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Seattle First Presbyterian Church Places Full-Block Development Site in Seattle up for Sale

Seattle, First Presbyterian Church, CBRE, GGLO
Image via Yelp

By Jon Peterson

Seattle-based Seattle First Presbyterian Church has placed on the market for sale the site where the church and its administrative offices used to be located at 1013 8th Avenue. The church, which announced its closure in late July of this year, is able to dispose of the site following a protracted lawsuit, which put into question the real estate holdings of the church. 

No pricing guidance on the planned sale was available at this time.

The seller has hired the Seattle office of CBRE to be the listing agent on the sale, and the team working on behalf of the church includes Tom Pehl, Jon Hallgrimson and Chris Burdett. CBRE did not respond to several phone calls seeking comment for this story.

The site, which will likely be redeveloped by new owners has been named the 8th on Madison project. The property in question covers an entire city block, and its location puts it at convergence of downtown Seattle’s business district, Capital Hill and First Hill neighborhoods. The site is also situated near Seattle’s premier medical centers, such as the Polyclinic, Virginia Mason Hospital, Swedish Medical Center and Harborview Hospital.

The site stands in the First Hill Urban Center Village overlay, and zoning in this neighborhood allows for building heights up to 200 feet and a variety of scale and uses. This could offer a mixture of office development opportunities, either life science, medical or traditional, as well as multifamily and hospitality projects.

The current owner of the site has retained GGLO Architects to conduct a zoning summary and yield a study of the property. The potential project could total up to 388,800 square feet of commercial space and a parking facility totaling 338 stalls, according to a summary provided in the offering document. 

There is also a possibility for the new owner to construct a high-rise only residential development. This would cover anywhere from 381 to 557 units with 334 parking spaces. 

A mixed-use project with a combination of office, hotel and residential is a possibility, as well. This would 341,370 square feet of office, up to 269 residential units, 158 hotel rooms and 460 parking spaces.

The other future development plan for the site is a mixture of high-rise residential and hotels. This would include 345 to 504 residential units, 474 hotel rooms and 323 parking spaces.

Both the life science and the multifamily sectors of the Seattle market remain very tight. According to sources that track this data, vacancy for Class A life science space stands at 2.7 percent and multifamily has a current overall market occupancy of 95 percent with year-over-year rent growth of 5.4 percent in downtown Seattle.

The sale comes on the heels of a couple of announcements by the church earlier this year. In February, the Presbytery issued a statement with an update on the lawsuit that originated in 2015 when the church’s then-leaders ended its affiliation with Presbyterian Church U.S.A. The latter assumed that it still remained responsible for the church’s real properties and sued to maintain control over those assets. The suit ended up all the way up to the United Stated Supreme Court, which in essence ruled in favor of the current Seattle Presbytery, now under the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., and against the former leaders.

“This morning we were notified that the U.S. Supreme Court denied the former church leaders’ request to review the decision by the Washington Court of Appeals in favor of Seattle Presbytery and First Presbyterian Church of Seattle. This denial forecloses any further appeal by the former leaders. To put it simply: It’s over. We prevailed,” wrote Eliana Maxim (Co-Executive Presbyter) & Heidi Husted Armstrong (Transitional Pastor, Seattle First PC) in their blogpost earlier this year.

The church is now formally able to proceed with its plans to sell the site, testing a market that has continued to be very active since initial planning for the site kicked off over fiver years ago.

According to Seattle In Progress web site, a land use application to demolish the existing church was submitted in May of 2020, and in January of 2021, the city issued permits for this work to begin.