Technology giants such as Facebook, Twitter, eBay and Google have already discovered Seattle, setting up fast-growing engineering centers in the region.

A mock-up of a potential layout for a 5-building campus at Yesler Terrace. Office buildings in red.
A mock-up of a potential layout for a 5-building campus at Yesler Terrace. Office buildings in red.

Now, could another technology giant be in the mix?

The City of Seattle and real estate professionals certainly hope so, and they’ve got a rare piece of property to dangle in front of interested bidders. Starting this week, The Seattle Housing Authority — working in conjunction with Kidder Matthews — plans to begin marketing a 4.41 acre parcel just southeast of the downtown core near Harborview Medical Center on a parcel that locals know as Yesler Terrace.

One idea? Make it a destination for a technology company, perhaps one squeezed by astronomical rents in downtown San Francisco.

“It is rare that you see a site like this come available in a major metro market for a major development,” said Stan Snow of Kidder Matthews, who just began soliciting proposals for the property. “We think the time is right to attract a major tech tenant to Seattle, perhaps from the Bay Area or somewhere else.”

A mock-up of the 2-tower proposal. Towers in red.
A mock-up of the 2-tower proposal. Towers in red.

The parcel could be developed into 900,000 square feet of office space, perhaps spread across two 300 foot towers or as many as five smaller buildings. Another 100,000 square feet of retail space could be added. All buildings in the project must meet LEED Gold certification.

An asking price has not been set, but Snow said that the office buildings would likely command around $35 per square foot, making it about half the cost that tech companies such as and others recently paid in downtown San Francisco. A company could buy the parcel outright, or work hand-in-hand with a developer.

“For some of the tech companies, they could come here and develop a campus-like setting at a lower price per square foot than San Francisco, and capitalize on the tremendous tech talent that exists,” said Snow. “LinkedIn, Apple, Google, Oracle? We will see. We will find out.”

yeslerterracemapThrough an extensive multi-year review and redevelopment process, permitting is largely already greenlighted by the city. That means a potential buyer could develop the property and move in within three years, Snow said.

Properties — including public housing of a World War Two vintage — will be demolished in order to make way for the new office space. Money from the sale will be used to bankroll a massive redevelopment of the neighborhood, including affordable housing and other community renewal projects. About 130 public housing units are on the site now, with those residents to be relocated as new affordable units are constructed. Those residents will have the option to return to Yesler Terrace as new housing is built.

The entire project — spread across 30 acres — could take 10 to 15 years to complete.

“This is a major opportunity for the city to drive job growth, and do something great for the neighborhood,” said Snow, who plans to market the property over the next 120 days before assessing potential bidders.

Interestingly, the Yesler Terrace parcel is coming on to the market at the same time that Amgen is shutting down its massive 750,000 square foot campus on the Seattle waterfront. That property — with stunning views of Elliott Bay— also could attract an interesting tech or biotech tenant. (See earlier GeekWire story: Amazon’s new waterfront home? Five ideas for Amgen’s beautiful Seattle campus).

Snow doesn’t think the two properties will compete for attention, since the Amgen property includes an extensive laboratory build out. With the Yesler Terrace property, he said a tenant could build to suit their needs.

“The slate is more wide open,” he said. “You can get very creative in the parameters of 4 acres.”

Medical, education or government tenants could emerge as well, but Snow said a tech company is a “logical fit.”

More on the project here, including this older visualization of the project compiled by the Seattle Housing Authority.

YT Redevelopment Visualization (w/ audio) from Seattle Housing Authority on Vimeo.

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  • Chilly

    If this happens, it will be a huge tragedy. I assume most of this blog’s readers feel Seattle is a better place to live than San Francisco. But I fear that will not be the case for much longer.

    • garth

      why do you think it will be a huge tragedy?

      • Chilly

        Because it will displace too many low-income residents and drive up the cost of living. Admittedly, destroying Yesler Terrace is not the ONLY thing that is making Seattle unaffordable for the middle class, but this project would be the most perfect example of the negative changes taking place in this city. I suppose it’s just my opinion that Seattle becoming the next San Francisco would be a “tragedy.” To the wealthy, this is a blessing.

        • johnhcook

          Just to be clear on what’s happening here, see my comment below in response to Jen Zug.

        • bpdtweet

          Typical liberal drivel.

          Why is it whenever any decent project comes to Seattle that will actually help put dollars into the downtown corridor, and a better infrastructure into the city as a whole–liberals come crawling out of the woodwork to cry foul, saying ‘What about the low income residents?’.

