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One on One with SECO’s Greg Krape

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SECO Development Pacific Northwest MG2 Bellevue NAIOP Seattle Puget Sound Greg Krape CarrAmerica Blackstone Bellevue Chamber of Commerce
Greg Krape to the left, Kip Spencer, SECO Director of Leasing & Marketing, to the right (Photo Courtesy of Jerry and Lois Photography

By Kristin Bentley

After more than two years as development manager, Greg Krape now serves as president of SECO Development, Inc. He brings to SECO more than 40 years of professional experience and leadership for the development team. Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Greg is intimately experienced with all aspects of the local jurisdictional codes, architectural and engineering consultants, general contractors and sub-contractors necessary to deliver world-class projects.

Prior to joining SECO, Greg was a managing partner of MG2 (formerly MulvannyG2 Architecture) for 15 years, where he was responsible for managing the design team and consultants for over five million square feet of Class A corporate office buildings for Microsoft, Boeing, the U.S. Navy, Safeco, CarrAmerica, Blackstone, Costco, Huawei and others. In addition, he developed his portfolio of corporate office experience on both a national and international basis. At MG2, Greg travelled extensively throughout China providing architectural design and master-planning services on projects ranging from the design of high-rise residential towers in Shanghai to master-planning full city plans in Dalian, China.

During the course of his career, Greg has worked on more than $5 billion worth of building development projects, both domestically and globally, totaling more than 15 million square feet. He is a past chair of the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce and member of the NAIOP Washington State Chapter Community Enhancement Committee. Greg earned his bachelor’s degree in architecture from Washington State University.

TR: With all of the work experience you have, on both an international and national level, what can you share about Seattle as to how it compares in today’s world markets?

GREG KRAPE: The thing about Seattle is that we truly are a melting pot of intellectuals and business people that have come from just about every part of the world. The Northwest is really one of the key focus areas for manufacturing, high-tech and biotech. When I travel to London, Tbilisi, Dubai, Beijing, Chongjin or Shanghai, within an hour or less people bring up Seattle. Seattle is known for its connectivity, and I believe it’s one of the largest connectors to the world in business. This is because of the fantastic companies and resources that we have here in the Northwest.

TR: Being from Seattle, can you give our readers a snapshot of the market over the last ten years? What had the greatest impact on the Puget Sound’s real estate market ten years ago? Five years ago? A year ago? What has changed the most?   

GREG KRAPE: Ten years ago, the market needed to be better urbanized. We needed to rethink our zoning so the city wouldn’t spread out and become suburban. This meant we needed to re-densify and go up in order to create great places for people to work that were close to where they lived. It was at that time people began to realize that we could no longer do the urban sprawl, I think this was one of the biggest changes in development.

Five years ago, we had started to see some zoning and planning changes in the jurisdictions, which allowed us to become more urban. I think we started to see a better sense of quality, developments created destinations instead of just buildings. People began to consider making Seattle a more desirable place where others would want to come. I think we started to see that movement and an emphasis to better organize the urban land. There was a good sense that came out in realizing that we’re living next to each other. Developers began to amp up their game by building better quality facilities with better amenities. Developments were then built to not only last the test of time, but become centers of excellence for people to live and work in.

Over the last year, from the growth on the business side the biggest impact has been from Amazon and its footprint. They’ve really put the tech world up front and center. Microsoft has been doing it for years, but I think the city perhaps took it a little for granted because they have been in our backyard. When Amazon came along it really amped up that game, and I think it has made people understand that there is a new world out there. By their shear size and growth, Amazon has really influenced the real estate market immensely. If you look at their products and what they are driving, and the technology that they bring, I would say that would probably be the premier example of what has changed the most.

TR: Looking forward, what would you anticipate that our region will see in the market over the next few years?

GREG KRAPE: I believe that things will start to level out again, and we might have a slight trend in slowing, compared to what we’re doing right now. But I think that, hopefully, people have learned some lessons in the past so that we’re planning better. I believe that we’re going to see continued growth in multifamily development, there’s a huge influx of folks that need to come into our communities from around the world. I don’t think we will stop that growth at all because the Puget Sound is one of the main ports of not only shipping and products, but of technology and people. With that, a continued growth in housing is going to be very important due to the fact that we need to urbanize because our traffic patterns, our main arteries if you will, are impacted. I think we will see that continue and there will be a substantial amount of work for everyone during a flatter business period.

