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June 14, 2016

Taiwanese company plans massive 'living wall' in Belltown apartment project

Puget Sound Business Journal

Marc Stiles

A Taiwan-based company called Chainqui Development plans to soon start building a Seattle apartment building called Urban Green Villa, and it will not be green in name only.

The development will have a "living wall" of plants that will grow half way up the south facade of the 12-story project in Belltown at Battery Street and Third Avenue. Above the living wall will be two-story "signature terrace trees" and rooftop gardens.

Chainqui, a publicly traded real estate developer, is among builders from China and other Asian countries staking claims in the Puget Sound region. Some Chinese companies have been buying investment properties, but more and more recent deals have been for development sites, according to brokers at commercial real estate company Kidder Mathews. They anticipate the sales of more commercial properties to Chinese companies.

At 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, a city board will review the design of the Chainqui project, which is planned for the property where a US Bank branch operated. Chainqui paid the bank $5.2 million for the property two years ago.

Urban Green Villa will have 132 apartments, ground-floor retail and 73 stalls of underground parking. Construction is expected to start in October, according to Peter Lian, principal of GWest Architecture and Development Services Associates of Seattle, which is designing the project. JTM Construction is the general contractor.

Lian said the development cost is around $60 million, and that his client will not have an equity partner on the project.

The wall of vines up the center of the building on the Battery Street side is expected to fill in and reach the bottom of the seventh floor in two years. A goal of the project is to bring "human scale and nature to the street along this block," states a packet of information that Chainqui submitted to the city.

People from China and Taiwan have been buying houses in the Seattle region as well as commercial properties. Buyers often cite the Northwest's relatively clean environment and its forests as one motivation. Lian said this is why Chainqui is emphasizing greenery at the Belltown project. He added the company is known for this in Asia.

"It's always part of their development goal," said Lian.

Elsewhere in downtown Seattle, Chainqui owns a quarter block at Fifth Avenue and Virginia Street, where zoning allows 400-foot-tall buildings. Lian said there's no development plans for this property.

For the full story, go to Puget Sound Business Journal.

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