Feasibility project: New West2nd plan draws complaints

West2nd retains its L-shape, but holds another 28 condos. The view is the corner of Water and Second Street SW. Courtesy Keith Woodard West2nd retains its L-shape, but holds another 28 condos. The view is the corner of Water and Second Street SW. Courtesy Keith Woodard

In 2014, the city had a public competition for plans to develop the municipal parking lot that was the longtime home to City Market. Keith Woodard won, and three years later, West2nd, his bold mixed-use project that will house the market, has gone back to the drawing board.

Last month, Woodard announced a new development team, architect and additional 28 residential units to the project to make it financially feasible, and some locals are wondering, what the heck?

“Since the project was first presented in 2014, construction costs have risen substantially,” making it “financially unfeasible as originally designed,” said Woodard in a letter to people who reserved $400,000 to $1 million condos in West2nd when they went on the market in 2016.

The original $50 million project contained 68 condos, 55,000 square feet of office space and 9,000 square feet of retail, along with space for 115 City Market vendors and 262 parking spaces.

The new $85 million project will offer 96 residential units, roughly the same office, retail and City Market spaces, and 254 parking spaces on the half acre lot.

“We’re converting one floor of office and event space to residential,” says Woodard. “And we’re inserting one other floor.” The latest version will have nine floors above ground and be within the city’s 101-foot height limit, he says.

“This is completely unfair,” says architect Bill Atwood, who was not one of the four bidders in 2014. In comments to City Council, he contends the delays and revamping are not fair to the other companies that originally submitted proposals.

“This is a heads-up about a real concern this project wasn’t viable from the get-go and won a competition based on a pipe dream,” he says in a statement to City Council. He also questions the marketing of luxury condos downtown at a time when affordable and workforce housing are on the forefront.

Atwood, whose Waterhouse building holds two empty top floors and neighbors the future West2nd, says that if Woodard has bought the parking lot, “there’s not much we can do.”

As it turns out, Woodard has not purchased the parking lot, which is under contract for $2.4 million, and will close once the permits are in place, which he anticipates will happen by next summer.

The revised West2nd will need a special use permit and go back to the Planning Commission and City Council. Chris Engel, the city’s director of economic development, sees this as no big deal.

Nor does he seem concerned about the delays in construction. “It’s a difficult market to build in,” he says. “[Woodard] had to sharpen his pencil. This makes it more viable in the long run.” Engel believes the office space is needed downtown and “will go quickly.”

And with 50 percent of the original 68 condos reserved, Woodard says there’s still a high demand for luxury living.

Allen de Olazarra with Equitable Real Estate bid on the project three years ago. He says, “We were prepared to commence the project immediately and we would have done so.”

And when he learned Woodard had not purchased the lot, he says, “For sure it should go back to public bid. I thought it was already sold.”

Latest estimated completion date: mid 2020.