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August 13, 2014

A tech campus on the edge of downtown Seattle? City looks to attract tech giant for 4-acre Yesler Terrace parcel


John Cook

Technology giants such as Facebook, Twitter, eBay and Google have already discovered Seattle, setting up fast-growing engineering centers in the region.

Now, could another technology giant be in the mix?

The City of Seattle and real estate professionals certainly hope so, and they've got a rare piece of property to dangle in front of interested bidders. Starting this week, The Seattle Housing Authority - working in conjunction with Kidder Mathews - plans to begin marketing a 4.41 acre parcel just southeast of the downtown core near Harborview Medical Center on a parcel that locals know as Yesler Terrace.

One idea? Make it a destination for a technology company, perhaps one squeezed by astronomical rents in downtown San Francisco.

"It is rare that you see a site like this come available in a major metro market for a major development," said Stan Snow of Kidder Mathews, who just began soliciting proposals for the property. "We think the time is right to attract a major tech tenant to Seattle, perhaps from the Bay Area or somewhere else."

The parcel could be developed into 900,000 square feet of office space, perhaps spread across two 300 foot towers or as many as five smaller buildings. Another 100,000 square feet of retail space could be added. All buildings in the project must meet LEED Gold certification.

An asking price has not been set, but Snow said that the office buildings would likely command around $35 per square foot, making it about half the cost that tech companies such as and others recently paid in downtown San Francisco. A company could buy the parcel outright, or work hand-in-hand with a developer.

"For some of the tech companies, they could come here and develop a campus-like setting at a lower price per square foot than San Francisco, and capitalize on the tremendous tech talent that exists," said Snow. "LinkedIn, Apple, Google, Oracle? We will see. We will find out."

Through an extensive multi-year review and redevelopment process, permitting is largely already greenlighted by the city. That means a potential buyer could develop the property and move in within three years, Snow said.

Properties - including public housing of a World War Two vintage - will be demolished in order to make way for the new office space. Money from the sale will be used to bankroll a massive redevelopment of the neighborhood, including affordable housing and other community renewal projects. About 130 public housing units are on the site now, with those residents to be relocated as new affordable units are constructed. Those residents will have the option to return to Yesler Terrace as new housing is built.

The entire project - spread across 30 acres - could take 10 to 15 years to complete.

"This is a major opportunity for the city to drive job growth, and do something great for the neighborhood," said Snow, who plans to market the property over the next 120 days before assessing potential bidders.

Interestingly, the Yesler Terrace parcel is coming on to the market at the same time that Amgen is shutting down its massive 750,000 square foot campus on the Seattle waterfront. That property - with stunning views of Elliott Bay- also could attract an interesting tech or biotech tenant. (See earlier GeekWire story: Amazon's new waterfront home? Five ideas for Amgen's beautiful Seattle campus).

Snow doesn't think the two properties will compete for attention, since the Amgen property includes an extensive laboratory build out. With the Yesler Terrace property, he said a tenant could build to suit their needs.

"The slate is more wide open," he said. "You can get very creative in the parameters of 4 acres." Medical, education or government tenants could emerge as well, but Snow said a tech company is a "logical fit."

More on the project here, including this older visualization of the project compiled by the Seattle Housing Authority.

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