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January 23, 2014

Real Estate Buzz: Goldsmith says there's room for a 'jewel box' office project even in Bellevue's crowded CBD

Daily Journal of Commerce

Nat Levy

Goldsmith Land Investments does a lot of homework.

The development company spends months analyzing the risks and benefits of a site before deciding to buy it or build something there. As a subsidiary of 55-year-old Eastside engineering firm Hugh G. Goldsmith and Associates, the development arm is influenced by that firm's history and methodical approach.

In June 2012, Goldsmith Land Investment paid Jeff Foushee, founder of Foushee and Associates, $7.9 million for an .8-acre parcel at 305 108th Ave. N.E. with a 22,400-square-foot office building on it. The building was best known for being hit by a crane that collapsed during construction of the Expedia building next door.

Goldsmith began looking at the site in early 2012. John Dulcich, who is president of Goldsmith Land Investments, thought it was a great location and also thought the market was picking up.

Originally the plan was to hold the site for awhile as the company looked into the best way to maximize its investment.

"The market started to accelerate at a pretty good pace, and we thought it would be a good idea to get (the site) entitled," Dulcich said.

Last week, the company applied for design review for a 15-story, 210,000-square-foot office building with up to 10,000 square feet of retail. Dulcich said Goldsmith looked at putting apartments there, but eventually decided to go with office space.

Dulcich said he'd like to start construction in 18 months. He would like to see the project all the way through, but it was purchased as an investment property so the firm wants to get the best return.

The small site forced the design team to get creative. Floorplates are limited to about 15,000 square feet, but Freiheit & Ho Architects came up with a design for an "atrium" on every other floor. Staircases in the atrium will connect two floors and give tenants the option of having a connected 30,000-square-foot floorplate.

Plans call for using a steel moment frame structural system, which will eliminate columns in the office areas and allow open layouts.

The facade will be a lighter color than most new projects in Bellevue.

"We are trying to make this something that a future-thinking technology company would feel comfortable in. Something that feels a little more modern than some of the other buildings going up lately," said Arthur Chang of Freiheit & Ho.

A rooftop garden and a plaza above the lobby with a gym are also planned.

On the west side, the team will put connections to the pedestrian path and a garden near the Expedia building, said Rick Grimes, also of Freiheit & Ho.

Other team members are Lease Crutcher Lewis, pre-construction services; Rick Hart of Kidder Mathews, leasing broker; Weisman Design Group, landscape architect; Hugh G. Goldsmith and Associates Inc., civil engineer; DCI Engineers, structural engineer; Transportation Engineering NorthWest, traffic planner; and ABPB Consulting, geotechnical consulting.

Dulcich said Goldsmith is interested in doing other development projects, but doesn't have anything else in the pipeline. If something interesting comes along, that'll mean more research first.

"We're not the type to go out and put all kinds of offers on things," Dulcich said. "That's not our style."

Dulcich developed retail complexes in Covington, and Goldsmith owns office buildings in Bellevue and Newcastle, a residential subdivision in Newcastle, and lots in North Bend and Benton City.

Dulcich is a proud University of Oregon graduate and has more than 25 years of development experience on office, mixed-use, shopping centers, multifamily and single-family projects. He is also a member of Newcastle City Council.

Dulcich said he is excited about the design and location of the Bellevue project. He isn't worried about competition from all the other office projects being planned by Kemper Development Co., Beacon Capital Partners, Trammell Crow Co., Schnitzer West, Rockefeller Group and Ivanhoe Cambridge. His project would be much smaller than what those developers are proposing. It's a "jewel box," he says, and doesn't have a lot of competition in downtown Bellevue.

Waterfront lessons from Singapore

The redesign of Seattle's waterfront is one of the biggest projects in the city's history. It includes demolishing the Alaskan Way Viaduct and rebuilding the seawall along Elliott Bay, and will also add parks and space for biking and walking.

Planners have been studying waterfront projects all over the world, and the city has hired James Corner, the New York-based landscape architect who designed New York's High Line.

The people at i-Sustain, which describes itself as a nonprofit focused on sustainable urban strategies, says Seattle could learn a lot from Singapore in redesigning the waterfront, so it is organizing a research trip to Singapore from Feb. 9 to 14.

Between 2007 and 2011 Singapore developed a master plan and built more than 20 projects in the Marina Bay area. They range from a 70-story condo tower to a 55-story apartment building and a 50-story public housing project. But the plan also puts an emphasis on landscape architecture, said Patricia Chase of i-Sustain, so developers and architects focused on landscape elements in their designs.

"Including a building in a garden concept rather than a garden in a building can make it a much warmer experience," Chase said.

Aside from encouraging new development, Singapore's waterfront planners also wanted to connect the waterfront with the central business district and make it a 24-hour attraction. Sound familiar?

They did this by adding 250 acres of gardens and parks, and a two-mile waterfront promenade.

Free outdoor yoga classes, a lights festival and craft markets draw tourists and locals alike.

Chase said the biggest key to making Seattle's waterfront a success will be attracting people even when the weather is wet and cold.

"How do you protect people from the elements when they are outside?" she said. "What we shouldn't do is write off that it can't be done. We shouldn't say in the winter it will just be dead."

A number of people from local firms have already signed up for the trip including Vulcan Real Estate, ZGF Architects, NBBJ and Howard S. Wright Construction. Registration is still open.

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