Failed / Stalled Mixed-Use Developments Around the Sound

From today’s Olympian: Housing project in foreclosure

Thurston Highlands, one of the largest proposed mixed-use developments in the state, has emerged as the biggest example of how the economic crisis has had a corrosive effect on development.

Through its trustee, the project’s primary lender, Frontier Bank, has started foreclosure proceedings on the 1,250-acre property after saying a loan was in default. The trustee is scheduled to auction the property to the highest bidder on the Thurston County Courthouse steps June 5.

Steve Chamberlain, a local developer and the managing member of the property owner, Thurston Highlands Associates LLC, said he secured interim financing totaling $12 million to start developing the property with the intent of refinancing in three years, when the project moved into the construction phase.

But Frontier Bank of Everett, facing its own fallout from the financial meltdown, was unable to lend more money. In March, Frontier signed a cease-and-desist order to change its lending practices after a review by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and state Department of Financial Institutions concluded that it was undercapitalized. No other banks were willing to step forward.

Meanwhile, over in my neck of the woods, Kenmore Village: a “new lifestyle village in Downtown Kenmorehas been put on hold, pending a recovery in the economy and the housing market.

Likewise, Woodinville Village, a “classic European village square infused with the wine ambiance of the Napa Valley,” which has been in development since at least 2004, has been practically stalled out for over a year. Their latest project progress photo (below) is two years old, but is a fairly accurate representation of what the site looks like today.

Woodinville Village

There’s not exactly a central source we can go to for information on how many such projects are currently permitted, cleared, and now merely awaiting an economic recovery to begin cranking out even more condos and townhomes. If you’ve got one of these projects in limbo in your neighborhood, share it in the comments.

(Christian Hill, The Olympian, 2009.05.15)

About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market.


  1. 1
    DrShort says:

    The old Vitamilk site at Greenlake has been stalled for almost two years. Here’s the latest from the Greenlake Community Council in January:

    “Old VitaMilk/ Lorig – a new project manager is on the project and may have an announcement in about the next ninety days. They have not secured the tenant they want. They still want a grocery store. The earliest any construction would move forward is about Spring 2010.”

    The nearly completed site close by is having trouble getting commercial tenants:

    “TCR (Albertsons) – project is almost complete. Expect occupancy permit for Ravenna-facing units any day with move-in starting February. If anyone has interest in either the residential or commercial spaces, contact Michael. They would like to have restaurants… but they would like to have tenants. “

    Not related, but funny… Later in the meeting notes, it mentions this:

    “Cyndy’s Restaurant at 105th & Aurora is proposed to be a strip club, but will still serve pancakes.”

  2. 2

    “Cyndy’s Restaurant at 105th & Aurora is proposed to be a strip club, but will still
    serve pancakes. “

    How ummmm, ……wholesome?

  3. 3
    Cascadian says:

    I ride past that Woodinville site every day on my bike commute. One thing you can’t tell from the photo is that the apartments along the bike trail that were there before this project began (and fully occupied) were converted into “luxury apartments” that appear to be at least 50% vacant. Other than that conversion and the initial clearing of the lots I don’t think anything’s been done on the project.

  4. 4
    Groundhogday says:

    “Thurston Highlands, one of the largest proposed mixed-use developments in the state, has emerged as the biggest example of how the DEVELOPMENT crisis has had a corrosive effect on ECONOMY.”

    Had to correct causality.

  5. 5
    The Tim says:

    RE: Cascadian @ 3 – Indeed. I guess I should have mentioned in the post that those are just conversions, and nothing has actually been built from the ground up on the site at all.

    Their pricing on the rentals ranges from $1.77 / sqft to $2.02 / sqft. Meanwhile, a competing self-described luxury apartment complex withing walking distance of downtown Woodinville is advertising comparably-sized units in the $1.33 / sqft range on Craigslist, and non-“luxury” units in the area can be had in the $1.10-$1.25 / sqft range.

  6. 6
    Acerun says:

    I have an unhealthy obsession with Lifestyle centers.
    I love the development in Renton along I-405, the Legacy
    Their upscale replica of a main street is 30% full.
    They have built lovely apartments named “Sanctuary” and “The Reserve”.
    I would love to live in a target parking lot with a view of 405.
    With over embellished names like that you know they are crap.

