April 20, 2017
On the Block: Equinox has plans for SLU and Ballard, too
Developer Brian Regan and his Equinox Properties are hoping to break ground in December on an eight-story retail and office building called 9th Space at 308 Ninth Ave. N., in South Lake Union.
9th Space would continue the galactic theme of Regan’s Saturn Building in Fremont and other projects. Equinox has filed for a master use permit, though Regan says a final design review meeting set for early May has been postponed.
The 7,181-square-foot lot is currently occupied by a one-story commercial building. Equinox plans to build about 46,000 square feet of office space above 1,700 square feet of ground-floor retail. Skidmore Janette is the architect.
Regan says he’ll start 9th Space without a tenant, and is prepared to accommodate businesses large or small. “Theoretically, one tenant could take the entire 50,000 square feet. Or a single tenant could rent 200 square feet.”
The keyword is flexibility. As with other Equinox projects in Fremont, Queen Anne and Ballard, 9th Space could be configured as suites of different sizes — even up to 84 small offices, according to plans. 9th Space is described as “small flexible office space for the start-up entrepreneur.” It’s not shared office space, like WeWork or Level Office, but could be leased on short terms.
“We haven’t done any marketing. I tend to do it myself,” says Regan. But if outside brokers for a single tech tenant approach him first, that’s just fine. “The floor plates are like 6,400 square feet,” which should suit tech tenants.
9th Space is notable in SLU for its relatively small size. An Equinox LLC acquired the property in 2015 for $4.6 million. To the north on the same block, at 901 Harrison St., Vulcan Real Estate is building a 25-story residential tower. But the 9th Space site is flanked by two low-rise neighbors: the Christian Science Reading Room on the corner of Thomas Street; and an old warehouse owned by Vulcan that is not currently slated for redevelopment. West across the street is Amazon’s Apollo Building. (More celestial nomenclature!)
9th Space will be designed to meet LEED gold certification, with solar panels, LED lighting, non-toxic building materials and operable windows. Only seven parking spaces (at grade) will be provided, accessed from the alley to the west.
A large bike room will accommodate 34 bicycles below grade, along with showers. Decks will be on the roof and third floor.
Space-themed murals will adorn the north and south sides of the building.
Regan says work is progressing on construction drawings. Financing is the next step, but doesn’t necessarily require a partner or bank. “We may or may not finance” though a lender.
Here are other firms on the 9th Space team: Exxel Pacific, general contractor; Swenson Say Faget, structural engineer; Rainbow Consulting, mechanical and plumbing engineer; Fazio Associates, landscape architect; WR Consulting, civil engineer; and ArchEcology, LEED consultant.
Equinox is also quite active in Ballard, where it owns three historic buildings. Last October, it completed a 3,500-square-foot addition and a new 22,400-square-foot structure at 5304 Ballard Ave. N.W. Regan now calls the two-building complex Valhalla. (The project team also included Skidmore Janette and Exxel Pacific.)
Valhalla’s office space is filling up, says Regan. “The Ballard market is not the same as South Lake Union. It’s a little slower. We should be rented up soon.”
The 8,000 square feet of retail in Valhalla is taken, with tenants including Shiku Sushi and a furniture boutique called Couch. He estimates the small office spaces are about two-thirds full.
Just around the block at 2116 N.W. Vernon Pl., an Equinox LLC paid $3.3 million last September for the Paymaster Building, an historic building built by Stimson Lumber. Sitting on a 10,000-square-foot site, at the corner of Shilshole Avenue Northwest, the charming 1912 Arts and Crafts-style structure once housed the payroll center for the huge lumber yard and mill across the street. It was designed by Kirtland K. Cutter, the same architect who created the Stimson-Green Mansion on First Hill for the timber baron’s family. (Also to Cutter’s credit: the Rainier Club and Seattle Golf Club.)
The two-story Paymaster Building has about 3,700 square feet. It was owned for two decades by artist Nancy McLaren. Ellen Mohl of Westlake Associates sold the property. McLaren bought the property from the Stimsons in 1996, before Ballard started booming. “She was using it as a house and a studio,” says Regan. “I’ve always kind of wondered about it. I thought it was a railroad depot.”
It’s vacant now but Regan says, “There’s a lot of funky stuff” inside, including a spiral staircase and the Stimsons’ original walk-in vault. “And another safe is inside of the vault.” It’s decorated with scenes of The Highlands, which the Stimsons helped develop and where they lived. Cutter designed a second house there for C.D. Stimson.
The Paymaster Building is in an industrial zone with heights allowed to 65 feet, but Regan says he will preserve the non-landmarked structure. “It backs up to the historic district. It’s just outside. There’s no design review at all. You can just start building.”
In the long term, he says, “I’m kinda working with a few [prospective] tenants to be creative with the site without tearing it down. I do have a plan with 20,000 square feet of office space to be built around it.”
Early plans have been filed with the city by Skidmore Janette, but mainly as a feasibility study. “That building, if I do it, I’m in no rush. I’m pretty busy. I’m kinda waiting for Ballard to grow up a bit more.”
In the near term, Regan says he can rent it out as office space, “Or turn it into a pretty cool restaurant. That’s easy to do right now.” Such discussions are “top secret” in an area that’s become one of the city’s hottest — and least parkable — restaurant destinations.
Regan has plenty of experience with restaurant tenants, including The Sexton in his Bay Windows Building at 5335 Ballard Ave. “I’ve got quite a few of them — 14 around town.”
Regan has a permit to demolish a detached garage on the property, but the Paymaster site has room for about 17 parking spaces — a precious commodity in Ballard. “If it was a restaurant, you’d fill up all those spaces.”
And when Regan drives in to check on his Ballard holdings, he says, “It’s nice to have a place to park.”
Copyright 2017 Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce
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