Belltown Real Estate


By David Kroman

As Seattle races to increase its affordable housing stock, the City has a seismic retrofitting problem affecting nearly 2,000 apartments for low-income renters — that could cost as much as $80 million to fix. The city now faces an uncomfortable question: Should scarce dollars go towards making the existing housing safer at the potential expense of building new housing?

By cross-referencing the city’s list of unreinforced masonry buildings with its portfolio of affordable housing, the city’s Department of Construction and Inspections has found as many as 39 buildings containing 1,873 affordable apartments that could be unsafe in an earthquake.

Estimating a retrofitting cost of $45 per square foot to bring them up to safety standards, the Office of Housing warned then Mayor-elect Jenny Durkan during her transition that the city could need as much as $79 million to upgrade the buildings.

The city has set aside funding for the preservation of existing affordable housing. But it has not earmarked anywhere close to the amount needed to fully upgrade the buildings, which leaves a large number of low-income residents vulnerable.

Unlike statewide efforts in earthquake-prone California and Oregon to upgrade all buildings, Seattle and Washington have done little to address this issue. In a council meeting last October, city officials concluded more than 1,100 buildings need seismic upgrades, which could cost as much as $1 billion. The Seattle Times reported that as many as 33,000 people live and work in unsafe buildings every day, including as many as 2,000 people living in affordable housing.

To determine the list of affordable housing units in unreinforced masonry buildings, senior structural engineer Nancy Devine of the Department of Construction and Inspections used permit records as well as on-site inspections and Google street views.

She came up with 39 buildings across Seattle with varying levels of retrofit. She sorted them into two categories: high-risk and medium-risk in the event of an earthquake. Buildings land in either category based on how much, if any, retrofitting has been done, the building’s location and the number of potential victims in case of a catastrophic quake. Two buildings could have the same level of existing seismic upgrades but its location in Pioneer Square — where the geology is less stable  — or its use as a preschool would elevate the building to “high-risk.”

Some buildings already have upgrades so the cost to fully retrofit them varies from as little as $5 per square foot up to $65. To average it out, Devine used the city’s standard average of $45 to come up with the $79 million total.

“That’s truly a ballpark, just to start the conversation,” she said.

The city’s affordable housing providers, which receive funding from Seattle as well as a number of other sources, function on tight budgets and cannot raise rents. Shouldering the full cost of seismically upgrading their buildings at current funding levels would be impossible, they say.

“This could be a $14 million issue,” says Brad Lange, senior director of Asset Management and Acquisitions for Capitol Hill Housing. The housing provider, which owns and manages nearly 50 buildings in the Seattle-area, was notified it had ten buildings that needed upgrades. “We don’t have $14 million lying around to pay for this. We’re already operating on a very thin margin.”

The City Council has revisited the issue of mandating seismic upgrades for decades, including as early as last August. As reported by The Times, City Hall is unlikely to push a mandate until 2019, at the earliest. Lange says his organization is committed to providing safe housing to its residents, but mandating upgrades would be difficult without additional government support. “If government agencies mandate repair and owners are unable to make those repairs, there’s no option but to demolish the building,” he says. That could leave more people without homes.

His colleague at Capitol Hill Housing, Dylan Locati, echoed the point. “To think about adding on this other mandate for preservation, there’s got to be another source of funding.”

But recent battles for more housing dollars have not come easy. In August 2016, voters approved an affordable housing levy to raise $290 million over 7 years, or just over $40 million a year. But only $6 million per year is reserved for operation and maintenance costs; the majority of the total is earmarked to build or purchase new affordable housing.

The City Council also went through a protracted fight over whether to use bonds — essentially its credit card — to raise more money in the short term for affordable housing. It ended up pushing forward $25 million, which will mostly go toward building new units.

The council, during last fall’s budget season, engaged in a bitter fight over a proposed business tax to raise an additional $25 million for affordable housing. The tax proposal failed but efforts to revive it continue.

And the City Council recently signed off on Durkan’s proposal to sell publicly-owned land parcels property to recoup $11 million for affordable housing.

Lange understands the politics of all of this. The city “wants to say they’re building new units to address the affordability crisis,” he says. “But the city has a huge portfolio of properties they’re already investors in.”

Capitol Hill Housing is hiring engineers to get a better understanding of how much work needs to be done on each of its buildings. In addition to the 10 on the city’s list, it’s inspecting an additional six.

Locati emphasizes that any solution will likely take state and federal funds, as well as city dollars. But all three levels have moved slowly. “It’s going to be a challenge.”

