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Brian Miller
Real Estate Editor

March 16, 2017

On the Block: Check out Seattle's other tech hub: Fremont

Just when it seems like things couldn't get more insane in South Lake Union, they get more insane. The most recent big sale in SLU — Vulcan Real Estate buying most of the triangle north of the Allen Institute — went for about $942 a square foot. With the expected upzone and HALA incentives, towers will be sprouting ever faster and taller in SLU.

Meanwhile in low-rise Fremont — where Google is preparing to decamp for its Vulcan-built Lakefront Blocks in SLU (expected to open in 2019) — Tableau is turning North 34th Street into a new tech corridor.

The data visualization company has been in that neighborhood for about a dozen years, long before it went public in 2013. A year ago, Tableau was leasing space in seven Fremont buildings, but a major consolidation is underway.

Earlier this month I joined a media tour of Tableau's new 210,000-square-foot headquarters: NorthEdge, at 1621 N. 34th St. Tableau is leasing all the office space in the handsome, four-story structure developed by Touchstone and designed by Perkins + Will. Lease Crutcher Lewis was the general contractor for the LEED silver project. Greg Inglin of Colliers was the broker for Touchstone.

Rendering by Weber Thompson [enlarge]
Tableau has leased all of the space in Data 1.

One restaurant, Acadia, has leased space facing 34th, and a second eatery is expected to announce a lease soon.

About 1,000 Tableau staff now occupy NorthEdge, and there's room for 200 more. Many of them came from the company's old HQ in Lake Union Center, and more moves are planned. The company has also leased all 110,000 square feet in the Data 1 Building at 744 N. 34th. It's scheduled for completion this summer.

Tableau also has leased 92,000 square feet in the mixed-use Kirkland Urban development, which is expected to open in early 2019.

Fremont had its first tech boom in the late 1990s, when the Burke family and its Fremont Dock Co. began developing 20 acres of former maritime and industrial properties to create Lake Union Center. Quadrant, NBBJ, GLY and Bumgardner were integral to those early efforts. Adobe was the first major tenant. And, back then, Adobe might have been more of a household name than Amazon.

Times have certainly changed. Adobe's fortunes have ebbed somewhat (its lease runs through 2020), and Tableau and Google began subleasing in Lake Union Center. Fremont is booming these days with the new Brooks headquarters, Fremont Brewing Co., North Transfer Station, Fremont Collective and new apartment blocks that are turning Stone Way North into a residential canyon.

Tableau is both an anchor and a beneficiary of all that activity.

Tableau's Mike Ross calls 34th a “Fremont-centered urban campus,” with the company now leasing space in five buildings (that includes NorthEdge but not Data 1).

“It's really great to have all these groups together under one roof,” Ross says.

NorthEdge is “buzzy, loud and interactive” in front, facing 34th, where the sales and marketing people are located. Ross says the space is “quieter, intimate and connected” for the developers on the south, facing the lake.

Watershed is scheduled to break ground this fall. Rendering by Weber Thompson [enlarge]
Watershed is scheduled to break ground this fall. Rendering by Weber Thompson

It's a thoroughly modern, inviting workplace, with topiary dogs — the only kind allowed — that greet you in the lobby, open stairs connecting the floors and a view corridor that orients you to the lake. The layout is open-plan, with various nooks and rooms for private meetings or even naps. The polished concrete floors are bare and the overhead ducts are exposed.

From the ceiling hangs an inverted 3-D contour map of Mount Rainier, designed by the English firm Acrylicize and fabricated by Woodinville's Creo Industrial Arts.

“It's all about data,” says Ross. “That's what we love to do — visualize data.”

The cafeteria is large and there are four kitchens, but Ross says, “It's all self-service. There's no chef.” Knife blocks and other kitchen tools stand at the ready for healthy lunching; on the wall are those ubiquitous tubular candy and nut dispensers for a quick hit of sugar or protein.

The roof decks are perfect for summer barbecues, with expansive views of the lake and Gas Works Park. NorthEdge's Corten steel cladding alludes to the park's rusty old tanks.

“We're really looking forward to the Fourth of July,” says Ross, meaning the annual fireworks show at Gas Works.

Why not consolidate operations in an SLU high-rise?

“Tableau is a company that respects our employees' wishes,” says chief marketing officer Elissa Fink. “They said, ‘We love Fremont!,'” so the company decided to grow in place. “That was the goal. That was something we wanted.”

She estimates Tableau now has about 1,700 local employees: 400 of them in Kirkland and the rest in Fremont. Globally, the headcount is around 3,200.

NorthEdge and Data 1 mean “giving ourselves options to grow,” she says, while remaining coy about existing leases and subleases. Flinn Ferguson will handle that issue for the company.

In addition to Lake Union Center, the company had been leasing at 1441 N. 34th, next door to NorthEdge, and at least some employees remain there.

For now, 34th is much calmer and less congested than Westlake and Denny at rush hour. And though NorthEdge does have two levels of parking for 350 vehicles, the 250 bicycle spaces, shower rooms and proximity to the Burke Gilman Trail are a big selling point for cycle commuters. Says Fink, “We love being on the BGT. We even have a couple kayakers! We even have kayak storage!”


Nearby, Watershed, a planned seven-story office building at 900 N. 34th., is now grinding its way through the permit process. It's being developed on Burke family land, like Data 1, and by the same team of Mark Grey, Mike Hess and Joanna Hess Callahan, who operate as Center of the Universe LLC. The architect for both buildings is Weber Thompson. HAL Real Estate is an equity partner in Data 1, but not in Watershed.

Data 1 is being built by Pennon. Construction didn't start until after the Tableau lease was signed. “We did it ourselves,” says Hess Callahan of the leasing. (Flinn Ferguson represented Tableau.) “Completion will be late May or early June,” with Tableau moving in sometime after that.

Two original tenants on the site, Cafe Turko and Milstead & Co., were relocated during construction. They will then join new tenant Evergreens Salad at Data 1. The remaining commercial space is being represented by Tracy Cornell of JSH Properties.

For Watershed, says Hess Callahan, “I don't think we'd start on spec. We've just hired JLL” to lease that building. Design review has been completed, she says, and the partners are aiming for a fall start date. Construction should take 12 to14 months, again with Pennon as general contractor.

The very green Watershed will be a companion to Data 1, located east across Troll Avenue (the dead-end street beneath the Aurora bridge) from the latter project. It'll have only 14 parking spaces, but could use some of the 258 stalls at Data 1. A large bike room will accommodate 87 bicycles.

As part of the Living Building Pilot Program, Watershed will have a goal of reducing water use by 75 percent and energy use by 25 percent. (Electrochromatic glass will help with the latter.)

Bioswales and landscaping on Troll Avenue will help clean stormwater runoff before it enters the lake.

Hess Callahan says that Data 1 and Watershed are designed more to look like cousins than twins. But the two were meant to be developed in sequence. “That's always been the hope,” she says.

Together these three new and planned buildings — NorthEdge, Data 1 and Watershed — will add about 380,000 square feet of office space to Fremont. That's an increase of about 30 percent from the NAIOP estimate of 1.25 million square feet two years ago.

Compared to downtown or SLU, that's a tiny number. In Fremont, though, it feels like the start of something significant.

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

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