for the hopping business district already spills into the neighborhoods in the afternoons and evenings.
Having more people to patronize businesses is great, said Reggie Frederick, owner of Chalet Bowl on North 26th Street, but too many cars will discourage outside customers.
“Proctor is small,” he said. “We’re 4 to 5 blocks by 3 blocks. We’re already hurting for parking space.”
Kuester said the development team is following a market-driven approach to parking, advocated by urban planning professor Donald Shoup, that will reduce traffic congestion more than more complicated parking rules.
Evans acknowledges change is hard, but he’s been surprised by the vitriol he’s faced over Proctor Station.
“A lady screamed at me recently,” he said, describing an incident several months ago at a coffee shop in Old Town. “ ‘You scum,’ she said. ‘You’re destroying our community.’ I was so shaken. She was, I’m sure, an extreme exception. But the last (housing) development in Proctor was 50 years ago. We can’t survive that way.”