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Waterfront developments in Seattle require special considerations

Seattle is seeing some major changes to its waterfront these days. The city's Alaskan Way Viaduct - a two-tiered highway used by more than 100,000 cars each day - suffered earthquake damage in 2001 and is being replaced with a bi-level tunnel. In the wake of the reconfiguration, commercial real estate developers are eager to start new projects in the popular waterfront area.

Developers are snapping up older buildings with hopes of cashing in on upcoming commercial improvements. Just in the past few weeks, the Puget Sound Business Journal announced that two new housing projects are planned for the area near the new tunnel.

Additionally, an expansion of Pike Place Market is due to begin next summer, including a walkway to the waterfront and terraces overlooking Elliott Bay. Within the next few years, the entire Seattle waterfront will change.

Building near the waterfront is vastly different from building in other areas. While all these projects are very exciting for one of the nation's most picturesque cities, construction companies and real estate developers are wise to consult legal professionals regarding zoning, land use and environmental issues regarding waterfront projects. Less obvious issues may include the following as well:

Storm protection

Earthquakes can wreak havoc to properties in any location in Washington but tsunamis and storm surges cause additional concerns for waterfront developments. The protected bay fronting downtown Seattle is not a guarantee of protection from the whims of Mother Nature. Governmental rules dictate what developers, architects, engineers and contractors can do to protect new structures.

Pest infestation

A far more imminent issue reared its ugly head as replacement of Highway 99 with a bi-level tunnel - due for completion in late 2015 - began this past summer. So, too, began the unforeseen relocation of thousands of rodents and pests who lived undisturbed for decades in the structure.

Complaints of increased rat, mouse and cockroach sightings are streaming in from locations numerous blocks from the construction zone. Pest control companies hypothesize that vibrations and noise are driving these pests into neighboring properties, even including the 20th-story of a high-rise commercial building, leading to tenant complaints.

Legal ramifications of change

At every step of development of new commercial properties, it is important to consult legal counsel. An experienced Washington real estate attorney can assist with the legal ramifications and details of such necessities as:

  • Development and construction contracts
  • Bidding and estimating processes
  • Purchase, sale and leasing agreements
  • Financing and insurance