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May is for Maritime – Big Waterfront Events

pos steveDowntown Seattle Waterfront’s Maritime Festival is set to do some major partying from May 12-14 –it’s the 100th anniversary of the Port of Seattle!

Once upon a time, local visionaries realized that Seattle’s natural deep-water port was an asset for the city, and a resource that should belong to the people.  Their efforts helped the Washington State Legislature enact laws allowing establishment of port districts in March, 1911.  By that September, King County voters approved creation of the Port of Seattle, the state’s first public port.

rsz_airport_pick_coolAs Seattle grew beyond downtown, so did the Port of Seattle.  In 2011, its services include a cargo and passenger seaport, Sea-Tac airport, a home for the North Pacific fishing fleet, first-class public marinas and conference facilities, even a string of parks around Elliot Bay.  Its cruise line business snagged a huge win a month ago when on April 6th, Disney Cruises announced their move from Vancouver, B.C. to Seattle for the 2012 cruise season.

The Port of Seattle enters its second century with huge changes on the horizon.  The first is the redevelopment of the Seattle Waterfront itself.  Over 1,000 attended the first meeting held by Waterfront designer James Corner Field Operationss on February 17, which kicked off public input on its future vision and potential uses.  Nearly 2,000 responses via questionnaire and email from the Seattle public were received.   The second is replacing the central portion of the Elliott Bay Seawall.  This part is being handled by the Seattle Department of Transportation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.   The Port of Seattle is working with both entities on the best plan for the city and the next Waterfront meeting, where  James Corner presents their first design concept, is scheduled for Thursday, May 19th.  For more information, just visit the waterfront website.

pos tugboat racesThe Port of Seattle has a great centennial link with historical data on timelines, maps, stories and more.  There is also a calendar of events for the remainder of the year.  Here, we’ve attached a .pdf on May 12-14’s Seattle Maritime Festival events.  These include the “world’s largest tugboat race” along the Downtown Seattle Waterfront, a Chowder Cook-Off, survival suit races, a boat building competition, vessel tours, sea-air rescue demonstration, kids’ activities, Stories of the Sea, Career Day and a container ship full of family fun.   There is no charge for any of these events. Maritime_Fest_20110422[1]

The efforts of the Port of Seattle and the Downtown Waterfront are huge contributors to the high quality of life we enjoy in this city.  We hope you’ll check out the Maritime Festival.  We’ve come a long way in 100 years, and we’re sailing full steam ahead into an exciting future.

(Photos of Fisherman’s Terminal 2, Container Ship Terminal 19, SeaTac Aiport, Tugboat Races and Shilshole Bay Marina courtesy of the Port of Seattle)

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Happy Birthday to Us! Reflections on Year One

February 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Downtown (MLS Area 701), Featured

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February 23rd marked the first anniversary of the Stroupe Group’s partnership with Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty, and we’re very happy with how things are going!

Since opening for business, Realogics has doubled its roster of brokers, earned several high-profile project accounts and recently opened a second office on Bainbridge Island.  Its brokerage participated in approximately $120 million in real estate transactions during the past year, representing all price points including record sales in both condominium and single-family categories in Seattle. While very engaged with the local real estate community, its global reach provides visibility to Seattle-area properties worldwide. 

As for the Stroupe Group… well, we have great news, too.  We enjoyed our best year ever in real estate.  We have also been able to bring a broad international exposure to our team.  The best example of this was our recent 10-unit buy for a foreign investor in Olive 8!  We are very proud and honored for the accomplishments we’ve enjoyed over the past year. 

We gained market share in 2010 by focusing on distinctive properties across all price segments.  It’s a new economy to be sure, but success has been built upon Sotheby’s 266-year heritage, and exercising the Brand gives our office unparalleled consumer awareness and reach.  Inventories range from affordable in-city resale condominiums to a new waterfront estate with an asking price of $28.8 million. Trendgraphix confirms our success, as you can see by the following charts.

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As these graphs show for 2010, we were the leading brokerage for property listings in downtown Seattle and among the most accomplished sellers of new construction.  We should note that while Teambuilder Jls handles sales for the Escala property, Realogics manages sales for Four Seasons Private Residences, Fifteen Twenty One Second Avenue, and Olive 8.  We believe that the housing market began to stabilize in 2010 and will continue through 2011, helped in part by a noted rise in relocating buyers from out-of-state or internationally. 

