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Brian Miller
Real Estate Editor

June 14, 2018

On the Block: Third & Virginia plan now is for a 48-story tower with 459 condos, but no rooftop dome

The parking lot at Third Avenue and Virginia Street, just north of Bed, Bath & Beyond in Belltown, has a long, tangled and costly history that dates back some 18 years.

Past owner Investco and its affiliate Tarragon initially planned an office tower with condominiums at 2000 Third Ave. The 19,440-square-foot property is on the northeast corner of Third and Virginia, south of the YWCA.

After the recession and an upzone, the plan changed to an apartment/hotel tower. In 2013, Investco sold the master use permit and property for $17.75 million.

The buyer was British Columbia Investment Management Corp., or BCI. In late 2016, BCI enlisted Vancouver, B.C.-based Westbank to develop a high-rise apartment building with offices in the podium, designed by James K.M. Cheng Architects, also of Vancouver.

Rendering by James K.M. Cheng Architects [enlarge]
Public records say the 48-story tower will have offices and retail in the podium.

The project is called Third & Virginia. Its most distinctive feature was to be a big geodesic dome on the tower roof. Some compared it to the Amazon Spheres, or to Buckyballs (for namesake Buckminster Fuller) or to the Pauly Shore movie “Bio-Dome.”

But, alas, the audacious dome is gone. And the apartments may be replaced with condominiums.

Public records now say the plan is for 459 condominiums in a 48-story tower with offices and retail in the podium. Westbank didn't confirm or deny those construction permit filings. It says it hopes to break ground in mid-2019 and finish in early 2022.

If Third & Virginia does shift to condos, it would be an interesting bet on the market.

Right now, according to Apartment List, rent growth is finally slowing in Seattle after years of steady increases. Looking ahead, some 100,000 units are planned for the region. And head tax or no head tax, Amazon will redirect much of its future growth to HQ2. So the close-in apartment market could be softening.

Meanwhile, Seattle's condominium supply is notoriously tight. But high-end, high-rise condos by Canadian developers — why is it always the Canadians? — sell quite well. Bosa Development has completed Insignia in Belltown, is constructing One88 in Bellevue and plans Civic Square downtown. Burrard Group's Nexus tower is now under construction in the Denny Triangle.

Last week Westbank completed its permit application for Third & Virginia, and public comments are due by June 20. The tower got a positive recommendation from the design review board last summer, after only one meeting.

Last summer, the tower was variously pitched as 46 or 48 stories. It's now confirmed at 48, using bonus area from HALA payments (the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda), a regional development credit and the possible transfer of development rights from an unspecified property.

Eight levels of underground parking with 444 stalls will be accessed from the alley to the east. There will be 178 bicycle parking stalls.

The 5,766 square feet of retail/commercial space would be divided into four bays facing Third and Virginia — one indicated as a coffee shop, another as a restaurant.

Rendering by Hayes Davidson [enlarge]
The most distinctive feature on Third & Virginia was going to be a geodesic dome on the roof.

Above the lobby and retail will be six floors of offices in the podium, with 114,128 square feet. An outdoor terrace on top of the podium on level seven is planned.

The podium facade will have a hanging “veil” in front of the offices. It appears to be made of metal discs suspended on wires. Westbank didn't specify details or how it relates to the project's public art component. Or it may be the public art.

Above the podium will be a more slender tower, with 38 floors and 459 units. Units will range from studios to three-bedrooms, starting at about 394 square feet. The top residential floor, 45, would have four large units — ranging from 1,847 to 2,684 square feet.

All units would have balconies.

The top three floors (46 through 48) will be residential amenity space, with a terrace and a dramatic 5,193-square-foot cantilevered swimming pool, which remains from Cheng's original design.

Total project size is about 681,000 square feet.

The tower would rise about 500 feet above Third.

Third & Virginia will have some high-rise neighbors, too. Martin Selig is building a 36-story office and residential tower at 2031 Third (called Third & Lenora) and planning a tower of at least 38 stories at 1931 Third (at Virginia).

The Third & Virginia team also includes MG2, architect of record; PFS Studio, landscape architect; Glotman Simpson, structural engineer; KPFF, civil engineer; Integral, mechanical engineer; Hart Crowser, geotechnical engineer; Nemetz S/A & Assoc., electrical engineer; RDH, envelope consultant; and Seattle artist John Hogan, who will create public art for the building. No general contractor has been named.

Graham Construction is building Westbank's other two big Seattle projects:

• Two 45-story towers with 1,051 units at 1200 Stewart St. in the Denny Triangle, which broke ground last month. Westbank says that 1200 Stewart, designed by Canadian firm Henriquez Partners Architects, should be done by late 2021.

• Two 33-story towers with 488 units at 707 Terry Ave., facing the Frye Art Museum. The master use permit has been issued, but the team is waiting for the shoring and excavation permit before breaking ground. Construction will take about three years. Perkins + Will is the architect.

A few names have changed at 2000 Third. BCI, which used to be called bcIMC, launched a real estate arm in 2016 called QuadReal Property Group. A QuadReal executive is now listed as the financially responsible party.

If the name sounds familiar, that's because QuadReal announced in April that it's developing 416,000 square feet for 3,000 Amazon workers in Vancouver as part of The Post, a 1.1 million-square-foot mixed-use complex that will include an addition to an old post office. That's due for completion in 2022.

QuadReal has an portfolio worth about $19 billion. About $3.9 billion of that is invested outside Canada in cities including San Francisco, Sydney, Hong Kong, New York, London, Paris and Shanghai.

BCI's portfolio is worth about $104 billion. It was founded in 2000 as a pension fund manger. BCI also owns the land on the Town Hall block on First Hill where Lennar Multifamily Communities is planning two 32-story towers with 565 units. It also has an agreement to develop the site south of Town Hall that is now occupied by First Presbyterian Church.

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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