From a technology standpoint, the biggest game changers going forward will really have an opportunity to start this tremendous amount of change in virtual reality, augmented reality and merging reality. These technologies are really going to change things, along with 3D printing. The 3D printer is going to become a home product for people, so it’s going to be interesting to see how that will change the market sector. With the advancements in virtual reality, I think it will change how we experience and format buildings, specifically recreation facilities. It’s going to be exciting.

TR: As we are in the end of the current market cycle, experts have begun to talk about the upcoming recession, saying that Seattle may be impacted less than other cities in the country due to our strong economy. What are your thoughts on this?

GREG KRAPE: Well, I think we’d be fooling ourselves a little bit to think that we won’t be impacted. We are a resource and center of excellence, because we are connected to the rest of the U.S. and world, so it will have some impact here. But once again, I think people will continue to want to come here and there will still be growth and development. The slower periods give opportunities for other existing real estate properties to reposition themselves. It is a great time for them to get their products and quality up to speed, so that when we do ramp up again they will be prepared.

There will also be time for some growth in education and training employees, there’s a real shortage of qualified personnel to do the work in all of the different sectors. So, I actually think slowing down sometimes is not a bad thing. There will be some companies that will probably be close to starting their development, or in the early stages of longterm development, so we’ll be able to build through some of the cycle also. I believe it is wise to invest in multifamily developments, and if positioned correctly the project can be in titling and then break ground when the cycle comes back up again.

TR: In your role as Chair for the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, what was the biggest challenges that you faced? What were some of your greatest successes?

GREG KRAPE: One of the roles of the chamber, in our minds, was to help businesses get stronger and better connected. However, this is clearly difficult when people are too busy with their businesses and don’t see the fact that they need to invest a lot of money into building connectivity, by getting out there and meeting people. Because technology is such a big part of what we do, we found that a lot of people would rather stay in their offices and send messages via their personal handheld devices or computers. At the chamber, we tried to create exciting programs to get people to come out and meet others, because that’s really the basis for building a strong business. So, that was definitely the biggest challenge, getting people connected.

My greatest success was getting to meet the leaders of companies that many don’t even know the names of, because they aren’t Microsoft or Amazon. However, they’re still players in the world of business. Finding these people and getting a better sense of what it took for them to build those businesses was certainly a time of some personal growth. I also had the opportunity to meet those that were very significant to our fabric here, whether they were celebrities or business leaders.

TR: In the time that you’ve spent as a developer over the last five years, what conditions in the market have you found to be the most difficult?

GREG KRAPE: Because the Northwest has such a wealth of prosperity right now, it’s very difficult to get resources. Whether it’s our builders, designers or engineers, it is difficult for all of them because they’re doing a lot of business. I think the big thing is being able to keep people focused on their projects and on the delivery. You really have to be on your game to get your contracts set so that you have resources to build and design your product.

TR: How have your previous work experiences helped you in your new role as President of SECO Development, Inc.?

GREG KRAPE: Unlike running the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, when you’re running a company, you have staff and a lot of responsibilities that require strong communication and relationship-building. We all depend on a wealth of consultancies to run our businesses. With my background in building business as an architect for 35 years, then as a developer over the last five, my connectivity is one of the benefits that I can bring to the table. I like working with people, I believe they are our best assets. I’ve been very fortunate to have built many strong relationships here in the Northwest and around the world.

TR: Can you share with our readers some of the future projects that SECO is planning?

GREG KRAPE: We’re working with due diligence on some sites right now, because in about two years we’ll be wrapping up our Southport urban village. We are looking to move forward in a big way with multifamily. For example, one of the projects will be in excess of 1,000 units.

TR: SECO currently has two large projects under construction, Southport Hotel and Southport Office. Where are these projects right now?

GREG KRAPE: Our hotel is on schedule and will open up to the public on June 1, 2017. I think people are going to be really impressed with the facility and all of its amenities. As part of our urban village, and what we’re doing here at Southport, our Class A office broke ground in January. We’ve been busy putting in all of the foundation systems that are necessary for a facility of this size. It’s 730,000 square feet of space in three office towers, and another 690,000 square feet of construction parking. These have to be scheduled in phases because of our logistics in building our way out of the site, but we anticipate two of the towers along with the parking garage to be complete by the end of 2018. Then we’ll follow up about mid to third quarter with the final tower being topped off, and that’s because we have to build our way out of the site. There’s just not enough room for the cranes. We anticipate to have that wrapped up completely by the end of 2019. We have several negotiations going on right now with potential tenants and will be making announcements soon. We’re happy to say that we’re getting the attention that we need.