Our collective presents a vertically integrated real estate solution comprised of market research, product development, full-service marketing and sales.  We are very proud of our one-year mark in the Seattle real estate arena.  We invite you to learn more about Stroupe Group and what we can do for YOU by contacting us at urgent@stroupe.com

McGraw Square Park Reopened

February 13, 2011 by  
Filed under Downtown (MLS Area 701), Featured

mcgraw fullAs you enter the newly renovated McGraw Square, the first question you may ask yourself is, “They spent $900,000 on cement?” But there’s a little more to it than meets the eye.

One of the smallest parks in Seattle, you’ll find McGraw Square downtown at the intersections of Fifth Ave, Stewart St and Westlake Ave.  Its newly completed plaza makes it easier to travel around downtown while enhancing connections from the South Lake Union Streetcar to other mass transit options. It also seeks to better connect the South Lake Union and Denny Triangle neighborhoods to the existing retail core, offering a “sense of place” to help orient new housing and promote economic development.   

Streetcar Station on McGraw Square

Streetcar Station on McGraw Square

 We first blogged about the new construction in September 2010, so we were excited to see how everything turned out. We were there on a cold Friday morning, but there was a nice-sized crowd waiting for the streetcar, and others either crossing the plaza or posing for photos by the statue.  McGraw Square boasts some great city-watching:   from pedestrians crossing the plaza or waiting for the streetcar, to traffic zipping along its three adjoining streets, to the monorail cars rushing overhead.   It would also be a good place to see a few food and beverage carts (we could have used some coffee for warmth), and the broad expanse of plaza has great potential as an entertainment venue.   

The LED insets set up a spectacular light show at night. Note also the recycled granite pavers.

The LED insets set up a spectacular light show at night. Note also the recycled granite pavers.

SDOT’s plans for the new McGraw Square contained:

1.  A second streetcar platform to improve rider access to/from the new plaza;

2.  Integrated transit shelter/covered bicycle parking for up to 10 bikes;

3.  Landscaped rain garden to infiltrate majority of stormwater and reduce runoff entering the sewer system;

4.  Illuminated seat walls with signage, to act as gateway for Westlake Hub;

5.  ADA access, lighting, and seating improvements near the historic McGraw statue;

6.  Inlaid, energy efficient (LED) light tiles as part of a comprehensive dynamic, colored lighting scheme;

7.  Salvaged granite pavers for detailing, taken from overstock of original Westlake Park installation;

8.  New trees for the plaza plus large specimen trees to anchor Westlake Ave terminus; and

9.  Oversized curb ramp and utility connections to facilitate mobile food vending and plaza programming.

A people-watching bench

A people-watching bench

Along with perks for pedestrians and mass transit, it also simplifies a complicated five-way intersection (source of a good number of traffic accidents) by creating a left-turn only lane from Stewart St to Fifth Ave, and closing Westlake Ave between Olive Way and Stewart St.

The McGraw project is also part of the City’s larger strategy to make Westlake one of three transportation “hubs” serving downtown (with King Street Station and Colman Dock).  It  was funded by a transit mobility grant from the Washington State DOT, who will work with the City on a comprehensive operating/programming strategy.  McGraw Square was named for John H. McGraw, Washington’s second state governor, and you can read more about his remarkable life by hitting this link.

Olive 8’s New Listing Agent? Realogics Sotheby’s!

olive 8 seattleRealogics Sotheby’s International Realty is ending 2010 on a very high note, and it could result in an amazing buy for you in 2011.

An exclusive listing agreement was signed last week with developer RC Hedreen Company to sell all of Olive 8‘s remaining inventory, now starting from the 27th floor and up.  Olive 8 is a 39-story, 229 unit mixed-use condominium and hotel ( Hyatt at Olive 8 ) high-rise located at 8th Avenue and Olive Way in downtown Seattle.

In order to maintain 50% project sales as required by Fannie Mae lending guidelines, 32 units at Olive 8 were recently sold at auction to replace mostly investor presales that were unable to close in today’s credit environment. The auction helped establish a base for current market values, enabling RC Hedreen to restructure its construction debt with US Bank, providing a long term runway to sell into an improving marketplace.

“We’ve eliminated many of the pressures that we faced, so it’s now time to realign values for today’s market,” said Dick Hedreen, RC Hedreen’s chairman. “2011 represents a new beginning for Olive 8 and Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty is uniquely positioned to lead us through a successful sellout.”

Dean Jones, Principal of Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty, added that there is a finite supply of new construction condominiums in downtown Seattle. No new developments have broken ground since the credit crunch in 2007 and since that time, several condo projects reverted to apartments and sold to REIT’s, reducing inventory.

