Amazon Still Growing, to Lease 2nd Tallest Building in PNW

By Mike Rosenberg

Less than a month after opening up a hunt for a second headquarters, Amazon has agreed to expand in Seattle in a big way.

The company confirmed Tuesday it has signed a lease for the entire office portion of a planned downtown skyscraper called Rainier Square that will become the second-tallest building in the Pacific Northwest.

 

Even by Amazon’s standards, the expansion is substantial: Rainier Square will be among the company’s biggest office buildings when it opens in three years, with room for more than 3,500 additional employees. It’s one of the biggest leases in Seattle history.

Amazon will occupy about 722,000 square feet in the development, which is in the early stages of construction. No other company in the city has a space that large in a single building.

Amazon has been scooping up offices on a regular basis for years. It already takes up nearly 20 percent of all prime office space in Seattle, the most of any company in any major U.S. city.

But the latest lease comes amid question marks over the company’s plans for its hometown city.

Amazon said last month it would build a second headquarters somewhere in North America, which fueled speculation that the company might be slowing down or halting its growth here.

The company’s job postings in Seattle have been dropping, from about 9,000 in June to under 6,000 now. Amazon billed the second headquarters as being a “full equal” to its Seattle hub and has been signing leases to open up more large satellite offices in places like Manhattan, Silicon Valley and San Diego.

Previously, the e-commerce giant had planned to grow from its current footprint of 8.1 million square feet in Seattle to 12 million in the next five years — enough to surge from about 40,000 employees now to 60,000 later. But it hasn’t publicly talked about its local expansion plans since the HQ2 announcement.

“I’ve walked away from this with a belief that they are still growing in Seattle now, clearly, and I think they are going to continue to grow,” said Greg Johnson, president of Wright Runstad & Company, which is developing the Rainier Square project.

Even though Amazon is expanding elsewhere, “I don’t think that correlates exactly to a pullback or anything in Seattle,” he said.

Amazon declined to comment Tuesday beyond confirmation of the lease.

Brokerage Kidder Mathews reported Tuesday that Amazon is also “rumored to be looking at 300,000 square feet in another planned project” locally.

“I think this signifies Amazon’s long-term commitment to their hometown,” said Jake Bos, a Kidder Mathews vice president. He thinks Rainier Square could be the second-biggest lease in the city’s history, behind another Amazon lease.

Johnson said Rainier Square attracted “a lot of interest” by Seattle area-based companies, as well as outside firms that already have a satellite presence here. At least one other unnamed company wanted to take the entire office portion, he said.

The lease marks Amazon’s first move into the downtown core, after taking up about three dozen buildings in South Lake Union and the Denny Triangle. Rainier Square — at Fourth Avenue and Union Street — is about a half-mile south of any of Amazon’s existing offices.

Office brokers have noted that while smaller businesses have been priced out of South Lake Union because of the growing tech scene there, central downtown had been somewhat isolated from the Amazon effect. That could change with Amazon now expanding into the downtown core.

When Wright Runstad began planning Rainier Square three years ago, “the folks at Amazon really didn’t want to hear anything about it,” Johnson said. But then the company kept growing, and inching slightly farther south.

“They’re already so large and they’re still growing at a great pace,” Johnson said.

Rainier Square will stand out with its bootlike frame, featuring a wide base tapering to skinnier floors higher up. It will sit next to the existing Rainier Tower, known for its narrow, curved pedestal.

The $570 million project, approved in 2015, is being built on University of Washington property.

Demolition on the site has begun as crews knock down the existing Rainier Square shopping mall. Construction will continue through 2018 and 2019, and the office space is expected to open in summer 2020.

The 58-story tower, which will also include 200 luxury apartments, retail and an adjacent luxury hotel, will be the region’s second-tallest building when it opens, after 76-story Columbia Center.

Downtown Seattle is undergoing a record construction boom, with 74 major projects active as of July. Rainier Square is the biggest of those developments.

It’s the second time in the last several months that a developer has leased out a new Seattle skyscraper before it even opened, showing how strong demand has become for job space in the fast-growing city. In May, tech company F5 agreed to take all 516,000 square feet of office space in a new building at Fifth and Columbia that will be called F5 Tower.

Syndicated from The Seattle Times

$4.3 Million Repair Job on the South Lake Union Bridge Starts

By Chris Daniels

If you’ve looked around the Lake Union Park in recent years, you’ve noticed quite a few birds.  There’s the geese, the cranes, and one lame duck.

But that duck is about to move again or at least move people.  The city began this week its long delayed work,on a relatively new pedestrian bridge.  The span, just 108-feet long, opened in 2007 and was part of the major renovation that produced the park in 2010.

But just four years later, the bridge was closed.  The city acknowledged later a major mistake was made in the engineering of the east abutment.  The soil settlement was greater than expected, causing the span to move several inches;  however, the city said it didn’t have the money to make the proper repairs.

That was until this past year after the Seattle City Council allocated the money needed.  It will cost $4.3 million to make the fix.

