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May 6, 2014

Chinese company plans 42-story hotel-condo tower on Stewart

Journal Staff Reporter

Image courtesy of SkB Architects [enlarge]
The small site is at the corner of Minor and Stewart. The tower would have 78 hotel rooms and 95 condos.

A development company with Chinese connections is planning a 42-story tower at 1121 Stewart St. that will have a 78-room hotel topped by condo units.

RBF Property Group, which says it is based in Guangzhou, China, with an office in Seattle, recently filed plans for a hotel and 95 condos in a skinny 440-foot tower. The building will have 9,500 square feet of retail and restaurant space, and underground parking for 150 vehicles and 88 bicycle stalls.

Hotel rooms will be on floors three through seven.

The site is only 9,960 square feet, so the tower must be narrow. The residential floors will each be approximately 7,080 square feet.

SkB Architects is designing the tower.

An early design guidance meeting is tentatively set for 5:30 p.m. June 3 in City Hall at 600 Fifth Ave.

RBF shares a phone number and office with GIS International Group, a development and construction company based in Seattle that has offices in several Russian cities. RBF lists GIS as a partner.

Representatives from GIS and RBF declined to comment on the project.

Last October GIS said it was re-starting plans to build a “unique” hotel-condo building on the site, which is a .23-acre surface parking lot at the southwest corner of Stewart and Minor Avenue. An entity related to GIS later sold the site to RBF for $5 million.

GIS International had planned to build a 25-story tower there that would have a hotel, condos and retail above seven stories of underground parking. Permit records show that project was put on hold in 2011.

After several years with no new condos, Seattle is seeing a few condo projects either under construction or being planned.

Burnaby, B.C.-based Bosa Development's Insignia project was the first high-rise condo project to start in Seattle in several years. The twin 41-story towers at Sixth and Bell are under construction, and will have a total of 707 units.

Claudio Guincher's Continental Properties is building 117 condos in a complex called Vik at 20th Avenue Northwest and Northwest 56th Street in Ballard.

InHaus Development of Vancouver, B.C., is developing two small condo projects in Ballard as well.

Lowe Enterprises Investors and the Swedish pension fund Alecta are planning 169 condos in a 24-story tower on First Hill. Construction is expected to begin in September.

Dean Jones, principal and owner at Realogics Sotheby's International Realty, said most lenders still view high rise condos as a tough sell. Lenders see high-end apartments as a safer investment than condos, Jones said, and that's why many of the condo projects planned or under construction now are financed with foreign money.

Jones said more condos could be on the horizon. There is a bigger pool of buyers than a few years ago, he said, with empty nesters who want to move into the city and first-time buyers looking to move up, so investors are coming back into the market.

“I think that's important because everyone is targeting and attempting to target those Amazon workers because they are coming in droves,” Jones said. “Realistically, many of those newbies to Seattle are more than likely going to rent for a year or two before they get comfortable with their jobs, the city and their environment, and are ready to lay down some roots and become a buyer.”

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