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July 9, 2019

A change of hands — and plans — for vacant Metropole

  • The fire-damaged building in Pioneer Square has sold for $5.5 million. The new owners want to renovate the structure as offices.
    Real Estate Editor

    Photo provided by BuildingWork [enlarge]
    The Metropole Building was gutted by a fire in 2007 and has been vacant ever since.

    Someone has finally bought the long-empty, fire-damaged Metropole Building at 423 Second Ave. Ext. S. King County recorded the $5.5 million sale at the end of June. The buyer was 423 2nd Ave S LLC, which shares an address and law firm with local family philanthropy The Satterberg Foundation, which declined to comment.

    The owner's new plan, said architect Matt Aalfs of BuildingWork, is to renovate the Metropole as offices — replacing the old plan for a boutique hotel.

    The seller was a receiver for the old investor group, associated with Seneca Ventures, which acquired the Metropole in 2015 for $4 million. Seneca and BuildingWork had sought to convert both the Metropole and the nearby J&M Hotel Building into boutique hotels.

    Both properties have been threatened with foreclosure at various times, and offered for sale, as costly renovation plans for the unreinforced masonry buildings have been difficult and protracted.

    The three-story Metropole dates to 1890. It was gutted by fire in 2007, and has been vacant ever since. It's roughly west across Second from Smith Tower and various services serving the homeless, on a stretch that has historically struggled with blight.

    Before the fire, the Metropole had about 27,645 square feet in its two components (the two-story south annex was apparently added in 1945), including the basements.

    Aalfs has previously said that federal historic preservation tax credits have been slow to approve and obtain, further complicating the project, which also requires approval from the Pioneer Square Preservation Board.

    Two years ago, the Seneca investors obtained a $9.7 million loan from iBorrow for both properties. Last November, a court-ordered trustee sale for both properties was set for February. This sale seems to represent the winning bid for the Metropole.

    The Satterberg foundation is named for the late Virginia (Ginny) Satterberg Pigott Helsell. Since its founding in 1991, three years before her death, it's given over $22 million in grants (as of 2015).

    No sale has yet been recorded for the J&M, built in 1889, which remains vacant above its ground-floor restaurants. Aalfs previously told the DJC that its renovation plans were approved. And it's in much better shape than the Metropole. Depending on whether it finds a buyer, it could have about 25 rooms, refreshed restaurant space and a new basement performance space.

    Brian Miller can be reached by email at brian.miller@djc.com or by phone at (206) 219-6517.

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