By Meghan Hall
As a kid, Fortress Development founder and owner Andy Lakha would look at the InterContinental Hotel in his hometown of Karachi, Pakistan, as a stalwart and standard of luxury. Now, Lakha is bringing the InterContinental to the Eastside as part of Avenue Bellevue: a $1 billion-plus mixed-use development project that includes not just the 252-key hotel, but 332 condominiums, 85,000 square feet of retail and Angler, a restaurant run by three-Michelin-starred chef Joshua Skenes.
“I used to look up at that building, and to me, my image and perception of luxury was developed by the InterContinental,” explained Lakha. “I could not afford to go in and stay there; I could not even afford to have a cup of coffee there. To me, this place was success. To me, it was a dream, and now I am going to own one. It’s quite a special feeling.”
A project of this size and scope is no small undertaking, and Lahka spent two years putting together the project team that would bring the development to life. While Collins Woerman of Seattle is the architect of record, Seattle-based Weber Thompson was also hired on as the project’s design architect, while both Kathleen Dauber and Yulia Bekar at Hirsh Bedner Associates, one of the largest hospitality design firms in the world, were selected to help with the project’s interiors. PCL was selected as the general contractor for the project, while Rennie Marketing, a well-known condominium marketing firm based in Vancouver, Canada was also chosen to be part of the team. Real Retail of Seattle will be sourcing the development’s retail tenants, and InterContinental was selected as the development’s hotel brand; it will be the first InterContinental in the Pacific Northwest.
“I am so excited and honored to be a part of it,” added Skenes. “The project is amazing. The proximity to sea life and the aquatics of the Pacific Northwest are second-to-none.”
No detail was spared in any area of the mixed-use development; of the 332 condominium units, 98 will be “Estate Homes” featuring not just high-end finishes but amenities typical to the InterContinental, such as room service, spa and fitness center access, concierge assistance and valet parking. Luxury materials have been sourced from high-end manufacturers such as Ernestomeda, who has designed an exclusive line of Italian-made cabinetry for The Avenue, and tailor-made lighting from Antoniolupi, also Italian. Gaggenau appliances, Gessi bathroom fixtures and custom closets by Poliform are also part of the project’s designs. The development will have its own app, which residents can use to do simple tasks like unlock their doors or order services. Avenue Bellevue has also partnered with Rolls Royce, which will be the official car of the development.
“Seattle and Bellevue are becoming very world-class cities,” explained Lakha. “They have international clientele that come and go, so we need something of a higher level, architecturally, in terms of offerings, and as far as artistic design. I wanted to raise the standard of all of the other projects in my home city, and I know the market and the citizens of Bellevue are ready for it.”
The project team is still working on lining up retailers, but the experience that Avenue is aiming for was described as “bohemian luxury,” by Maria Royer, principal at Real Retail, the firm charged with leasing the development’s commercial space.
“People ask a lot about what is this vision. You think about urban luxury. Bellevue is becoming more and more urban,” explained Royer. “It’s great that this is about Avenue, but it’s more than just Avenue. It’s really about the whole Eastside. We see this being a destination for the Eastside…and [for] Seattle, as well.”
The development team is preparing to break ground in June of this year and anticipates a 23-month construction process. Lakha hopes that everything, from the hotel to the restaurants, will be completed at the same time. Final completion of the project is expected in between 33 to 35 months, Lakha said.
In the meantime, however, the team has begun sales for its 98 estate homes and has opened up a presentation center at 10400 NE 4th St. in Bellevue. Located on the 22nd floor of the tower, the center includes a fully built-out replica of a two-bedroom estate home. The cost of the sales center was about $5 million, according to Lakha, who said that buyers expected this kind of marketing standard.
“This particular project is very special, very exclusive, very luxury, and the buyers of these units expect a complete experience,” he said. “You have got to give them exactly what they want to buy. I think this is a sophisticated buyer that expects and anticipates that.”
Although Lakha owns numerous retail properties throughout the country, this was the first time he had ever decided to pursue the construction of a complete sales center. Lakha expects that the units will sell well, although he emphasized that there is no rush to sell the units as fast as possible. When complete, Lakha will also live in one of the units and maintain ownership of the project’s commercial components, a culmination of more than 20 years in the Puget Sound commercial real estate industry.
“It’s more personal than just a developer who is going to build a building and then flip it,” said Lakha. “I am going to keep it in my family. It is the biggest project of my life, and I want to make sure that I don’t just build right, but manage right.”