    I have heard they were going to build one on the Issaquah Highlands, I wonder how that is going.

    Kimco has plans to redevelop the Factoria mall into a lifestyle center at the corner of 405 and 90.
    That will draw more shoppers to old navy and target.

    Kent, Burien the list goes on.

    I have no idea why they want to build these in places with inclement weather…..

  7. 7
    David Losh says:

    That hole in the ground where the Safeway used to be at Stoneway and 40th; what happened there?

    I drove by a building on 15th and Madison where Thumpers used to be, the place looks practically empty.

    Speaking of Madison I’ll bet the guy who bought Deano’s is kicking himself and Deano must be past proud he held out then sold at the top.

    Man. there are so many places this could really go on and on.

    Speaking of Lorig, does any one know when South of Northgate goes on sale? I heard the theater’s opening.

  8. 8
    b says:

    “Downtown Kenmore”

  9. 9
    Crashcadia says:

    I hear that Cascadia may also be put on hold.

  10. 10
    wreckingbull says:

    These astroturfed urban villages really creep me out. Do any of our loyal readers from Spokane have an update on Kendall Yards? The ambition of that project puts all these to shame. I can’t imagine it is going through as it was originally planned.

  11. 11
    wreckingbull says:

    RE: wreckingbull @ 10 – Sorry to reply to my own post, but this picture answers my question perfectly without a single word.

  12. 12
    Crashcadia says:

    I have been waiting for this one to crash for the past 5 years.

    With housing for 10,000 people on almost 5000 acres it would be the state largest planned community.

    How is that plan working out for you?

  13. 13
    Ray Pepper says:

    Hey……………………….at least the PNW hasn’t made the **************************LIST**************************

  14. 14
    Joel says:

    RE: Crashcadia @ 12

    Cascadia: Art of Living

    Haha, we gotta collect the worst condo, apartment complex, and housing development taglines in one place. I propose this thread.

  15. 15
    searayman says:

    On the subject of larger developments: I was wondering what this forum foresaw for Suncadia……never seems to be mentioned here. I know they have had a couple of layoffs recently, which is unusual going into the height of their season. I also read that they are behind in their payments to the city of Cle Elum. Claiming they are protesting some charges, but sounds like a cash flow problem to me. I think the lots were way over priced as were the homes. I believe prices have dropped dramatically…….Heres an example of the market for condo’s there:

    I know they are building more condo’s with the first phase of The Trailhead Condo’s about to open. With rumors of the developers Lowes and Jeld-Wen possibly declaring bankruptcy I was wondering your thoughts on this train wreck about to happen?

  16. 16
    joe says:

    There’s a huge hole in the ground at the busy Alaska/Fauntleroy junction in West Seattle, where the Whole Foods was planned to go in. Last I read on, there were a flurry of lawsuits and it’s stalled indefinitely. Much like the one on Stone Way, this is not just an eyesore, but a big safety risk. There’s nothing more than a chainlink fence preventing cars from falling into a 3-story-deep hole.

  17. 17
    asdfjjj says:

    RE: Acerun @ 6

    I seriously hope they do something about that dreadful Factoria area. I’ve never seen so many scummy people and gang bangers.. The odd part is that it’s right by some really really nice neighborhoods on the hill there.

  18. 18
    shannon says:

    What about the insane Suncadia resort outside of Cle Elum?

    It is a nice drive over the pass. My girlfriend and I went to look it over as a place to stay for an anniversary. It was like the Shining! The place was empty with all the staff willing to show us around for hours…they had nothing else to do. When we walked into the Spa about three people came running to us thinking we were an actual client. It was as if they hadn’t seen anyone in weeks:)

    There is about 30 million dollar plus homes for sale, condos, hotel, golf course, houses half built etc. Check out Redfin for that info. Type in Cle Elum and then erase the outline and move to the west on the map and you will find it. Million dollar homes across the street from $20,000 trailers. The old timers in Roslyn must be thinking the world has gone crazy.