Rachel Schulkin, a spokesperson for the Seattle Parks and Recreation department, says engineers will use a geo-foam to stabilize the soil and reduce further settlement.  She says the plan is for the bridge to be open by 2017.

David Erskine, a volunteer at the Center for Wooden Boats, says he’s looking forward to the reconnection.

“(The Center) are looking for our neighbors to come us, larger populations, and look for respite,“ he said. “We hope to see in a few months that much improved and being a lovely way.”

Syndicated from KING 5 News.

The Grilled Cheese Experience Opens Brick-and-Mortar Restaurant in SLU

By Megan Hill

Hoping to capitalize on the still-booming South Lake Union scene, The Grilled Cheese Experience food truck has opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant to complement its melty mobile operations.

The restaurant landed last month at 434A Yale Ave N, near REI and the frenzied Amazonia construction zone. Owner Mark Amatangelo says he’s long looked to set down roots for his business born on wheels, and South Lake Union was a natural fit given its explosive growth, workday lunch crowd, and the success of other truck-to-restaurant concepts in the area, like Skillet and Marination.

The Grilled Cheese Experience serves — you guessed it — tricked-out grilled cheese sandwiches with additions like house-smoked bacon, caramelized onions, and sunny side up eggs. The truck will continue to operate; on any given day, it offers just a handful of sandwiches from a master menu of about 12 to 14. The restaurant provides Amatangelo the opportunity to sell almost his entire repertoire at once, save for the seasonal creations. You may see some specials rotate through, too.

Amatangelo is waiting on a liquor license, so he’ll soon be able to serve beer and wine alongside the sandwiches. At that point he’ll also extend his hours, which currently run only Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Syndicated from Seattle Eater

Kai Market Now Open in South Lake Union

The long-awaited Uwuajimaya spin-off, Kai Market is now open (as of today, May 3rd) in South Lake Union! The market offers sashimi, a poke bar, and delicious grab-and-go meals for lunch and dinner with cold noodle packaged salads and bento boxes. Kai also has a live seafood tank with oysters and crabs, which will soon also feature lobsters. Fresh fish fillets are on ice for purchase as well.

“We’re hoping as the neighborhood grows, that people will eat a lot of seafood,” Warren Huch, store director told the Seattle Times.

To encourage this, Kai Market will host cooking classes and other workshop for hands-on interest in the seafood and Asian-inspired cuisine the market sells.

In addition to prepared meals and fresh seafood, Kai Market offers staple Asian packaged foods, condiments, snacks, and more. There’s a growler-fill bar with sakes, beers and a kombucha.

“Kai Market is about options. The lunch crowd can stop in for a hand-crafted bento box in the dining area, while the after-work crowd can take home fresh seafood and a carefully curated selection of quality Asian products for which Uwajimaya is known,” said Denise Moriguchi, President of Uwajimaya Inc., in a release. “We were excited to try something new and loved the idea of a store with a smaller, more intimate footprint in a growing, vibrant neighborhood like South Lake Union.”

The establishment is running a couple of specials over the next few days in celebration of the opening:

  • May 3rd: Free Kai Market snack bag with purchase (first 250 customers)
  • May 4th: Free 500mL Ito-En Oi Ocha Tea with purchase of any poke bowl
  • May 5th: Free Chocolate Pocky or Hi-Chew with purchase (first 250 customers)

Online ordering and catering options will be coming soon.

Row House Cafe to Close, Making Way for More SLU Development

By Daniel Person

In September, we profiled Row House Cafe as part of a series on “hold outs” in South Lake Union, the once-blue-collar hood that is now ground zero for the Amazon takeover.

“Sitting in the heart of South Lake Union at 1170 Republican Street, the scruffy restaurant sits in deep contrast to the glittering newness around it, its oldness a form of defiance. And therein lies its beauty, say its fans,” we wrote then.

Well, not for long.

The Seattle Times is reporting that the three old homes that were fused together to create the bar and restaurant have a date with a wrecking ball “some time in 2018.” There was a push to get the 1911 homes designated historic landmarks, but to no avail.

Photo credit: Jose Trujillo

“By one vote, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Board did not muster enough votes to designate the site a landmark. A majority of the 11-member board was needed to approve the designation, and the vote was 5 to 4,” the Times reports today.

In place of the small homes will be a 91-unit apartment complex with a gym and an “indoor pet relief area,” the Times writes. This lends credence to the contention that a lot of Seattle development is dog shit.

When we wrote our story, Row House’s general manager Erin Maher was philosophical about the changing neighborhood around here, saying that the growth was a blessing and a curse.

“We opened because we knew this area was undergoing dynamic growth; we just had no idea that it would happen literally on every block in this neighborhood,” she said. “I don’t think anyone anticipated there would be so much construction all at once.”

However, she added, “You’re not going to stop growth. Physics just won’t allow it.”

No, it seems, it won’t.

Syndicated from the Seattle Weekly