The U District’s landscape is changing rapidly. For nearly 40 years, there has been one iconic building featuring a big W on top that defined the neighborhood and stood like a beacon, marking the northern end of the city with its distinctive tower. This week, a second tower, a 24-story apartment building named “The M,” reached a construction milestone as the development and construction teams celebrated the topping off of the structure and gave guests a glimpse into the views and the future of the neighborhood.
“We’re excited about being a part of the new developments that are utilizing the recent upzone in the U District that I believe will truly transform the area,” said Eran Fields, principal of Fields Holdings, as he opened the ceremony on the open 24th floor giving visitors unobstructed 360 degree views of the entire Puget Sound. It was a contemplative moment for Fields, but one that still engendered a healthy dose of humor.
“Before we started, the consensus was that with HALA fees, a new and challenging energy code and increased land and construction costs, we wouldn’t be able to build this, and they’re correct! And I will be hitting our lenders up for additional financing,” Fields joked as he thanked the teams that have helped the project achieve this milestone in less than one year after it began.
Greg Smith, principal of the Northwest Region for the general contractor Katerra, echoed the sentiments and offered a perspective of some challenges the teams endured. “I can’t believe I’m standing here today, it’s been less than a year since we started this,” he said. “There’s been many project challenges, the least of which was [that] this was our first job in the city of Seattle, additionally [this] is the hottest construction market that we’ve ever seen. Every trade is at capacity. Everybody’s competing for the same staff, it’s amazing anything is getting built.”
The M is located at 4700 Brooklyn Ave NE. in Seattle, and the 227-unit development will include a variety of unit types ranging from studios to five-bedroom units. The development will also include 5,575 square feet of retail/commercial space, 32 below-grade parking stalls, 63 bike stalls and an adjacent pocket park.
One of the stated goals of the project is to contribute to the ongoing urbanization of the University District. The development is roughly one mile to the north of the existing University of Washington light rail station on Mountlake Boulevard and less than half a mile from the University’s central campus. Additionally, the project is one block from the under-construction U District light rail station on Brooklyn Avenue: the station is scheduled for completion in 2019 and service is due to begin in 2021.
The NBBJ-designed project is one of the first high-rise towers to be developed in nearly 40 years in the U District, and the applicant team envisioned to set a standard for “well-designed and elegant” residential towers in the neighborhood, according to the project’s plans. The hope is that the project can be a catalyst for future development and revitalize the evolving U District, as well.
The M is expected to be ready for occupancy to coincide with the beginning of the 2020/2021 school year. The property is within walking distance to fraternity and sorority row, and The Avenue, the neighborhood’s primary retail corridor.
The project is also across the street from LIV Seattle, a fully occupied 56-unit/200 bed student housing complex developed by Fields in 2015. This experience has helped Fields and his partners to garner enough interest in construction lending, and it showed the development team knew what it was doing by developing in this neighborhood.
“Due to the prior success of the LIV as well as the best-in-class developer and location, we generated very strong interest from the lending community and were able to deliver terms and conditions superior to a traditional construction loan,” stated Quantum Managing Director Jonathan Hakakha in a statement. He and his team helped arranged $64 million in construction financing for the project, which helped kick off the development in September of 2018.
Founded in 2008, Fields Holdings, LLC has worked on creating more than two million square feet of upscale mixed use student housing projects located near major universities throughout the United States. The firm’s portfolio also includes approximately one million square feet of market rate apartments and retail in the greater Los Angeles area.