Avellino to convert retail space into two apartments

After years of availability, the second floor office/retail space in the Avellino Apartments of the Town Center may get converted into residential units. The building owners requested to change the office space into two new apartments last May with the city’s planning department, which is currently reviewing the proposed conversion. City records, however, show that the Design Commission wanted that retail space when it approved a 23-unit building instead of the initially proposed 25 units in 2001.

According to the city’s development services director, Steve Lancaster, there does not appear to be a city code preventing the conversion from retail space to apartments.

“There are no requirements in the current code that would prevent this, nor can I find anything in the codes that were in effect when the Avellino was originally permitted that would have required second-floor office space,” Lancaster said. “The street frontage retail space was and is required and will not be affected by the proposal under review.”

Completed in 2005, the Avellino Apartments were one of the first Town Center redevelopments. Today, the building features 23 units that are each about 1,700 square feet. The first and second-floor retail space totals 2,600 square feet. It is located between the North end QFC and Baskin Robbins along 78th Avenue S.E.

Tea Treasures, a small retailer offering a variety of teas, recently opened in the ground-floor retail space of the building. According to Lancaster, the only retail space requirement in effect when the Avellino was permitted was that the street frontage be dedicated to any of a variety of commercial uses, with no more than 40 percent being office.

City records from late 2000 and early 2001 show that the Design Commission wanted more retail space than what was originally offered during the final design review. The Design Commission approved the 23 residential units instead of the proposed 25-unit building. The minutes of the study session that took place on Nov. 15, 2000 state that the architect proposed a small tea shop as sole retailer of the building, and expected it to occupy the ground-floor retail space. The former commissioners are noted in the minutes requesting more retail space before they approve the project.

“He [Chairman Don McDonald] indicated the retail space is too small,” reads the minutes of a Design Commission meeting from November 2000. “The walkway proposed along the north of the retail space could be used as part of the retail space.”

The minutes also reveal that McDonald’s colleagues agreed with him. The minutes states that “all Commissioners concurred a more prominent lobby is needed, in addition to a larger retail space.”

Reporter records indicate that the original proposal called for a six-story, 25-unit condominium with only 850 square feet of retail space. In the end, the current five-story, 23-unit structure with 2,600 square feet of retail space was approved.

According to an article in the Reporter on April 11, 2001, the day that the Design Commission would approve the project, the city suggested that more retail space be added with approval.

By adding a second floor to the retail space and removing a unit on the top floor to add a roof-top garden, the project essentially lost two units to get a design that was more pleasing to the commission, former city planner Kathy Harbert was quoted as saying in the article.

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