    If you want a Sunday drive it is worth the drive to see this future ghost town.

    Even the Sales Center is downsizing. I was there just a couple weeks ago and the only sales agent in the place was whining because he “can’t seem to sell a thing” compared to two years ago. Weird thing to say out loud to a stranger…i may have been a buyer…..NOT.

    He also asked for our email because prices were really going to drop. Duh:)

  19. 19
    asdfjjj says:


    I freaking love this blog. :)

  20. 20
    shannon says:

    This is outside our Seattle area but thought it might make some of you chuckle. My husband and I have been watching this destined to doom development in BC. The web site has photos of the progress it is making (which isn’t much). I think they take photos from different angles to confuse the non-existant buyers.

    Anyways, the last posted photos are of some mountain sheep (goats?) roaming the property. My husband saw this and said “hey, they posted pictures of the buyers”.

    check it out for a little light humor at

  21. 21
    EconE says:

    Met an owner at 2200 one time. Said owner was telling me the “ins and outs” of the “mixed” use issue.

    Well….more like he was complaining about it.

    He told me NEVER to buy into a mixed use complex.

    If you can’t figure out why….


  22. 22
    One Eyed Man says:

    RE: EconE @ 18RE: David Losh @ 7

    So where does the mixed use development concept come from? My conclusion is that GMA means we want to be Manhattan not LA. You’ll live on the 13th floor, work on the 3rd floor, and shop on the first floor. Who needs Chrysler or GM? I’d still like to think I’m an environmentalist but I can’t live in an ant farm. Does that make me a bad person?

    Dave, a good friend of mine was the construction manager for the Theatre. I’ll have to ask him what he’s doing now that that projects completed. He used to do a lot of urban condos and mixed use but it’s got to be tough to find projects now.

  23. 23
    Softwarengineer says:



    76 STATION



    I’m sure my lists are incomplete, but you get the flavor….

  24. 24
    EconE says:

    By One Eyed Man @ 22:

    RE: EconE @ 18RE: David Losh @ 7

    So where does the mixed use development concept come from? My conclusion is that GMA means we want to be Manhattan not LA. You’ll live on the 13th floor, work on the 3rd floor, and shop on the first floor. Who needs Chrysler or GM? I’d still like to think I’m an environmentalist but I can’t live in an ant farm. Does that make me a bad person?

    Where does it come from? Don’t know…don’t care.

    Seattle will never be Manhattan nor L.A. (for better or worse)

    Just because a building is a condo doesn’t mean it’s mixed use.

    No you are not a bad person for not wanting to live in an ant-farm where you look out your window and have a front row view of all your neighbors lives.

    C’MON REIC FOLK….chime in.

    Let these people know the “catch” of a mixed use development with a “Masters Association”.

    Here is your chance to “educate”.

  25. 25
    asdfjjj says:

    RE: EconE @ 24

    Can someone please tell me why mixed use is such a bad idea. I think it’s so funny how everyone wants these places to fail. I know it’s small lots, and lack of privacy. But also, you do get convenience, and safety right?
    The issaquah highlands seem nice.

    My thoughts are that, right now, they look cute, like a Thomas Kinkaid painting, but eventually, when the paint starts to chip, it’s not going to be so cute any more, and more like a ghetto.

    Do you guys agree?

  26. 26
    One Eyed Man says:

    RE: EconE @ 24

    EconE, I’m not sure that we dissagree on anything, but I’m not sure we understand each other either. Master associations covering both residential and commercial tenants can be a pain in the ass. But I think they are a symptom not a cause. I’m pretty sure the reason developers build mixed use projects is because they are required to by land use codes when building inside certain areas zoned for higher density. Developers don’t build mixed use because condo customers want it. They do it because it’s required to get their project approved. And I’m not sure, but a lot of the time I think its hard for them to sell the commercial space on the lower floors.

    I also think the changes to land use codes requiring mixed use were made as part of growth management. A major objective of Washington’s Growth Management Act is to preserve open space by confining development inside incorporated urban areas and areas inside the urban growth boundary established by the GMA. The idea is to avoid urban sprawl like LA by developing in higher density like Manahattan. The goal of growth management is to have people live in high density with jobs and shopping within walking distance on the ground floors. It’s the urban village concept. Most people will use mass transit like Manhattan because they can walk to everything, there won’t be any parking and there won’t be enough road capacity to handle all the cars if everyone drove.

