SEATTLE, WA-The $32 million mixed-use project in lower Belltown known as Klee Lofts and Suites is moving forward despite a big surprise in the early construction phase. Developer Val Thomas (of Seattle-based Val Thomas Inc.) tells that a full soil analysis failed to spot an underground river that runs through the site.

“We had a lot of ground water to deal with,” says Thomas. “Fortunately we found a great soil engineer (CJ Shin in Kirkland), and McCarthy (one of two contractors on the project) just really got down and found ways of dealing with it.”

The way turned out to be a lot of soil nailing, an alternative method of shoring, with a 30-foot deep cut that cost the project three weeks. “McCarthy did an absolutely great job and made up for the lost time. We’re actually slightly ahead of schedule now. This is one of those occasions when there are lots of good things to say about the contractor,” adds Thomas.

The project encompasses 140 residential units in two buildings located at the corner of Western Ave. and Cedar St. in the lower area of the Belltown neighborhood. A 10-story concrete high rise (being constructed by McCarthy) will house 98 rental loft units ranging in size from 720 sf to two-story suites as large as 1,200 sf. A five-story wood-frame mid-rise will consist of 42 suites. Express Construction Co. is the contractor for that building. Thomas says rental rates have not yet been set.

The aggregate square footage of the project will run about 240,000 sf, says the developer. The concrete tower will be approximately 104,000 sf, the mid-rise 43,500 sf. The first two levels of each will contain a total of 40,000 sf devoted to lobby and commercial space. Two levels of below-grade parking will contain 160 stalls in 50,000 sf.

Of the recent explosion of mixed use and high-density residential development in the Belltown area, Thomas says, “It’s finally getting to a critical mass where there are lots of services and enough housing to really make it a neighborhood.” Although he points out that the area is still lacking a major grocery store. A nearby amenity Thomas believes will add vale to the Klee’s neck of the woods is the upcoming Seattle Art Museum Sculpture Park, which will be situated only a block away.

Thomas has a long history of developing within the urban areas of Seattle, including re-developing the West Queen Anne School into a 49-unit condo project that won award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and others. Most recently completed was a small condo project in downtown Bellevue, named Mondrian, after the artist. Likewise, the moniker and architecture of Klee Lofts and Suites was inspired by 20th Century artist Paul Klee (pronounced Clay). Thomas says Klee-inspired artworks will be incorporated in the project, including a glass sculpture by Nancy Mee.

Completion of the mid-rise portion of the Klee project is planned for September 2001 with the high-rise portion following in November. Joe Borden is Thomas’ project manager, and the project designer is Hewitt Architects of Seattle.

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