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February 23, 2017

Survey: Wright Runstad and Co.

Specialty: Developing, acquiring, managing and leasing commercial office buildings, primarily in the Northwest

Management: H. Jon Runstad, chairman and CEO; Gregory Johnson, president; Walter Ingram, executive vice president and CFO; Cindy Edens, senior vice president/director of development; Mary Richards, vice president/controller; Lisa Bergeron, vice president/controller; Jeff Myrter, vice president/property management and general manager

Founded: 1972

Headquarters: Seattle

Projects: 36-acre Spring District mixed-use development, Bellevue; Rainier Square mixed-use development, Seattle

Image by NBBJ [enlarge]
Wright Runstad is developing Rainier Square in downtown Seattle.

The mixed-use complex is slated to begin construction late this summer.

The tech industry may cast a long shadow in Seattle these days, but it’s not the only industry leasing space around here.

Wright Runstad & Co, whose managed property portfolio includes downtown office towers such as 1201 Third Ave. and Rainier Tower, still leases to plenty of old-school firms in fields like finance, insurance and real estate.

“Traditional businesses are not going away,” said Wright Runstad President Greg Johnson. “They’re a significant part of the CBD’s economy, and they’re chugging along and in many cases expanding, renewing leases and moving, and doing all the things they do.”

Downtown Seattle’s attractive combination of transit and amenities will continue drawing people and companies of all types, he said.

High-rise tech

What’s new is that tech companies are adding more diversity to the tenant mix. Though concentrated on the periphery of the CBD, they’re also leasing space in traditional high-rises like the 42-story Russell Investments Center, where Zillow has its offices. Groupon has offices in the 55-story 1201 Third Ave. tower.

Johnson estimates tech firms lease as much as 50 percent of the company’s available space in downtown Seattle. Wright Runstad’s portfolio also includes commercial properties on the Eastside, South Sound and Boise, Idaho.

Two big projects

Much of the action at the company is happening on the development side, where work on the 36-acre Spring District in Bellevue is well underway, and groundbreaking on the 1.1 million-square-foot Rainier Square complex in downtown Seattle is slated for late summer.

“We have our hands full right now,” Johnson confirmed.

Rainier Square will include a 58-story mixed-use tower and a 12-story hotel. The city granted a master use permit in August, and the first occupants should be moving in sometime during the third quarter of 2019.

“We’re finalizing all the things we need to do to start construction,” Johnson said.

In Bellevue’s Spring District, Security Properties is opening Sparc, a 309-unit apartment complex with ground-floor retail. And Global Innovation Exchange, an 86,000-square-foot technology institute, is set to open in September. Work on REI’s new headquarters is also underway.

“It’s starting to get exciting,” Johnson said of all the progress.

With its mix of industrial, office, retail, education and residential space, the Spring District will be a sort of mixed-use transition zone that Bellevue doesn’t have now, like Pioneer Square or South Lake Union.

The neighborhood is “going to complement different parts of Bellevue,” Johnson said. It will be walkable, well served by transit and local retailers, but “retain some of its gritty character.”

Given all the development activity, Johnson doesn’t count out taking on a bit more.

“We always keep our eyes on unique opportunities,” he said, “but we’re focused on executing what we have.”

How long will it last?

In a region with a history of booms and busts, the current hot streak is starting to feel a little long in the tooth.

“You start to wonder how long is this going to last,” Johnson said.

For now, positivity reigns.

“As we talk to businesses that occupy (our) buildings, they’re still very optimistic for their business prospects,” he said. “We’re maybe a little more wary, but still firmly in the optimistic camp.”

Wright Runstad has navigated its economic ups and downs by being careful not to get too overextended.

“We work very hard on our bigger projects to get them pre-leased before we build,” Johnson said. “We avoid situations where we grow too much or borrow too much.”

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