    If you don’t like mixed use, then you’re really against a major component of the Growth Management Act. If you think mixed use is stupid, tell the legislature and the environmentalists who believe in the Growth Management Act. I think they’re the reason it gets built.

  27. 27

    I actually like mixed use, or at least the concept. Sure, there have been a bunch of shoddily built, ugly mixed use developments, but I like the idea of stumbling down my stairs to go to get a beer or go to a restaurant or a movie or to a supermarket.
    I have seen nice mixed use developments…it can be done tastefully, but unfortunately that’s far from common.

  28. 28
    jon says:

    RE: One Eyed Man @ 26 – “Developers don’t build mixed use because condo customers want it. They do it because it’s required to get their project approved.”

    I’m following a development in my old town in Massachusetts. A developer got a mixed used zone approved a few years back, and then built the max number of condos he could before he had to develop the commercial part. Recently the developer went back to the town boards and negotiated a token amount of cash, which by the way would go towards reducing layoffs of town employees, to rid themselves of the pesky commercial part of the mixed use. The condo owners then packed the town meeting where final approval was needed and sent that down in flames. People there said they were told when they were sold the units that there would be mixed use there, and they want it.

  29. 29
    Joel says:

    RE: Acerun @ 6 – I believe Factoria has abandoned the redevelopment project and is just going remodel.

    Just noticed that the Blockbuster at the Crossroads is gone. Add that to the disappearance of Chili’s, Famous Footwear, and Circuit City. Who’s next?

  30. 30
    EconE says:

    I didn’t say I disliked mixed use.

    It was great having Whole Foods an elevator ride away….

    as a renter.

    Caveat Emptor

  31. 31
    One Eyed Man says:

    RE: jon @ 28

    I don’t think my experience and opinions regarding mixed us projects necessarily conflict with what happened in the development you’ve mentioned . I didn’t mean to imply in my earlier post that there aren’t people who want to buy in mixed use projects.

    My experience with mixed use is that developers on large projects like Lincoln Square like it because for them it’s a money maker. They have enough parking and people in the area to support the commercial tenants. But on smaller projects in areas that don’t have the population density yet, there usually isn’t enough business from the people within walking distance or enough parking for people to drive there. This makes it hard for the developer to market the commercial space. The commercial space doesn’t become viable until there are a substantial number of high density buildings and/or parking or well used mass transit near by. Developers know this and they generally don’t want to include commercial space in projects that aren’t in very high density areas and IMO wouldn’t do it if they weren’t required to do so by the land use code.

    I don’t personally disagree with growth management or mixed use. But I don’t think people realize that growth management is at least a part of the reason we have mixed use projects and smaller lot sizes in many newer developments.

  32. 32
    David Losh says:

    RE: jon @ 28

    Mixed Use is required by code. The idea is that high density zoning is most likely allowed in commercial areas, like down town. You then have Urban Villages in King County’s Growth Management Act with a Comprehensive Plan.


    The idea is to have high density mixed use in the Urban Village, then low density, like town homes as a buffer to residential.

    The common problem is getting long term anchor tenants for commercial space. Yes, every one wants a Whole Foods on the main level. Then the density itself gets tricky.

    A stand alone store attracts people, in theory, but when you have a hundred housing units with visitors and comings and goings you get congestion. It’s hard to balance.

    So it’s an added puzzle to a developer who just wants to build, sell, and go away. Businesses don’t want to buy the space they want to lease it. So now we have all of these buildings managing commercial spaces and all competing for the same prime tenants.

    What the owners in the building want is an amenity that adds value. Payless shoes may not be what they consider prestige, but they can pay rent.

  33. 33
    TJ_98370 says:

    Over in Kitsapland, I think this qualifies as a failed “lifestyle community” development:

    White Horse Golf Course is in foreclosure

    KINGSTON — Just a few years after its opening in spring 2007, the White Horse Golf Course development located near Kingston is in foreclosure. As of March 23, the amount in default on the note is approximately $5.7 million, according to the notice of trustee’s sale filed with Kitsap County’s Auditors office, March 24…….

