By Jack Stubbs
A long-anticipated project on the southern edge of Lake Washington, which has been in the works for about two years, is set to experience a landmark moment in its evolution.
On Friday, May 11th, there will be a “topping off” ceremony held for the office portion of the Southport campus, a mixed-use development comprising 17 acres of waterfront property that will include three 9-story office buildings that total 727,634 square feet of Class A office space. The campus also includes the 383-unit Bristol Residences and the 347-room Hyatt Regency Lake Washington, two components of the development that are already complete.
The project team for the large-scale undertaking—which includes SECO Development, Exxel Pacific, CBRE, ZGF Architects, Hewitt Architects, Coughlin Porter Lundeer, Glumac and Hart Crowser—broke ground on the development in early 2016, and will soon celebrate the topping off of the first two office towers.
Located at 1053 Lake Washington Blvd. N. in Renton on the southern shore of Lake Washington, the office campus will now accompany the recently-opened 347-room Hyatt Regency Lake Washington, which was completed in July 2017 and features 43,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor meeting space. According to Kip Spencer, director of leasing and marketing at SECO Development, one of the primary objectives with the mixed-use project was to successfully integrate the adjacent Hyatt Regency with the adjacent three-tower office campus—but much of this interplay between the office and hotel uses will depend on which company eventually occupies the office component. While the Hyatt will be accessible and open to members of the surrounding community, access to the three-tower office portion will depend on which tech tenant eventually occupies the development.
The project’s location on the edge of Lake Washington is arguably one of its defining features: the campus is just eight miles from SeaTac Airport, nine miles from Boeing Field, and located in close proximity to Renton Municipal Airport, which serves both private jets and seaplanes. Southport is also adjacent to I-405 and less than ten minutes from I-5 to the west and I-90 to the north, allowing relatively easy access to Seattle and Bellevue on both sides of the lake. Additionally, the undertaking is within walking distance of the Landing, a complex comprised of 600,000 square feet of entertainment, restaurants and retail space, as well as 785 apartment homes.
Along with the office and hospitality components at Southport, the project will also include 695,159 gross square feet of parking space, which is currently under construction. The development also includes the Bristol Residences (completed in 2008) which brings 383 units of luxury, multifamily housing to Southport. Upon completion, the Southport campus will also feature four restaurants, an additional 30,000 square feet of retail space, multiple indoor/outdoor meeting and collaboration spaces and access to 16 outdoor spaces and rooftop terraces.
The imminent topping off ceremony for two of the office towers marks the latest chapter of SECO Development’s long-term investment in the Southport project: CEO Michael Christ purchased the land in 1999 and subsequently embarked on the multi-stage development process. And in spite of the addition of nearly 728,000 square feet of office space, SECO has future plans in the works to continue transforming the waterfront, according to Spencer. “We plan to develop another 1 million square feet of office and retail on the adjacent industrial site…we’ll be extending Park Avenue to the southwest corner of our property…being able to acquire and control this is going to add a lot of value to the rest of the project,” he said.
SECO has retained ZGF Architects to provide preliminary design concepts for the 11-acre site, but won’t be able to provide any more specifics about the project (in terms of size, number of stories, or scope) until the architect has presented its findings.
In terms of infrastructural changes around the project site, Phase II of the project—slated to begin in 2019—will include a widening of Lake Washington by two lanes, each in one direction, which will result in faster commute times from Renton to Bellevue. The state of Washington is investing $1.2 billion in the I-405 Master Plan.
SECO has been heavily involved with the city of Renton throughout the planning process, according to Spencer, and the current project—as well as SECO’s future plans for expansion—have been well received by the city. “Michael Christ would like to build another 3 to 5 million square feet of office in this neighborhood. We could expand this whole valley and turn it into commercial…the city is very much on board with rebranding the waterfront community as Southport and building this tech center here,” he said.
At this point in time—with the three-building project scheduled for occupancy between fourth quarter 2018 and first quarter 2019—one of the major questions is which tenant will look to occupy the campus. Spencer thinks that whichever company makes the first move could spark more interest in the project.
Programmatically, the floorplans at Southport—which range from 15,000 to 35,000 rentable square feet—look to provide the flexibility that tech firms look for. “Tech firms like these floorpans because they are efficient and you can fit entire divisions on a single floor. If we need to punch in stair cases, we can do that; the shape of the floors is very efficient, and there is flexibility for multiple divisions of certain tech firms,” Spencer said.
SECO hired architect David Kutsunai, managing principal at IA Interior Architects who has worked on projects with a number of technology companies, to do a density study in the building. According to Spencer, the architect had expressed his firm belief that Southport would enable the flexibility that tech firms tend to look for. Following the density studies, SECO estimated that around 6,000 tech workers could be accommodated at the office campus.
And while Southport continues to take shape over the coming months, one of the key draws of living in Renton is the city’s relatively affordable stock of housing. As well as tech companies’ decision to locate in Southport being influenced by their longer-term business models and plans for growth, their employees, also, might be drawn to the more affordable cost of living that Renton provides, according to Spencer. “There is an abundance of affordable housing in Renton; that’s the huge source of pain that some of these young tech employees are experiencing. If employees are disgruntled with the cost of housing and living, they aren’t productive.”