18 July 2017

Australian firm plans 30-story condo tower on Trinity Parish site

Early plans for a 30-story condominium tower have been filed for a site owned by Trinity Episcopal Church at 609 Eighth Ave. on First Hill, just east of the freeway.

The church wants to redevelop the north half of its 31,000-square-foot site, at the corner of Cherry Street.

The development firm Caydon Property Group of Melbourne, Australia and Trinity issued a joint press release Monday that said Trinity’s historic church building on the corner of James Street is not part of the plan, and will not be affected.

Trinity will retain ownership of the entire parcel and sell air rights for the northern half to Caydon.

Caydon and Trinity said the new development will allow them “to make a substantial financial contribution to the City of Seattle for new affordable housing.” This implies HALA incentives will be applied in an area now being considered for an upzone.

The site already has high-rise zoning.

Caydon’s plans indicate that the 1929 parish hall and two smaller structures on the northern half of the site would be demolished.

The early plan is for 260 condos, 195 parking spaces below grade, 19,000 square feet of amenity space, and 42,500 square feet of “parish and tenant-shelled spaces.” Total project size, apparently including the parking, is estimated at 360,500 square feet.

The L-shaped building’s footprint would measure about 10,000 square feet. An existing courtyard facing Eighth would be preserved and shared with the church.

Caydon has hired the San Francisco office of Chicago-based SCB Architects to design the project, which would be SCB’s first in Seattle. Trinity will work with the local firm of Clint Pehrson Architects on its portion of the project.

Caydon recently opened an office in Houston, where it is building its first U.S. project. The company was founded by Joe Russo in 1999.


“For our first West Coast residential project,” Russo said, “we knew this is the neighborhood we wanted to be in. Building adjacent to Trinity Church is an honor, and we take the responsibility that comes along with it seriously. We're looking forward to advancing a design that is modern and fits into the First Hill neighborhood, but also melds well with the existing historic church building."

Trinity was established in Seattle in 1865. According to the Trinity website, its first downtown building opened in 1870. Its second site burned in the great fire of 1889, and the church moved to Eighth and James in 1892. That church also burned in 1902, and was rebuilt and expanded the following year.

The church was damaged again by the 2001 Nisqually earthquake, and reopened in 2005 after a $7 million seismic retrofit. More renovation and seismic work were done in 2013.

Trinity said it “spent two years evaluating how best to address the needs of its aging buildings, including remediation of a cracked foundation, unreinforced masonry, updating electrical systems, and providing ADA accessibility.” The church said it determined the costs of upgrading to modern standards far outweighed the benefits.

Trinity currently donates about 10,000 square feet in its three north buildings to nonprofits including Northwest Harvest and its Cherry Street Food Bank, as well as Elderwise, WHEEL Women’s Shelter and Kids4Peace. Caydon said it will build church facilities on three floors of the new building. This will allow an expansion of space for nonprofits, and provide a new parish hall, assembly space and administrative offices.

Trinity said service providers in its three existing buildings have been offered space in the new building once it is complete. Service providers will not need to move until construction begins, but the church said they will need to relocate during construction, and some may not choose to move twice.

A statement from Northwest Harvest, which has been at Trinity for over 35 years, implied that it will seek a new permanent home on another site.

In Houston, Caydon is building a 357-unit, 27-story mixed-use residential tower called The Midtown, with an estimated cost of $200 million. Caydon paid $8 million for two city blocks where it ultimately hopes to create over 900 units of housing, plus more retail. Houston architect Ziegler Cooper is designing the first phase of the project.

Privately held Caydon is led by Russo and Derrek LeRouax. Russo told the Houston Chronicle he already owns a condo in Houston.

Quoting the Australian Financial Review, Houston Business Journal reported last year that, “Russo… bought his first Houston property in January because he was attracted to the city’s lack of zoning and straightforward development process. Caydon’s apartments in Houston will be funded with Russo’s capital as well as mezzanine and senior debt.”

If the Trinity plan proceeds, it would be one of several recent downtown church deals, where shrinking congregations often sell their real estate to finance smaller facilities outside the urban core.

Examples include First United Methodist at Fifth and Marion, which sold and moved to Lower Queen Anne in 2008. Kevin Daniels is incorporating the old church, dubbed “the Sanctuary,” into the 48-story F5 Tower.

In 2012, Gethsemane Lutheran Church redeveloped its property on Stewart Street in the Denny Triangle to create an affordable housing project with Compass Housing that also includes worship and sanctuary spaces.

Seattle First Presbyterian Church sold two parking lots on the Town Hall block where Lennar Multifamily Communities is planning two 32-story residential towers. First Presbyterian is also exploring options for its First Hill block at 1013 Eighth Ave, four blocks north of the Trinity site.

(Originally publish on Daily Journal of Commerce, 11 July, 2017 by Brian Miller)