  34. 34
    Ray Pepper says:

    Ahhhhhhh. mixed use favorite investment. When I started in real estate at 3928 N Cheyenne 98407 I purchased a mixed use beauty parlor and lived upstairs while working Pepper Realty in the down stairs front building. Soon the kids began to grow and make too much noise. It drove me nutts. We moved to Gig Harbor, I sold, and now its a coffee shop with 2 apartments. When I go there to get coffee every month I still have memories of Pepper Realty and the 5- 6% commission days.

    ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…that was the life! Get a listing, shoot a pic, give a CMA, click a mouse, and GET PAID HUGE.

    wait……………………….this is still being done?????????????? GOD HELP THOSE WHO STILL DO NOT KNOW!

    Mixed Use, on a small scale, are great investments and CASH COWS!

  35. 35
    voight-kampff says:

    ONE hotel and residences “condotel” was a mixed use project, and it is now nothing but a very large 30 ft deep hole at 2nd and pike.

    doesn’t the developer get fined or taxed for leaving a gigantic unusable crater on the corner ?( at least it used to be a parking lot)
    it is approaching 2 years in this hole-ee state!

  36. 36
    aman says:

    RE: voight-kampff @ 35
    I like to refer to that spot as the “Seatt-hole”

  37. 37
    Ed says:

    I live in Spokane – here’s some info on 3 developments –
    1. Sandy Ridge, near where I live, was begun 4 years ago and was to have 77 homes in 3 years. 12 homes have been built of which 3 remain vacant. 2 foundations were poured but worked stopped a year ago and that’s where they sit.

    2. Valley Springs – all graded, roads and utilities in. A nearly 400 home development. Not one home has been built. It’s dead.

    3. Kendall Yards just northwest of downtown Spokane – Phase 1 was to include 350 condos, and eventually I believe sufficient condos and apartments for 4,000 residents in a new urban village, plus 450,000 feet of retail and office space. A very little bit of land clearing occurred by otherwise this project is dead.

  38. 38
    Passonthepepper says:

    RE: Ray Pepper @ 34

    No wonder why you charge so little for your services since that is all you do at Pepper Realty for your clients.

  39. 39
    David Losh says:

    RE: Ray Pepper @ 34

    AHHHHHHH, but Ray, what if there was more to it than clicking a mouse? I agree that’s what it’s come down to, but what if there was more?

    What if a property had an actual value to be determined beyond what the numbers say? What if there was a price to be gotten higher than being the cheapest house on the street? What if a buyer actually had questions about the property they were buying beyond what the staging looks like in the home?

    What if Real Estate agents actually did thier jobs to get paid?

  40. 40
    WestSideBilly says:

    By joe @ 16:

    There’s a huge hole in the ground at the busy Alaska/Fauntleroy junction in West Seattle, where the Whole Foods was planned to go in. Last I read on, there were a flurry of lawsuits and it’s stalled indefinitely. Much like the one on Stone Way, this is not just an eyesore, but a big safety risk. There’s nothing more than a chainlink fence preventing cars from falling into a 3-story-deep hole.

    I was going to mention this. It’s a very deep and large hole, and for people who walk along Fauntleroy towards the junction, there’s a point where there is only about 3 feet between the (busy) road and a very long fall. I have not heard or seen anything which would indicate this hole will be filled any time soon, either. The mixed use buildings at Avalon/35th and Alaska/41st are slowly nearing completion… another few dozen vacant apartments in the area should further reduce the chance of that hole being turned into a Whole Foods + Condos.

    And to make matters worse, the Schuck’s that used to be there was the only auto parts place in walking distance of me. :(

  41. 41
    mukoh says:

    Depending on the developer, a lot of these larger i.e. 300+ lot divisions have the ability to sit out for a long time. The guys who were leveraged to the kilt aren’t able to move an inch without cash. The Frontier deal was offered to a friend of mine as a Note assignment sale about a month ago, that thing is herrendous, the water rights are not done yet.
    A friend of mine with one development of 450 lots with Phase I complete only 35 lots in it is all cash, and he will sit out for two years or however long he feels like it and not do anything, accept weed n feed. A large master plan that never hit the paper in north SnoCo is owned by a big private money group out of Seattle, and will be sitting for a long time waiting for right conditions, thats 1200 lots in that one.