According to Jones, fewer than 450 new condominiums remaining unsold in the city center and most pundits agree it could be many years before any new condominiums are developed. RC Hedreen and Realogics Sotheby’s are researching home values by retaining appraisers and meeting with real estate brokers and potential homebuyers to reassess the marketplace. Olive 8 is expected to be reintroduced to the public in 2011 with new lower pricing.

rsz_1olive-8-condo_logo for text“I’m confident that our business philosophy will make perfect sense to those homebuyers that have been waiting on the sidelines for an opportunity,” says Hedreen. “And considering that our available inventory now starts on the 27th floor, we saved the best for last.”

We are in the process of retooling our own websites for the new Olive 8 opportunities. If you would like to stay in touch on news or private tours when Olive 8’s new releases come on market, please contact us at this Stroupe Group link.   

Harvest Time in Seattle: Commercial Real Estate

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We are currently experiencing a bumper crop of new and existing property changes in Seattle, and receiving national notice as well.  Let’s go through the latest on the commercial side:

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7th & Madison:  Nine stories, 204,000 square feet, zero tenants! But that may be changing. Rumors are that HAL Real Estate and Urban Renaissance Group have purchased the property and The Polyclinic may become the primary tenant.  

818 Stewart St:  DCI Engineers took advantage of their expiring lease in Bellevue’s Skyline Tower to move, occupying 16,000 square feet on 818 Stewarts’s tenth floor by the end of November.  A caveat is that DCI was the structural engineer of this building and will now be able to show their work, onsite, to potential clients.  Although 55 employees will be relocating to work in Seattle, DCI will still maintain a presence in Bellevue and is looking for other space.  818 Stewart has 14 stories, 238,000 square feet, and is 86 percent leased.

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1301 Second Ave: Tacoma’s largest private employer, Russell Investments, bought the former 42-story WaMu Center on Second Avenue in 2009 and moved in 900 employees this fall.  What’s next for the company?  An outdoor sign!  In the works is an amendment to the City’s Land Use Code (Title 23) “to allow placement of wall identification signs in certain downtown zones on buildings at heights above sixty-five feet when tenants have a lease in effect for a minimum of 200,000 square feet of floor area in a single building.”  The City would still retain sign design approval.

1321 Seneca St:  Owned at the time by the now-defunct Barclays North of Lake Stevens, plans had been to turn this quarter-block of property into a 24-story tower.  Now a parking lot, its bank group recently put it up for sale.  Happily, representatives are now fielding queries from interested buyers at better than anticipated prices.  A sale is expected by year-end or by early 2011.

1501 E Madison St:  The former home of CC Attle’s bar is undergoing a bit of transformation. The Bullitt Foundation is going to turn the space into a six-floor, 52,000 square foot building called the Cascadia Center for Sustainable Design and Construction. Its goal is to be a “living building”, designed to satisfy all its energy, waste and water needs onsite.  It will headquarter Bullitt, plus provide office and commercial space for companies involved in the green building industry.  It also plans to position itself as a focal point for education and sustainable development awareness. Construction begins this winter, scheduled to be completed in early 2012.

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224 Westlake Ave N:  The former Athletic Supply building was recently sold to Northwest Retail Partners.  Built in 1926, plans are underway to remodel the entire 32,000 square foot building, plus add a fifth floor penthouse. The penthouse will house Northwest Retail’s offices, and NRP plans to lease out the rest of the building.  

On the national front, the Urban Land Institute, in conjunction with PricewaterhouseCoopers, performs surveys and interviews with over 875 real estate investors on the country’s top 50 markets, then releases annual rankings and forecasts. For 2011, they ranked the Seattle Metropolitan area at No. 6 for commercial and multifamily investments.  When you take into context that Seattle was ranked No. 1 in 2009 and dropped to No. 8 in 2010, the climb back up is great news!  There’s more to come, and we’ll keep in touch.

First Hill Streetcar: Funded and Moving Forward!

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This was a great week for rail news! We posted an article on high-speed trains a few days ago and now we have word that the Sound Transit Board has finalized $132.8 million in funding for the First Hill Streetcar line. Covering a 2 ½-mile route, construction is expected to begin in 2011 and finish in 2013.

Plans are to link the First Hill Streetcar line to the Capitol Hill and Chinatown/International Districts. Stops are planned at nearby light rail stops, the medical centers of Harborview, Swedish, and Virginia Mason, plus Seattle Central Community College and Seattle University.

Monies for the line were approved by the voters two years ago, but initial plans were being made to put an underground light rail stop on First Hill. This has now been officially scrapped due to construction problems and the cost to cover them.  Steps are now being taken to select a general contractor/ construction manager, and is expected to be awarded the week of December 13th.

