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Brian Miller
Real Estate Editor

June 21, 2018

Rainier Square's big lease to Amazon is on again, so what about that hotel?

Wright Runstad suffered a nasty scare last month when Seattle City Council passed its controversial head tax. Amazon, which had leased all 722,000 square feet of offices in the Rainier Square tower now under construction at 1301 Fifth Ave., said it might sublease the space instead.

Last week, Wright Runstad President Greg Johnson was relaxed, chipper and upbeat in a briefing about the project to CREW. The crisis was past, since the council had abruptly rescinded the tax only the day before the lunch gathering at Motif Seattle hotel.

Recalling the May kerfuffle, said Johnson, “I didn't anticipate getting a call from Amazon saying, ‘We may not occupy your building.'”

Suddenly Rainier Square was in unwelcome national headlines including Amazon bullying, HQ2 concessions and corporate welfare. “I'm not sure we really wanted the crosshairs,” said Johnson. “We had no idea we'd get that kind of notoriety.”

Rendering by NBBJ [enlarge]
Wright Runstad says it has picked an operator for the 163-room hotel in Rainier Square but can’t announce the name yet. Equinox Fitness is opening an upscale gym in Rainier Square – and the company is also launching a new chain of hotels for "the high-performance traveler."

But of the council, he added, “They did an about-face, kind of an amazing thing. Cooler heads and common sense prevailed.”

To that, the audience also heaved a collective sigh of relief. Johnson's Rainier Square forecast was rosy.

“So far, so good. We're on schedule,” he said. Excavation is going nicely. “We don't have that much further to dig.”

A second tower crane just went up, and a third will be erected later. He expects that concrete will be poured in late August.

Lease Crutcher Lewis is the general contractor. Completion is expected during early 2020.

The 58-story tower, with 183 apartments on floors 41 through 58, is the glamorous centerpiece to the full-block redevelopment. When it's done, the complex will total 1.7 million square feet — including Minoru Yamasaki's iconic 1977 Rainier Tower, which remains untouched.

Besides offices and luxury apartments, there will be about 79,000 square feet of retail and commercial space. PCC Community Markets will have about 20,000 square feet in the podium, with a midblock entrance facing Fourth Avenue. The very upscale, New York-based Equinox Fitness will have a facility with over 30,000 square feet on the fourth floor of the office tower. The fitness center will be its first in Seattle.

But what about the separate 163-room, 12-story hotel? It was also designed by NBBJ, and will go on the southwest corner of the block, at Fourth and University.

Wright Runstad previously announced its hotel development partner is Related Companies of New York. The hotel was supposed to start later this year — and is also expected to open in 2020. No groundbreaking date has been announced.

Johnson said the hotel occupies a separate budget line from the $500 million main project. Wright Runstad's financial partner on the main project is a fund advised by J.P. Morgan. The arrangement, said Johnson, meant there was no need for a construction loan.

As for the hotel, “We've selected an operator, but we can't name who that is.” A roof deck with bar is a given, said Johnson, who described the future hotel operator as “high-end, four-star” and a flag new to Seattle.

What brand could that possibly be? From Hilton to Hyatt — and all their subsidiary imprints — down to the premium boutique market, pretty much every hotel operator in the world is well represented here.

Ah, but did you know that Equinox Fitness is owned by Related Cos.? And that it's launching a new premium chain of Equinox-branded hotels?

The first, with 217 rooms, is slated to open this year in a tower at Related's massive Hudson Yards project. (That 17 million-square-foot development, on Manhattan's West Side, is the largest private real estate development in U.S. history.)

Equinox says the hotels “will cater exclusively to the high-performance traveler to serve as the ultimate hotel destination with a 360-degree lifestyle experience.

“Offering the bespoke experiences and unparalleled services consumers have come to expect from Equinox over its 25-year history, Equinox's hospitality brand will grow to 50 worldwide locations.”

Los Angeles and Chicago are already on the list. In L.A., a 20-story, 314-room hotel designed by Frank Gehry is expected to break ground later this year, as part of the Grand Avenue Project in Bunker Hill (aka “The Grand”). Related is also developing that major mixed-use project.

Johnson said he was still learning the lingo of the mystery hotel operator — guests will “regenerate” instead of sleep, for instance. That's precisely the kind of soothing lexicon employed by Equinox, whose corporate mantra is “It's not fitness. It's life.”

Related acquired Equinox in 2006 for about $505 million. Since then, the gyms have expanded to over 90 locations in cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Chicago, London, Toronto, and Vancouver, B.C. (Related also owns SoulCycle, Pure Yoga and Blink Fitness.)

Some may recall that, back in 2007, Equinox announced plans for a gym in 1 Hotel & Residences. That condo/hotel tower began construction at Second and Pine before it got stalled by the recession. The pit was later sold to Equity Residential. (It's now the new Helios apartments and nearly completed Charter Hotel.)

So “high-performance lifestyle leader” Equinox Fitness will finally enter our market after a 13-year delay. And, though Equinox and Related didn't respond to DJC queries, it appears likely that both your workout and your bedding will share the same bespoke brand.

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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