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Marc Stiles
Real Estate Editor

May 26, 2011

Real Estate Buzz: Google, Getty and the search for space

Real Estate Editor

There's talk that Google's growth in Seattle is causing another company, Getty Images, to start hunting for office space.

Google, which occupies space on both sides of Lake Washington — in Kirkland and Fremont — has already expanded in Fremont. A company spokesman said the company grew from 60,000 to 75,000 square feet in January when it moved into a building that also houses Getty.

Now the word is that Google needs more space and will be displacing Getty, which we hear is looking for space south of downtown Seattle.

So is Google planning more growth in Seattle?

“We don't have anything to announce at this time,” the spokesman said.

Google, which employs 26,000 people worldwide, is hiring here. In 2010 the company grew by more than 50 percent in the Puget Sound region and now has 800-plus employees here, working on a variety of projects related to its search and advertising businesses.

The spokesman declined to say exactly how many people the company will add in this region, but it's looking for engineers to work on Google Maps, Chrome and Google Talk.

Seattle-based Getty employs 400 in Seattle and 2,000 globally. It also declined to comment on whether some of its Fremont space will go to Google.

Truex back in the bullpen

Office broker Peter Truex is back in the trenches at Colliers International, having stepped down as senior managing director of the company's Seattle office.

Truex moved to Colliers in 2004 from Staubach to be a tenant rep and was elevated in early 2009 to the management position. He said he missed the day-to-day brokerage work so about a month ago, he moved back to the bullpen. He's informally teaming up with brokers and agents, and says he already has a couple of assignments.

A spokesperson said Colliers is conducting a search to fill Truex's former post.

Photo courtesy of John McKinney [enlarge]
This Bainbridge Island house is on the market. Asking price: $8.5 million.

Waterfront homes start to move

Sales of waterfront houses are picking up again. Recent deals and at least one new listing point to this.

Earlier this month, Dorothy L. Simpson sold a Mercer Island manse on Lake Washington to an LLC headed by Liberty Dialysis CEO Mark Caputo for more than $5.95 million. And as the DJC reported, Detlef and Marianne Schrempf sold their place on the lake for $5.76 million to Yahn Bernier and Beth McCaw.

The latest listing is a six-bedroom, six-bath home at 2000 Beans Bight Road N.E. on Bainbridge Island, designed by Stewart Silk Architects.

Realogics Sotheby's International Realty said the design is meant to recall the “nostalgic summer homes of the Atlantic coast.” The company's Dennis Paige is co-listing the property with Bob Bennion of Windermere Real Estate. The asking price is $8.5 million.

Bennion said the market has been sluggish for the last few years, but now there's record sales volume for Lake Washington houses.

Sellers on Bainbridge are listing properties. Realogics Sotheby's reports two other “significant” Bainbridge waterfront properties are on the market in the private residential enclave that surrounds a country club.

The most expensive estate now on the market is Harmony on Proctor Lane, a Mercer Island property that Tere Foster of Windermere is listing for just under $26.9 million. It knocked Boulevard Place, also on Mercer Island, from the top spot when that $28.8 million property was taken off the market.

Brokers say demand for luxury properties is rising because the economic outlook has improved, prices have fallen and home buyers are moving here from out of state for the lifestyle and Washington's tax-friendly climate for the wealthy.

Big-box retail on Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill Housing hosted a panel discussion Monday to answer the question: Do we need a big box store on Capitol Hill?

CHH invited a mix of speakers, from a shop owner to the developer who's bringing Target to downtown Seattle. Not surprisingly, there was no consensus on the evening's question.

It's a pertinent issue these days because some very large development pads around the new light rail station soon will be available. What happens there is critical, said panelist Michael Wells, head of the neighborhood's chamber of commerce.

Shop owner Jon Milzaao of Retrofit Home compared big box to junk food. Milzaao said she'll have some Cheetos every so often, but she doesn't want empty calories in her house, and she doesn't want big box in her ‘hood.

Wells and retail strategist Kelly Kost of Downtown Works both said some big boxes — if done well — shouldn't be anathema to a neighborhood. You need something to draw shoppers from other neighborhoods and locals need a place to buy basics like clothes. You cannot now, for instance, buy men's underwear on the Hill, according to Wells. “That does not seem right to me,” he said.

The Buzz assumed that a big-box retailer or two with the financial heft to help pull off large projects is inevitable.

But not necessarily, said Dana Behar, a Capitol Hill resident and president of HAL Real Estate Investments. Behar's company last year sold the Pike Plaza building at Second and Pike to Target. He said there are other options for the station sites, like a hotel. Behar noted it's an alternative that would bring people to the neighborhood.

If a hotel gets built and big boxes don't, guests will need to remember to pack their underpants.

Got a Buzz tip? Send it to marc@djc.com or call (206) 219-6517.

Got a tip? Contact DJC real estate reporter Brian Miller at brian.miller@djc.com or call him at (206) 219-6517.

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