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Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - Page updated at 07:30 p.m.

New buyer, new plan for Seattle’s old Eitel Building

By Sanjay Bhatt
Seattle Times business reporter

The dilapidated Eitel Building near Pike Place Market may finally undergo a complete renovation and get new tenants, a fresh start for a depressed spot in downtown Seattle.

Greg Smith, CEO of Urban Visions, said his company has a deal to acquire the historic landmark building from Richard Nimmer by the end of the year for an undisclosed price.

Smith aims to partner with local investors to restore the seven-story building as part of a broader plan for the neighborhood around Second Avenue and Pike Street.

“To me that’s the center of the bull’s-eye of Seattle,” Smith said, noting its position near the waterfront, the retail corridor and the financial district. “This particular area has been a missing link in the city.”

It’s an intersection that Smith has staked his future on. In June, he acquired a nearbyfour-story office building at 1516 Second Avenue, which he’s renamed the Chromer Building.

He’s also applied for a permit for a 30-story mixed-use tower at 1430 Second Avenue and Pike with about 140,000 square feet of office space, 10,000 square feet of retail and about 150 apartments.

Smith’s plan for revitalizing the corner comes as another developer, Equity Residential, is planning a 40-story apartment tower nearby at Second Avenue and Pine Street, next to the Macy’s parking garage.

For years, merchants, property owners and visitors have complained about drug dealing and aggressive panhandling in the area.

Last year the Downtown Seattle Association created the Pike-Pine Renaissance task force, which will try to coordinate actions by the public and private sectors to make the area, in its words, “the best urban experience in the country.”

The Pike-Pine area, as defined by the association, is a funnel-shaped district bounded by Virginia and Seneca streets, starting at Boren Avenue and Interstate 5 and extending to the waterfront. The association envisions the area as a gateway to Seattle’s best retailers and attractions.

Smith, who is on that task force, said the Eitel Building is a major piece of the area’s challenges and potential.

“It’s been a blight to the neighborhood and a blight to the city for 40 years,” Smith said. “It should be a glowing jewel box.”

Built originally in 1904 by developer Fred Eitel, the Classical Revival office building received Seattle landmark status in 2006 as a result of efforts by nonprofit Historic Seattle.

Nimmer has owned the building since 1975. He made several unsuccessful attempts to redevelop the site, either by demolishing the building or adding more floors to it, and engaged in a long battle with historic-preservation advocates.

He could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

The property’s appraised value is about $2.8 million, according to King County.

While a few stores occupy the Eitel Building’s ground floor, the upper floors have been vacant for decades.

Smith said he plans to preserve the Eitel’s historic facade, find new retailers for the street level and place a restaurant on the building’s top, from which patrons will enjoy unobstructed views of Elliott Bay and Pike Place Market.

The floors in between could be used for housing or offices, he said. He declined to say what the transformation would cost.

Over the years, several developers have come forward to revitalize the Eitel without success. Just last summer, a developer signed a contract to buy the building and convert it into an 80-room hotel.

This time, Smith said, there’s momentum in his favor.

Last summer, Target opened a three-floor CityTarget store a block away. A new T.J. Maxx store is slated for the Kress building at 3rd and Pike.

In the future, “it won’t be recognized as this empty zone,” Smith said.

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.

Sanjay Bhatt: 206-464-3103 or sbhatt@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @sbhatt


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