Syndicated from, featured photo source Matt McKnight/Crosscut.

Late June in 2017, the first expansion of Pike Place Market in 40 years, the MarketFront, opened. Producers Hall and the Pavilion that rises above it is one section of that complex. On a cool, overcast winter day here in Belltown, this is a look at this building:

The newer Producers Hall & Pavilion is just west of the original Pike Place Market (on right in photo). The yellow Joe Desimone Bridge connects the old & the new.   The north end of Producers Hall and the 2nd floor Pavilion that rises above it. In warmer, busier months, the upper Pavilion will provide additional space for farmers and craft vendors. It is partially enclosed at this time of year, with glass somewhat sheltering guests walking through from Elliott Bay winds.

Distinct market pig hoofprints imprinted in the sidewalk next to Producers Hall. Three businesses, at the far end of the block in this photo, now occupy the hall: Honest Biscuits, Old Stove Brewing, and Indi ChocolateLittle Fish restaurant will be arriving in the future, in a different section of the hall.
Above right: Indi Chocolate factory and store. Inside the east entry to Producers Hall.

Inside Producers Hall.  Honest Biscuits (left), Indi Chocolate (in far back at center) and Old Stove  Brewing (right) share an open floor plan which looks out over the waterfront. A quiet winter weekday.

The Pavilion on the 2nd floor above Producers Hall.  The left photo is looking south, the right photo is facing north.

All photos:  Alethea Myers

By Nat Levy

WeWork this month opened its fifth location in the Seattle area, with a lot more on the way.

WeWork will open three more Seattle locations this year and another next year, the company said, bringing it to nine offices in Seattle and Bellevue. A WeWork spokesperson told GeekWire that this growth will double the company’s footprint in the Seattle area.

WeWork’s Seattle presence will grow even further when a 36-story tower in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood encompassing both WeWork co-working office space and the company’s WeLive residential concept opens. WeWork representatives declined to share further details about the WeLive project in Seattle.

WeWork’s Seattle growth mirrors its overall global expansion. It plans to open 1 million square feet of co-working space each month, according to TechCrunch.

Here is a snapshot of the new locations:

  • 1099 Stewart, also known as Hill7, is home to Redfin’s headquarters and Seattle’s HBO office. WeWork opened a two-story office there this month, with 1,000 desks.
  • Avalara is the top tenant at a building called Hawk Tower near CenturyLink Field in Seattle, but WeWork is set to establish a significant presence there as well. It has leased five floors in the building, with room for 1,000 desks and a projected September opening.
  • At 1411 4th Ave. in downtown Seattle, WeWork will open 11 floors of co-working space with room for 1,700 desks in June.
  • At the 40-story 4th and Madison tower, WeWork will occupy three floors of space starting in April. That space will have 1,200 desks.
  • Next year, WeWork is opening a location in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, north of downtown. The project at the future 15th & Market building will occupy two floors and total 1,500 desks.

These new locations join WeWork’s four other offices at Westlake Tower, 500 Yale Ave. N., the Holyoke Building and the Lincoln Square Expansion project in downtown Bellevue, Wash.

WeWork has in Seattle filled out buildings new and old, taking a couple of floors in a variety of locations and neighborhoods. It has used the same playbook in other big cities around the world, and WeWork has become one of the biggest office tenants in places like London and New York.

WeWork has raised $6.9 billion over its seven years of existence, including a $4.4 billion round in August. It is reportedly valued at more than $20 billion.

While its co-working platform has expanded across the globe, WeWork has been adding additional services over the years. WeLive provides furnished apartments, with flexible leases and amenities like chef kitchens and high speed internet, typically in the same buildings as WeWork offices.

WeWork has also gotten into managing office space for larger companies. WeWork has reportedly been developing a new product called Powered by We, which helps clients with office space searches, construction, interior design and more. Wired reported last year that WeWork offices for Amazon, Airbnb and IBM, and other enterprises could eventually farm out office building management to WeWork.

Syndicated from

By Brian Miller

Chainqui Development had its first design review on Tuesday, Dec. 5th for a 44-story mixed-use tower it plans at 2005 Fifth Ave. in Belltown.

Chainqui is represented by DSA Development Services, an affiliate, which also shares an address with GWest Architecture, the project designer.

Through an LLC, the Taiwan-based Chainqui paid $33.7 million two years ago for the northwest corner of Fifth and Virginia Street.

In July, the two buildings on the corner were landmarked by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Board, so the developer must preserve the facades of the Sheridan Apartments and Griffin Building, which date to 1915 and 1927, respectively.

