Mack Urban’s Proposal for a ‘Timeless’ Seattle Community

The company is hoping to build a community with a new hill climb.
1001 John Street Aerial of the Hill Climb

Seattle—Mack Urban, a Los Angeles- and Seattle-based investment and development firm that owns, builds and manages environmentally sensitive urban infill projects, has unveiled a design proposal for a 430-unit, 43-story apartment tower at 1001 John Street in Seattle’s South Lake Union.

The land on which the tower will be built remains private property and is occupied by a five-story concrete warehouse. No pedestrian connection currently exists between upper John Street and lower Terry Avenue North. The proposal is for the tower to occupy the southeast corner of the 18,570-square-foot lot, which will permit a public hill climb and view point plaza with views of a pair of Seattle’s best-known landmarks, the Space Needle and Lake Union.

With a 53-foot drop between John Street and Terry Avenue North, the site is identified in city planning documents as one of several parcels that would benefit from a public hill climb assist.

The public plaza as designed will serve to link John Street and the Seattle Times park. The hill climb will also feature a public elevator north of the new tower.

“South Lake Union is a vibrant neighborhood in downtown Seattle,” Mack Urban founding principal and CEO Paul Keller told MHN. “Its mix of commercial, residential, retail, entertainment and outdoor amenities make it a very attractive area for investment. Mack Urban builds urban projects where people can truly live, work and play in their own community. But what attracted us to this specific site are the challenges. Where people see obstacles, we see opportunity. As a long-term hold company, we are attracted to sites that allow us to participate in public-private partnerships or bring value to a neighborhood.”

The site where the tower will rise is compact and constrained by its topography. Mack Urban has experience in using elevation change to create public benefits, Keller said. Harbor Properties, which became Mack Urban, built Seattle’s Harbor Steps, the first downtown residential project to privately construct a hill climb and public view area connecting First Avenue to the waterfront.

“There are a lot of similarities between 1001 John Street and Harbor Steps,” Keller added. “1001 John Street is a great opportunity to build a signature residential tower that doesn’t turn its back on any street and will add significant public benefit to the South Lake Union community.”

Mack Urban sought the site and purchased it in December 2014 for $11.5 million, which translates to approximately $623 per square foot, Keller reported.

Asked what kind of return his company anticipates achieving, Keller noted that Mack Urban is a long-term-hold company. “Our return is the opportunity to build a timeless residential tower that will provide the city with a new hill climb and public view plaza,” he said. “It will be a signature building in South Lake Union.”