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Originally published July 31, 2013 at 11:11 AM | Page modified August 1, 2013 at 12:49 PM

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Seattle Times Co. reaches $62.5M deal for SLU parcels

The Seattle Times Co. has a deal with a Canadian high-rise developer to sell two full blocks, the last of the newspaper company’s South Lake Union properties.

Seattle Times business reporter

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The Seattle Times Co. has a $62.5 million deal with a Canadian high-rise developer to sell two full blocks, the last of its South Lake Union properties.

On Wednesday, the company sold the block at Fairview Avenue North and Denny Way to Vancouver-based Onni Group for $33.5 million, county records showed. Privately held Onni specializes in high-rise residences and could build two mixed-use towers as high as 400 feet on the block.

The company said it also has an agreement to sell Onni the adjacent block north of John Street for $29 million and expects to close in November. That parcel, 1120 John St., was the headquarters of The Seattle Times for eight decades until it moved last year to a nearby building.

“Having owned most of this land for more than 80 years, the Blethen family is nostalgic about the sale, but pleased that a high-quality developer like Onni will add to our dynamic neighborhood,” said Seattle Times Publisher Frank Blethen in a statement. “The family will use the proceeds to invest in independent journalism and community service, as well as to complete The Seattle Times’ transformation into a multiplatform print and digital media company.”

The deal marks Onni Group’s entry into the Seattle market, said Executive Vice President Chris Evans. The company has offices in Vancouver, Toronto, Los Angeles, Chicago, Phoenix and Mexico.

Onni has built commercial and residential projects across North America. Most of its previous residential projects are high-rise towers in major cities. The company also owns and manages 5 million square feet of commercial property and more than 3,800 rental apartment units, according to its website.

The jobs being created by Amazon.com, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other companies in the area made the two-block site attractive for redevelopment, Evans said.

So did the Seattle City Council’s vote in May on rezoning of South Lake Union. By 2031, the neighborhood is expected to absorb some 12,000 households and 22,000 jobs.

On the block at Fairview Avenue and Denny Way, Evans said, zoning rules allow two towers, each up to 400 feet in height under certain conditions. The block, mostly a parking lot now, was previously zoned for residential or commercial buildings up to 125 feet.

He said zoning rules permit two towers up to 240 feet in height on the adjacent block, which is bounded by John Street, Fairview Avenue, Boren Avenue and Thomas Street.

Onni said it’s already met with city staff and plans to file an application within six months.

“We’re excited to try and do what we can to take advantage of the new height limits and the new mixture of uses,” he said. In a neighborhood that “has a significant amount of office space being built already,” he said, a mixed-use project makes sense.

The $62.5 million deal represents the final piece of The Seattle Times Co.’s South Lake Union portfolio. The company still owns a printing-press facility in Bothell. Since 2004, the company has sold several nearby parcels for a total of $84.5 million, including the Troy Laundry block in June 2011 and of 1000 Denny Way in January 2011.

“This was the last big undeveloped parcel in South Lake Union. In some ways it kind of completes the puzzle,” said Steven Wood, managing director of real-estate advisory firm CenturyPacific, which represented The Times in the sales.

Blethen’s statement said the proceeds would help the company make payments on its pension liabilities and investments in transforming the company’s news operations.

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this story. Sanjay Bhatt: 206-464-3103 or sbhatt@seattletimes.com On Twitter @sbhatt

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