Chainqui wants to build 440 apartments above about 125,300 square feet of office space in the podium, plus street-level retail.

The site measures 19,440 square feet. It is bounded by an alley to the west and, to the north, Vulcan Real Estate’s planned 44-story, 458-unit apartment tower at Fifth and Lenora Street.

GWest’s preferred design, which it calls “Belltown Gateway,” has a pedestrian arcade at the ground-floor level of the Griffin on the corner, with a 12-foot-wide, L-shaped public walkway. That 3,200-square-foot space would be recessed within the facade of the landmarked structure.

The 480-foot tower would be set back from the corner. The tower and upper podium would also be elevated on columns about 25 feet above the Sheridan and Griffin, creating a large open garden and decks for residents, office workers or both.

The tower design shows additional setbacks and tapering on the upper floors. No roof deck is mentioned. The podium appears to have seven or eight levels.

Above the podium, the Chainqui and Vulcan towers would be separated by 60 feet instead of 80. This would require design review board approval, as would the arcade along Fifth and Virginia.

The complex would have about 8,500 square feet of retail-commercial space facing the corner, where Sound Community Bank is now, but recessed within the arcade.

Residents and office workers would have separate entrances on Fifth. Underground parking for 292 vehicles would be accessed from the alley, with six levels below grade.

Total project size, including the arcade and parking, is a little under 600,000 square feet. The project will target LEED certification.

The team also includes landscape architect MIG SvR.

Nearby in Belltown, Chainqui is now building its first U.S. project: a 12-story, 132-unit apartment tower at 2401 Third Ave. GWest also designed this project, and JTM Construction is the general contractor.

Chainqui’s design packet says it was founded in 1972, and constructs commercial and residential buildings in Taiwan and East Asia. The company also offers cement products, rents and sells public housing, and provides career development services.

The firm says it intends to bring that expertise to the U.S. market.

Chainqui’s website lists over a half dozen projects in Taiwan and South China.

Syndicated from the Daily Journal of Commerce.

One of the relaxed working spaces within the rotunda/ commons at Madison Centre.  Image:

Madison Centre, a 36-floor office + retail building with numerous features has opened at the southeast corner of Madison Street and 5th Avenue. Plans for this building were sidelined for 10 years during the economic downturn, but recently Schnitzer West, the real estate developers for this property decided to move ahead. They received comprehensive focus group feedback before proceeding to create a building striving to serve their tenants’ varying needs for collaboration, connectivity, and privacy, with relaxed amenities. The end goal was to increase everyone’s productivity and efficiency.  In essence, a “next-generation workplace”.  It’s LEED-certified and has an excellent walking score of 98, being centrally-located in the downtown Seattle core, near the downtown Central Library.

A suspended spiral staircase leads up to this 3-story high rotunda and commons area at Madison Centre. Image: NBBJ architects


  • Every floor has floor-to-ceiling windows, including the 3-story rotunda and commons area via a spiral, suspended staircase, accessed from the street
  • In the Gathering Place/Rotunda (i.e. Lobby)
    – Fireplace and its towering pillar, from a stone quarry in Minnesota
    – A suspended spiral staircase that leads up to 3-story glass rotunda area and commons
    – Exposed wood slats in rotunda, adjustable for natural light
    – A 5,000-plant Green Wall to improve air quality, reduce noise, and ease stress
    – Extremely fast elevators (from ground floor to roof in about 24 seconds
    – Premier coffee shop on NW corner of rotunda
    – 5-star concierge service
  • Rooms & Work Spaces
    – Site-Wide Connectivity:  Wi-Fi is everywhere, so tenants can work anywhere in the building.
    – Fireside Lounge
    – Common work spaces (both individual and team) and lounge areas off lobby
    – Cafeteria for tenants
    – Library
    – Private quieter rooms available for reservation
    – Multiple, shared conference areas: boardroom (elegantly furnished, fully equipped), other spaces with adjustable space
    – WA Athletic Club-run fitness center (5,000 SF) for tenants
    – Wellness Center (for health services, such as flu shots, etc.)
    – Conference Center with adjoining catering kitchen (12 to 130 people)
    – Able to control energy usage, lighting levels and temperature from anywhere
  • Other Spaces
    – a 480-stall Garage and Bike Storage with abundant security cameras. There is also showers and a locker room for those who pedal to work.
    – Rooftop deck with 15-foot glass walls to minimize wind. Lounging areas and green space are part of this deck.

Madison Centre is currently at 30% capacity, having newly opened last week, and tours are available.

Madison Centre’s rooftop deck.   Image: