Traffic, parking major concerns with Ballard Loft apartments

Wednesday night, roughly two dozen community members braved the stormy weather to hear revised design plans for the Ballard Loft apartments at 24th Ave NW and NW 65th St. The project has gained attention because of its plan to demolish the longstanding Viking tavern, but the concerns from the audience were mostly centered on traffic and parking.

Developer Bill Parks, architect Ray Johnston and traffic analyst Mike Swenson presented the revised plans, which includes decreasing the number of units from 95 to 72, while increasing the parking spots to 79. The development will include two floors of loft units, two floors of two-bedroom apartments, ground-level retail and a rooftop garden. Parks says he anticipates a restaurant filling the space on the corner of NW 65th St. and 24th Ave NW, a Green Market on 24th Ave NW, with a cafe or restaurant next door. There will be underground parking, with an entrance to the parking garage on NW 65th St. and an exit on NW 64th St., plans which worried some residents.

Many audience members voiced concerns about how congested NW 65th St. would get with people making left turns into the parking garage, as the entrance to the garage is less than a block from the intersection at 24th Ave NW. Some suggested that there be a median to prevent left turns into the garage from NW 65th St. Another concern was the garage exit on NW 64th St.; many said the street is far too congested already to have steady traffic pour from the building.

“The challenge is you need to gather information you can use,” Parks said. The main thrust of the meeting was to review traffic, parking and safety details of the plan. “Then we’ll have time to tweak our designs, and I’ll meet with the neighbors. If I’m getting stuck defending my design, then I’m not listening,” Parks added.

Swenson said that the concerns from residents made sense. “We’ll go back and look at what we did, and see if that’s still the best balance. It’s a long review process.” He added that the Department of Planning and Development and city of Seattle have the final say on the traffic flow around the building.

While the parking was a central issue, the preservation of the Viking tavern crept into the discussion. Parks said he has a private meeting with the Viking owners and employees in January to discuss the future of the bar. When asked if the Viking owners want to open in the new development, Parks said, “in general, yes.”

Arne Lysholm who lives at NW 67th St. and 33rd Ave NW, said he was concerned that losing the Viking would take away from the traditions of Ballard. Another audience member countered, saying the place, “is a dump,” that he lives across the street and sees people drunk and smoking outside often. But Lysholm argued that there’s more to it than that.

“We have to have some way to make certain to not lose what we’ve got here in Ballard,” Lysholm insisted. “Ballard is unique, and it’s got to stay that way.”

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