SEATTLE-The premier redevelopment site in Columbia City has been scooped up by locally based HAL Real Estate Investments. The 1.7-acre parcel fronts Rainier Avenue South and also abuts Columbia Park, Columbia City Library and Edmonds Street, the designated pedestrian connection to the new light rail station two blocks away on Martin Luther King Way.

Originally developed as a Tradewell Market in 1957, the site holds an 18,000-sf building that has been master leased and operated as a sort of bazaar. “There are a lot of people inside selling things,” HAL president Dana Behar tells The local farmer’s market operates in the parking lot.

The lease for the building runs into February 2008. Behar says it will take a couple of years before the site is entitled for the residential-over-retail building he is planning for the site. Until then, he plans to let the farmer’s market use the property rent free.

“I grew up in that neighborhood; I remember shopping there,” says Behar, who is planning to assist the farmer’s market in finding an alternate location. I still come regularly with my family to go to restaurants and the Farmers’ Market. I see this as the next Fremont.”

Behar didn’t have specific data on how much he could build if he maxed out the site’s zoning — Neighborhood Commercial 3 with a 65-foot height limit– but says the site is larger than another former grocery store site on Capitol Hill on which he developed 153 condominiums over street-level retail.

HAL paid Kin Properties of Florida $6.6 million for the 74,500-sf property, which sits within the Columbia City Historic District. As such, the development design will be reviewed by the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board.

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