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SEATTLE-A Master Use Permit was approved this week for the redevelopment of the Sax Floral property at the intersection of Northeast 65th and 25th, several blocks north of the popular University Village shopping center.

Harold Javete, an owner of Sax Floral and a project manager with Lorig Associates, tells GlobeSt.com that the $7.5-million project will include a 30-unit apartment project with 3,000 sf of ground-floor retail as well as 32 for-sale townhome units. The plan is to start construction in the spring and complete the project in early 2004. Javete says his family will manage the apartment building but a residential brokerage will likely be hired to sell the townhome units.

Sax Floral, which has been located at the site since 1917, will be torn down to make way but will reappear in 2,000 sf of the aforementioned ground-floor retail space, says Javete, who began the project himself before realizing he needed professional expertise. “I found Lorig because I kept talking to people about finding a partner and their name just kept popping up as a company who worked well in joint ventures with owner users,” says Javete, a former commercial real estate broker who ultimately was hired by the company.

Javete says construction financing is still being hammered out, but will likely come from a local bank. The larger issue at hand, says Javete, is insurance for condominium projects. Insurance companies have had to pay out large monetary awards lately related to “material defects” in condominium projects, such as leaks or mold. As a result, more and more lawyers are lobbying condo associations to file lawsuits to protect themselves, leading insurance companies to tighten policies, making it hard for general contractors to renew their existing insurance. The new, “wrap-around” policies GC’s are being forced to buy are much more expensive, he says, and the cost is adding thousands of dollars to the cost of each unit, and in some cases killing projects. Javete says that situation will not stop the Sax Floral redevelopment.

Next door to Sax Floral, meanwhile, work is already underway by another firm to transform the longstanding Varsity Inn restaurant property, as well as the gas station across the street, into another residential-over-retail project. As with Sax Floral, Javete says the Varsity Inn will reopen on the ground floor of the new building. Another block or two down the street, the other of Eliot Bay Bookstore in Downtown Seattle has taken over the former Puget Consumers Coop location and turned it into a cafe and bookstore that opened in the past couple of weeks.

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