  42. 42
    old timer says:

    @ WestSideBilly – there is a Carquest Auto Parts now, just a block or two north of the
    old Schuck’s, on 38th, I think.
    There is not only the Whole Foods Hole, but all of the old Huling properties whose development is in abeyance. Three auto showrooms, several major parking areas, and related service garages that were to be magically transformed into upscale urban porn by the lavish application of borrowed money are now all empty and awaiting taggers and rock lobbers.
    This mess will take a long time to resolve.

  43. 43
    WestSideBilly says:

    I think the Seattle Times is coming to Seattle Bubble for story ideas.

  44. 44
    The Tim says:

    RE: WestSideBilly @ 43 – Heh, I had a similar thought when I saw that story this morning :^)

  45. 45
    Slumlord says:

    RE: mukoh @ 41


    If you are talking about the Lake Goodwin area project for the 1,200 lots, that particular developer has been letting their options on land in the Mill Creek/Bothell area expire. If they cannot hold onto land close to places where there are jobs, then how would they ever succeed in plunking down houses in the middle of nowhere?

  46. 46
    deejayoh says:

    RE: WestSideBilly @ 43 – Wow – Reality is calling for this guy… apparently he is not picking up

    At Florera, a condominium across Northeast Ravenna Boulevard from Circa that was completed last year, only about 15 of the 59 units have sold. Developer Pryde Johnson recently put the remainder up for lease, with options to buy.

    “We’re just buying time for the market to recover,” principal Curt Pryde said. “Nothing new’s being built. What’s there now is just going to get more valuable.

    A second phase has permits but is on hold.

    or put another way, “Pryde goeth before the fall”

  47. 47
    mukoh says:

    RE: Slumlord @ 45 – Slumlord that Lake Goodwin note is now in seattle groups hands and its cashed out. The actual developer will probably be under by the end of the year.

  48. 48
    Mike2 says:

    Was anything ever done with the big hole in Wallingford on the SE corner of Stone Way and 40th? The Safeway went out of business when I still lived in the neighborhood (2002) and I never saw it get past excavation.

  49. 49
    dancingeek says:

    RE: Mike2 @ 48 – I walk by there from time to time and it’s still just a big hole in the ground.

  50. 50
    Mikal says:

    RE: dancingeek @ 49 – QFC now owns the land. They were going to build a grocery store with living units above, but that appears to have been put on hold.

  51. 51
    David Losh says:

    RE: mukoh @ 41

    It’s called lost opportunity cost.

    These groups will sit it out and lose millions in the process. Add up what you have there and it’s a couple thousand building lots. All together there are thousands of other lots still vacant.

    The guys underwater and sending Notes back to the bank will further devalue the lots. Banks have to sell to satisfy the investors and stock holders. Banks now have federal funds to absorb losses.

    People sitting on cash tied up in dirt or depreciating assets are the ones that lose.

  52. 52
    mukoh says:

    RE: David Losh @ 51 – David, which banks have the federal funds to absorb the losses? Can you name examples?

    Federal money is used to boost capital requirements not cover losses. Losses have to still be written off the income and balance sheets BTW, Mr informed cleaner.

    Lots in Snoco are already at $90k.

    The people who took over the notes did not take over at YESTERDAY’S prices they did it at 1999 prices. :)

    The only MPA that is totally and completely wiped out is the Yelm. He hasn’t even gotten water rights yet.

  53. 53
    DRhodes says:

    RE: deejayoh @ 46
    And now your comments ring true. Someone is dealing more with pride (Pryde) than reality.

    I live (rent) at Florera. Last week I got a letter from a lawyer stating that Florera is going into a receivership. As I understand it, this is the phase before bankruptcy. I am moving out, but feel for the people who own at Florera.

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