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Nat Levy
Real Estate Reporter

April 17, 2014

Real Estate Buzz: Interbay Work Lofts: good design, good vibe

Real Estate Reporter

Interbay has long been viewed as an industrial area, but a new office project on 15th Avenue West is another sign of its evolution into an urban neighborhood.

Goodman Real Estate and Fred Grimm, who owned part of the land and is a co-founder of Triad Development, developed Interbay Work Lofts, a three-story project designed by Studio Meng Strazzara. The 105,000-square-foot building has 63 office spaces ranging from 700 to 1,200 square feet.

The space is nearly 40 percent leased, but the idea of creating spaces for small businesses was not part of the original plan. In 2007 the plan was to build offices for the health care nonprofit PATH, but then PATH decided to go to 2201 Westlake.

The project got shelved during the recession, but then in 2010 Goodman, Grimm and Studio Meng Strazzara decided to dust it off. At the time, it seemed too risky to start a traditional office building with no tenant. Goodman had a project called Northwest Work Lofts in an old warehouse on Denny Way that was doing well, so the team decided to try that approach with a new building.

“If you don't have a tenant that is going to take most of the space, you have to take a leap of faith,” said Charles Strazzara of Studio Meng Strazzara.

A central courtyard is the main design feature of the “donut-shaped” structure, Strazzara said. In some ways it looks more like a hotel, with covered outdoor hallways and front doors for each office space.

Image courtesy of Goodman Real Estate [enlarge]
Offices face this central courtyard, which has a basalt water feature and Brazilian hardwood deck.

The team used wood-frame construction, something more commonly found in apartment buildings than offices. That helped keep the cost down to $11 million, about half what a traditional office building of that size would cost, Strazzara said.

Strazzara said the toughest part was not having comparable projects to learn from.

The building was designed for creative tenants. Units have open floor plans, with a private bathroom and kitchen. High ceilings and large windows bring in lots of natural light. The outdoor courtyard has a basalt water feature and deck made of Brazilian hardwood.

Rents are about $25 a square foot, or $1,650 to $2,700 a month. One-year leases are available, which are appealing to startups.

In December, Robin Chell Design moved into a 1,200-square-foot space with a two-year lease. Robin Chell said she likes the industrial feel, with cement floors and large windows.

Chell said her firm's library is organized vertically because of the high ceilings, and that makes the small space seem bigger.

Shared spaces like the conference room, gym, lounge and courtyard let people interact more often, Chell said.

“In a normal office building you are in the building until you leave,” Chell said. “Here you can just go outside your front door and you are in the courtyard.”

Venture General Contracting just moved into the building, and it was the general contractor for the project. Other team members are Thomas Rengstorf and Associates, landscape architect; Fossatti Pawlak, structural engineers; Travis Fitzmaurice & Associates, electrical engineer; Rushing, mechanical engineer; Lisa Wiggins Design, interior design; and Cross 2 Design Group, building envelope consultant.

(Editor's note: This story has been changed to add the correct structural engineering firm.)

Other tenants are a photo and recording studio, chiropractor, personal trainer, perfume and cologne producer, and a mobile app maker.

Strazzara said the team envisioned a place where tenants from various disciplines would see each other in the halls and swap ideas, creating the communal atmosphere that makes co-working spaces a hit.

To encourage those relationships, the developers are throwing a small party catered by two nearby businesses: Whole Foods and Sound Spirits Distillery.

“We are building a little community within the building and we want to bring in our neighbors too,” said Angelique Ashton, property manager for Goodman Real Estate.

Capitol Hill TOD sites are a hit

Fourteen developers responded to Sound Transit's request for qualifications to do transit oriented developments on four sites around the Capitol Hill light rail station. Six of them want to do projects on all the parcels.

Here are the developers who want to build on all of the TOD sites: Capitol Hill Housing and Jonathan Rose Cos.; Gerding Edlen; Lennar Multifamily Communities; Lowe Enterprises Investors; MacFarlane Partners; and Westbank Projects Corp.

The station is now under construction on Broadway, between East John Street and Seattle Central Community College.

The DJC reported on the RFQ responses Tuesday, but Sound Transit did not say at press time which firms wanted to do all four parcels.

All of the developers are out of town companies except Capitol Hill Housing, which wants to work with Jonathan Rose Cos. Westbank Projects Corp. is a prominent developer in Vancouver, B.C., and the only one that hasn't done a project in Seattle.

Six local developers responded to the RFQ, but none of them expressed interest in developing all four sites.

A minimum of 397 apartments could be built on the sites. Construction could begin after the station is complete in 2016.

Each site has specific requirements. Some must be mixed-use, others must be low-income housing and others must participate in the city's Multifamily Property Tax Exemption program.

REO Flats shows its auto row roots

Courtesy Madrona Real Estate Services [enlarge]
Foley Sign Co. created this 32-by-42-foot mural for REO Flats, a new apartment complex opening next month on Capitol Hill.

As Capitol Hill's apartment bonanza continues, developers are doing their best to stand out.

Developers of REO Flats, a seven-story, 108-unit complex at 1515 14th Ave., are going big, with a 32-by-42-foot mural that reflects the history of the site.

REO Flats is named for Ransom E. Olds, a pioneer in the American auto industry. The Oldsmobile brand was named after Olds, and the car company once operated on Capitol Hill's historic auto row.

REO Flats is preserving and incorporating the facade of a 1925 structure that stands on the site.

The mural on the south side of the building depicts REO Speed Wagon, considered to be “the ancestor” of the pickup truck. The image is based on a 1930s advertisement.

Madrona Real Estate Services and Glenmont Capital Management are developing REO Flats and tapped Foley Sign Co., an 85-year-old Seattle business, to do the mural.

REO Flats should open next month. The developers said it will be clad in brick salvaged from the Supply Laundry in South Lake Union.

REO Flats is the first building to come out of the ground that will use incentives from the city's Pike-Pine Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District, which encourages developers to preserve the facades of old buildings.

Johnson Architecture & Planning is the architect and Compass General Construction is the general contractor. Two9Design is the interior architect and Washington Trust Bank is the construction lender.

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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