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Nat Levy
Real Estate Reporter

July 30, 2015

Real Estate Buzz: Filson wants to show off how it works

Real Estate Reporter

Filson's new flagship store will give customers a window into how the Seattle-based outdoor clothing and luggage manufacturer and retailer does business, literally.

Construction began last week on the new 6,000-square-foot flagship store in its headquarters at 1741 First Ave. S. When customers enter the building they will see workers manufacturing Filson's luggage products on the first floor. The store on the second floor will have clear glass doors that will showcase office space where the company's creative teams are coming up with the next big idea.

The transparency theme came after Filson's owner visited the headquarters and wanted to show it off to the public.

“Nobody manufactures like we do, and nobody will be able to tell their story like we can by moving retail here,” said Gray Madden, Filson's president.

Photo courtesy of Filson [enlarge]
Construction began last week on the second floor of Filson’s Sodo headquarters, where it will open a 6,000-square-foot flagship store later this year.

The new Filson store should be open by Thanksgiving, Madden said. Filson moved into the four-story, 57,416-square-foot First Avenue building in 2013. Filson kept its store and some manufacturing at its old headquarters at Fourth Avenue South and South Massachusetts Street. Moving the retail to the company's headquarters on First Avenue creates an opportunity to expand manufacturing in the Fourth Avenue building.

Along with transparency, Filson also wants its new store to have a communal vibe, said Amy Terai, Filson's public relations marketing manager. There will be an arbor, several sculptures and a 20-foot tall fire place in the store. Filson plans to offer classes and workshops.

Heliotrope Architects is designing the store, and Dovetail General Contractors is building it.

All of the company's manufacturing is based in its two Seattle facilities and another in Post Falls, Idaho. The company has more than 220 union workers in its three factories and a total of 432 employees. Terai said the people who work in manufacturing often come to Filson with a lot of prior experience and stay with the company for a decade or longer.

Terai said Filson's manufacturing capacity will grow 47 percent this year. New retail stores opened in New York and Minneapolis in 2014, and Filson is set to open stores in Washington D.C. and San Francisco this year. Filson also has stores in London and Portland with outlets in Burlington and Eagan, Minnesota.

Seattle-based Filson goes back to 1897, when C.C. Filson's Pioneer Alaska Clothing and Blanket Manufacturers opened. At the time it specialized in items for people heading north for the Klondike Gold Rush. Once the Gold Rush faded, Filson kept the emphasis on the outdoors but shifted to the timber industry and other rugged activities and professions like hunting and angling, engineering, exploring and mining.

Photo by Nat Levy [enlarge]
Touchstone’s NorthEdge project is under construction and set to open next summer.

Touchstone worked for a decade to make NorthEdge happen

When Touchstone began construction on its four-story office building near Gas Works Park last summer, it represented the culmination of more than a decade of work.

Touchstone's A-P Hurd said at a NAIOP tour of Fremont last week that the site at 1601 N. 34th St. used to be a maintenance facility for King County Metro bus shelters. The county was not interested in selling the site. Touchstone proposed to build a brand new maintenance facility if it would agree to sell Touchstone the land. So Touchstone built the new facility on a property along state Route 99 and then acquired the NorthEdge site in 2009. It took nearly five years before Touchstone began construction.

During construction, Touchstone had to remove 110,000 tons of contaminated soil from the bus maintenance facility and another former use as a former Chevron oil tank facility.

When Touchstone landed growing data visualization company Tableau Software, the victory was even sweeter. Greg Inglin of Colliers International was the broker for Touchstone, and he said at the NAIOP event not a lot of office space in Seattle is leased before construction begins. So Touchstone began without a tenant.

To do that, Touchstone first had to get financing, which was no easy task. Hurd said Touchstone looked around for financing for nearly three years. Lenders, Hurd said, want a lot of similar projects to compare. And in Fremont, an office market of only about 1.25 million square feet, there just weren't many. To get lenders from Los Angeles or New York on board, they had to come Seattle and see Fremont for themselves.

Tableau should begin building its offices at NorthEdge next spring, with an opening date some time next summer.

Perkins + Will designed NorthEdge and Lease Crutcher Lewis is the general contractor.

Photo courtesy of Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty [enlarge]
Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty and Caliber Home Loans used this Cycle Saloon Tuesday to talk to renters in South Lake Union about buying houses and condos.

Cycle Saloon: How to turn SLU renters into buyers

Real estate brokerages are trying new ways to get the attention of Seattle's young tech workers, including using a Cycle Saloon, the pedal-powered mobile bar that darts around Fremont and Ballard.

Tuesday, representatives of Realogics Sotheby's International Realty and Caliber Home Loans loaded up a Cycle Saloon and headed to South Lake Union. They handed out marketing material and talked to the neighborhood's tech employees, who are mostly renters.

Dean Jones, owner of Realogics, said he told these people the time to buy is now. With few new houses and condos being built in Seattle, interest rates that will rise eventually and more people moving to the area every month, houses are only going to get more expensive. A lot of renters are saving money for a big down payment, but Jones said prices are rising faster than most can save. With the strengthening economy, lenders are giving out mortgages that cover a much higher percentage of a house's value, meaning buyers don't need to save as much for a down payment.

Jones said many of the people he talked to were unaware they could get a mortgage with a small down payment. He said some are hesitant to buy because they just moved here and don't know how long they are going to stay.

“Many of these tech workers are open to being recruited to the next company and the next market,” Jones said.

Jones said for-sale construction has lagged behind apartments for years because apartment values are higher with significantly less risk. Jones said if even a small percentage of the people who have moved here recently decide to buy versus rent, Seattle is going to see an even greater shortage of housing supply than there is today. That will make prices increase rapidly, Jones said.

Got some interesting news for the Buzz? You can reach Nat at nat.levy@djc.com.

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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