Finally, before the first shovel of dirt is ceremoniously turned for the First Hill line, the City Council needs to decide two outstanding issues.  The first is where to place the terminals in Pioneer Square.  Community meetings will be set up with local residents and business leaders to determine the best locations, and then submitted for a vote. The second is for a maintenance yard and barn. Two sites under consideration are the city’s Charles Street Shops at South Dearborn and 8th Avenue South, and at a block bordered by East Yesler Way, Boren and 12th Avenues, plus East Fir Street.  The latter choice is owned by the Seattle Housing Authority, and would need their approval.

Down the track, the First Hill line could be extended another half a mile at its most northern stop on Capitol Hill, as well as extending a mile into downtown to connect to the South Lake Union line.  The extensions would need federal funding, but it’s expected that their grants of up to $75 million could cover both projects.  

For more project info, just click on this link.

Olive 8: Auction Results and Stats

Success!  Over 200 bidders filled a room at the Hyatt at Olive 8 on September 19 to try and snag a deal on 32 units from Floors 18 – 26 that were on the block. By day’s end, very happy new owners walked away with homes averaging 30% off the original price. Here’s a list of the sale action, sorted by square footage.

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Sales are subject to seller acceptance and escrow closing.

We are fairly certain this information is accurate… if it changes, we will repost.  We continue to pride ourselves on accurate information.  During the auction, six units were removed from the auction (four 1-bedroom units, two 2-bedroom units).  As the auction progressed, the four 1-bedroom units returned for bidding. By the end of Sunday, all but four units had acceptable bids and the celebration began for those lucky buyers.  The remaining four units were short of the reserve bid.  The seller has a few days to decide what to do with those units.

Although it took an auction to do a significant move of inventory for Olive 8 management, the number of bidders that registered and appeared may be a sign that the Seattle real estate market is entering a more positive phase. In addition, over 1,500 potential buyers viewed the properties prior to auction, which could serve as a great base for future Olive 8 sales down the road.

The number of participating bidders also says something else about Olive 8. They confirm that Olive 8 is a special property, with a wonderful downtown location and a dizzying list of amenities including services through its downstairs neighbor, the Hyatt at Olive 8.  A little over 100 units remain for sale. Check out our website, olive8seattle.com for more details, then fill out our Contact link.

Olive 8: Anatomy of an Auction

September 13, 2010 by  
Filed under Downtown (MLS Area 701), Olive 8

We’ve been telling you in previous posts how special the upcoming Olive 8 auction will be. Located in the heart of downtown Seattle, Olive 8 has amazing views and numerous amenities, all at once-in-a-lifetime prices. However, the clock is ticking… the auction is on Sunday, September 19th, at 1:00 p.m. sharp but more importantly, you must be pre-registered by Thursday, September 16th at 6:00 p.m. If you still have questions or even qualms about the auction process, so maybe our handy-dandy guide below will help:

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Review the Properties – Check out our link at olive8seattle.com, where you’ll find details of the 34 homes from Floors 18 through 26 that are on the block. Under “The Auction”, there’s a .pdf with unit floorplans. Then, hit our big green contact button and tell us which ones you’d like to see. When we meet, we’ll first discuss what you’re looking for in a home, then physically tour the properties to see which best fit your lifestyle needs and financial means.

Financing – You must be pre-approved through one of two lenders, Bank of America Home Loans or Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. Even if you’re a cash buyer, assets must be verified through either of these two lenders. By doing this, you will know that everyone at the auction will have the ability to bid.  Have a pre-approved credit line ready and bring the letter with you.  If you choose to use either one of the lenders, then the seller is offering a $5,000 credit towards non-recurring closing costs (subject to lender guidelines, please check for details). Don’t forget that financing is subject to credit approval, loan document completion and property appraisal. Finally, you will need to bring a cashier’s check for $5,000 plus a personal check for the remaining balance of your earnest money.

Pre-Register – All buyers must be registered in order to attend and bid. The form is simple, and on our website under “The Auction” tab. On auction day, check in for your bidder package. The doors open around 11:00 a.m., but you should arrive no later than 12 noon. Your window to register is a now a short one…  forms must be submitted to the Auction Office prior to 6:00 pm on Thursday, September 16th.  You will not be allowed to register at the door.

The Auction Team – The auction will be conducted by Kennedy Wilson, an international real estate investment and services company based in Beverly Hills, CA. Assisting the auctioneer will be professional floormen to make sure that all bidders are recognized and all bids are reported. Floormen can also answer questions before and during the auction, including asking the auctioneer to pause if needed.  

Before Bidding Begins – The auction will start promptly at 1:00 p.m. with opening remarks summarizing terms of sale, bidding method, and any last-minute changes or disclosures. This only takes a few minutes, ending with the auctioneer conducting a practice auction session.

