December 10, 2009

New office towers help CBD move north

  • In the past 12 months, nearly 1.5 million square feet of office space has come on line or is near completion in the north CBD.
  • By A-P HURD
    Touchstone Corp.


    Over the past few years, Seattle’s central business district (CBD) has been moving steadily to the north, due in large part to several real estate developments that are bringing new life and vitality to the Denny Triangle neighborhood.

    While these urban-infill projects represent most every type of product, including luxury condominiums like Olive 8, it’s the office towers that have done the most to change the overall complexion of the neighborhood.

    To that end, in just the past 12 months, the north CBD has had nearly 1.5 million square feet of Class A office space either come to market or near completion. This includes Touchstone’s 28-story West 8th project, which began leasing earlier this year, and two nearby office towers developed by Schnitzer West. All these buildings fit well into the neighborhood. They’re modern, bright and sustainable, and have been designed to allow lots of natural light to reach deep into their interiors.

    While leasing has been slower than usual due to the economic downturn, there is already strong evidence that businesses of all types and sizes are attracted to the north CBD for a number of strategic reasons: They like its proximity to light-rail and other mass-transit options that enable employees to get to and from work in a timely manner while reducing vehicle emissions. Potential tenants also have embraced the neighborhood’s mature retail community and its convenient access to all the goods and services companies need to accommodate their employees.

    Future focus

    Photo courtesy of courtesy of Sound Transit
    Sound Transit’s Westlake Station is a short walk from Touchstone’s and Schnitzer West’s new office buildings, offering tenants quick access to the north CBD neighborhood for their daily commutes.

    But the north CBD represents another, less obvious draw for growing businesses from the region and throughout the country — the chance to be part of a dynamic downtown neighborhood that will be the focus of attention for years to come.

    According to locally based brokerage firm Pacific Real Estate Partners (PREP), which has leased several high-rise office projects in this area of downtown, the city’s CBD will migrate even farther north as economic stability returns to the area.

    “We’ve seen the ‘50-yard line’ of the CBD push from the original Washington Mutual Tower to the junction of Two Union Square and the US Bank Centre over past number of years,” said David Abbott, who’s teaming with fellow PREP brokers Eric Leland and Jeff Durrell on leasing the West 8th office tower.

    “That trend of the CBD’s midpoint moving north will only continue to take shape in the future, which presents some unique competitive advantages to businesses that move to this part of Seattle’s downtown core,” Abbott said.

    One of those benefits will be tenants’ ability to effectively market their goods and services as a result of all the excitement surrounding the emerging north CBD neighborhood.

    Much like NBBJ, Skanska USA Building and other businesses that leased space in South Lake Union when its first new projects came on line, tenants in this neighborhood will have numerous opportunities to communicate their brands to clients, prospects and other key audiences. What’s more, there’s a certain cachet associated with organizations that take a fresh, forward-thinking approach to business, whether it’s related to an innovative operational philosophy or where they decide to locate their employees.

    Photo courtesy of courtesy of Touchstone Corp.
    The West 8th project is one of several new office towers that are changing the complexion of the Denny Triangle and moving the midpoint of the city’s CBD farther north.

    In addition to increased visibility, tenants will enjoy the neighborhood’s downtown location, immediately between Seattle’s Financial District and the burgeoning South Lake Union mixed-use community. The city’s financial core is home to businesses representing most every vertical industry.

    Although the area hasn’t seen the same level of new office development as other downtown neighborhoods, it will always be home to a highly diverse population of businesses. Add to that the influx of professional services, high-tech and life sciences companies now leasing space in South Lake Union — not to mention future tenants such as, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and others — and the north CBD puts tenants within a few minutes’ walk of tens of thousands of clients, prospects and partners.

    A bridge

    In essence, with its newly constructed projects, the north CBD has established a seamless connection between two important Seattle business districts. This bridge between the financial core and South Lake Union provides greater efficiencies for the tenants that ultimately occupy the north CBD’s new office buildings.

    Lastly, while the north CBD is in the midst of an exciting period of urban revitalization, the neighborhood is already well established in regards to commercial-retail and residential product. Its new office towers are just a short walk from Nordstrom, Westlake Center, Pacific Place and Macy’s, as well as a multitude of independent shops offering everything from high-fashion apparel to life’s daily essentials. The neighborhood is also close to diverse and innovative restaurant concepts such as Barolo Ristorante, FareStart and MistralKitchen, due to open in December.

    The north CBD has become a truly integrated mixed-use neighborhood that includes shopping, arts and culture, apartments and condominiums, restaurants, retail and Class A office. It’s the kind of neighborhood that everyone wants to build: one with a unique urban vibe, and with buildings and streets that are fresh, clean, connected and full of light. The north CBD is filled with a sense of possibility, and it is coming of age as a vital, integral part of the downtown core.

    A-P Hurd is vice president of development and marketing at Touchstone Corp., the owner and developer of the West 8th high-rise office project.

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