First houseboats may appear this year on Wards Cove dock

The redevelopment of the Wards Cove Packing Company property on Fairview Avenue E. anticipates marking a milestone this year when the first two houseboats tie up at its new Lake Union dock.

Two slips — numbers eight and 11 — of the 12 on the dock have been sold (see map). 

The float and shell for number 11 are being built off site and will be towed in. Only the float for number 8 (a “green” building) is being built off site; the remainder of construction will be done at the dock.

Joel Blair, director of real estate for Wards Cove, says there’s no set timetable for when the houseboats will arrive but he anticipates “seeing something out there in October.”

The last space in the 12,500 square foot waterfront office building at the site leased earlier this month. Some tenants are already located in the building. Others are expected to move in during April.

All but one of the 100-foot marina slips have been rented.

Although 10 houseboat sites remain to be sold, Blair is optimistic that they’ll begin to move now that the economy is rebounding. One point in their favor: Due to tightened shoreline regulations, these may be the last houseboat slips to ever become available on Lake Union.

Across the street, another development is planned: The Enclave. It will consist of 21 three-story town homes that are projected to start at $1.3 million. Wards Cove originally owned that property as well.

Nick Glant, who is presenting the Enclave to prospective buyers, says the developers are awaiting their final short-plat subdivision permits. Once that happens, they’ll start converting presales into actual sales. Ground-breaking (and removal of several houses on the site) will follow that. No timetable on when exactly that will happen.

These are all big changes for the Wards Cove property, which had been the Seattle headquarters for the company for many decades. Blair’s grandfather founded the company on Wards Cove in Ketchikan, Alaska, in 1928 as a fishing and processing firm. The property on Fairview housed offices and storage for the company and its workers. The company used to tie up fishing boats on a since-removed pier where the houseboat dock now floats. 

It was a busy place in the winter, Blair says, but pretty much vacant in the summer when the fleet returned to Alaska.

In 2002, the company decided to leave the Alaskan salmon business and now focuses on “commercial fishing for, and processing of, pollock, cod and crab in the Bering Sea, and operates several general retail stores in Alaska,” according to its Web site.

Redevelopment of the Fairview property began in 2004. The green cinderblock building that stood where the new parking lot is was removed as was a rusting pier. The project went on the market in the summer of 2008, just as the economy was tanking.

The company consulted with the Eastlake Community Council about what the neighborhood wanted to see for the area, Blair says, adding that that was a process that benefitted both parties. Things the community asked for turned out to be good ideas, he says. 

Wards Cove was able to open up a view corridor with the project. The “green street” landscaping along Fairview was required by the city. The new beach that is part of the project is on the Wards Cove property but will always remain open to the public, Blair says.

The office building was previously part of the salmon operation. It was completely gutted and rebuilt. Some of the materials came from the old building. In addition to offices, it now houses a conference room and kitchen, a guest suite for use by the houseboat and marina tenants, a fitness studio and a large deck.

In the downstairs hallway of the building, Wards Cove has included a display of photographs and other material that tell the history of the company. This area of the building will be open to the public during regular business hours (probably 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Blair says) once all the tenants are moved in sometime later this spring. You’ll be able to gain access to the area through the gate at the northern end of the Wards Cove company’s green office building on Fairview.


  • For more information on the Wards Cove Packing Company, see their Web site
  • Information on the Wards Cove development, including maps of the site, is also available online.
  • The Enclave’s Web site is here.

One thought on “First houseboats may appear this year on Wards Cove dock

  1. striatic

    to seeing the old photos and the new floating homes. the existing floating homes and their residents give back so much to eastlake, both visually and in terms of community. i’m looking forward to seeing what this new collection of home on the shore look like.

    i’m also really into old photos of the neighborhood, and it’ll be swell to see the photos posted up in a place where eastlake residents can pop in and take a look.

    the town home row looks mighty imposing and rather generic in the renderings, tho.

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