Be Ready To Bid – You wouldn’t think auctioning 34 homes would go by quickly, but it’s estimated that the entire event should only run an hour. Our meetings with you will also include your bidding strategy, and we’ll be at your side when your condo number is called.

Start the Bidding – Get ready to chime in with your price! If you make a mistake, just correct it with either the floorman or the auctioneer. The auctioneer will say “sold” or “high bidder” as soon as it’s determined the final bid has been made.  When you hear, “Going once, going twice…third and final call”, that’s the cue the auctioneer is prepared to announce a winner. He’ll most likely say something to the effect of, “Sold subject to seller acceptance”.  At that time the buyer will go to another room and sign a contract based on the winning price. Within the next few days, the buyer will know whether or not they’ve made the reserve price.  Seller has the option to counteroffer to meet its minimum reserve if needed. If this does occur, buyer does not have to accept the counteroffer.

The auction will take place at the Hyatt at Olive 8, 1635 8th Avenue in downtown Seattle. Coincidentally, this is the base of the Olive 8 building and part of its great amenities package. Give our website a spin and call us right away!

What Do Olive 8 Homeowners Say? Plenty!

September 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Downtown (MLS Area 701), Featured, Olive 8

We can’t tell you enough about how exciting the upcoming Olive 8 auction will be.  September 19th is the date when 34 condominiums go on the block. This auction will offer you a once in a lifetime opportunity to move into one of the most exciting living experiences in Seattle.  But don’t take our word for it. Here’s some current owner feedback:

  • Amenities – What a list to choose from! They enjoy the exercise facilities with a state of the art gym, swimming pool, yoga room and private sauna/steamroom access.  It’s a great place for pets, too. A secluded exercise and grooming area assures them that Olive 8 pampers their four-footed residents, too.
  • A Hotel as a Downstairs Neighbor – You can’t beat living above the Hyatt at Olive 8 Hotel. Owners love to go downstairs to the restaurant for a quick meal, or unwind at the coffee and wine bar.  Don’t feel like dressing to go out? Order room service! Too tired to clean? Call for housekeeping! As one couple said, “…it’s like living in ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’!”
  • Views – For one owner, waking up to a view of Mt. Rainier is not a bad way to start a morning.  She also loves the light that fills the rooms of her home. Any of the stunning Seattle views can be admired either from the large picture windows, or from the privacy of your own deck.
  • Neighborhood – One couple mentioned that that they “live in the most electric part of Seattle”. Others mention that they love the location, that “you can go downstairs and walk to everything”.
  • The Homes – Owners also love the high-end appliances, the generous use of marble in the baths, the nuanced finishes, and the overall style of the floorplans.

If you’re interested in becoming another happy Olive 8 owner, take a tour of our Olive 8 website, then fill in the Contact tab.  Specializing in the downtown Seattle condominium market since 1994, we at the Stroupe Group have participated in a number of auctions and would be happy to answer any questions you may have.  –

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272 Less Rental Units in Belltown, Rents Expected to Rise

There have been several rants posted about the teardown regarding the infamous McGuire apartment building, which has been an eyesore in Belltown for years.  The scaffolding has been leached along side the exterior for what seems like ages, and now infamously blends well with the building’s paint job.

First off, this is a positive story for a couple reasons:

  1. It’s the most interesting thing so far this year!  As opposed to a decline in home prices, or more fallout in the mortgage industry, the biggest news to hit the downtown Seattle market is the teardown of an ugly building. 
  2. For those who have investments downtown, there are now 272 less rentals available, and several people are expected to raise their rental rates somewhere around $100+ more per month.  This will influence supply and demand.

The questionable part of this news was brought to attention by Tim at SeattleBubble.com

This brings up an interesting question to me. Eight to ten years from now as the plentiful high-rise products of the housing bubble begin to age, how many similar situations will we see cropping up? With this so-called “upscale” apartment being torn down after less than ten years, I can’t help but wonder just how much attention to detail was really given to the latest batch of towers as developers rushed to cash in on the gold rush.

Tim brings up an excellent point.  Nine years ago, during the beginning of Belltown’s condo boom, the neighborhood was just starting to plant its roots of a residential urban community.  Now, almost 10 years later?  One of Seattle’s most respected architects also said this about the building on Facebook, “Top notch developer/architect/structural engineer on this project, it makes no sense.”

Now, when is demolition day and who’s selling front row seats?  Will there even be a demolition, or is it actually going to be “dismantled”?

Maybe now that prices on condos are agreeably low, many of these high-end paying renters may see this as a good time to buy… .

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