          Yesler Terrace is currently not exactly the kind of neighborhood you hang out in or want to live in if you can help it. I’d much rather have a business making good use of that area, than have it as a haven for drug abuse, homeless people, and prostitutes like it is now.

          • Chilly

            I’ll admit I originally misread the section about SHA’s plan, but I disagree that YT is a place to avoid. I don’t live there, but I do live nearby, and I walk through it most days to get to work (or to get to Chinatown for a fun night out), and I’ve always felt safe and comfortable walking around day or night, especially compared to other parts of the city. Grow a pair, ya pansy!

            However I will admit that my original question, “What about the low income residents,” has been satisfactorily answered for me now. And I could have answered it myself if I read the original post more clearly. My mistake there.

          • Idontthinkso

            Typical libertarian claptrap.

            There are people that live there, that make their homes and their lives in the neighborhood. Why should your impression of a “good place to hang out” take precedence over their community’s needs? And if crime is an issue, why not address the root causes of it instead of kicking people out and handing over large swaths of the area to private interests?

  • Lives Downtown

    And still no downtown school. People will live in the burbs and commute to this (further clogging our roads). When will Seattle leadership realize that a downtown school is vital if they really want to attract high tech. These people have children, and good schools are the reason everyone in their 30’s and 40’s wants to STAY in the Bay Area.

    • bpdtweet

      Your very idea that we need public schools in the first place is flawed. With today’s technology a child can easily be home-schooled and very likely have a better education than anything they would get in a public school.

      • mekskwpm

        You don’t have kids.

      • Jen Zug

        It’s not like I haven’t considered it, but how are we to homeschool when both parents are working full time? If we drop one income we’re priced out of the city and move to the burbs. I HATED it out there.

        • keetz44 .

          Public schools are better for a kid. Not only do they educate but they socialize kids as well.

      • Idontthinkso

        Starve the public schools, then blame them for their failure, is that it? Good job swallowing the Gates foundation propaganda.

    • keetz44 .

      Seattle Public Schools are taking ownership of the former Federal Reserve bldg downtown. They plan to open an elementary school in the bldg.

    • Mike
  • Jen Zug

    It’s not clear from the article what will happen to the folks living at Yesler Terrace. Are they being relocated to another place within Seattle? Or are they getting moved further South, out of the city? I would hate for Seattle to become (even more) unaffordable for families and diverse groups of people.

    • johnhcook

      Just to be clear here, the money from the sale of the property will help fund the redevelopment of the neighborhood, including affordable housing. Those folks living in the neighborhood will be temporarily moved, but then more affordable and more modern housing will be added.

      The 4-acre office development is part of a larger 30-acre neighborhood redevelopment, so the sale of the office tract will help fund the redevelopment of the entire neighborhood.

      • Jen Zug

        Thanks for clarifying, John.

      • JAW

        Do you know if the affordable housing to replace the current units will provide gardening space for those lower income people? I used to live in this area and one of the best things for these units was the yard space that allowed some people to grow food.

        • Idontthinkso

          Community space for low income residents is often threatened when neoliberal planners start talking about “mixed income” or inclusive housing. Something to keep an eye on, for sure.

    • bpdtweet

      This area is a den for drug and alcohol abuse, homeless individuals, and prostitution, and you are worried about where these people will live?

      • Chilly

        you should go to church

      • Iikka Keränen

        Poor people are people too. And since they’re poor and can’t afford a car, a downtown neighborhood is much more livable than the spread-out suburbs. Being able to walk to grocery stores as well as social and health services is pretty vital for many people’s survival.

      • Jen Zug

        Yes, I’m absolutely worried about where these people will live. I’m also worried about Seattle becoming an all-white and/or upper class city that prices out middle class families and the marginalized.

    • CarbonRiver

      The housing stock there is in awful shape as well. As the article states much of it is basically old WWII era barracks. The site needed a major remodel and the residents were going to have to be shuffled to do that anyway. This should not only preserve and increase the amount of affordable housing but bring it up to a standard that will hopefully help the neighborhood feel less worn out and slummy.

    • justme

      More supply is the best way to push housing prices down. That’s what this redevelopment does, adds a lot more supply to housing stocks.

  • This is sad

    I agree this is a tragedy. This is a neighborhood full of community members. Offering them a return to different housing 10-15 YEARS LATER, however geographically close to their original homes, means a destruction of their community, their web of relationships and their landmarks. It’s devastating for these residents, and will cause major distrust between people and the City. We need to start questioning what we are willing to risk, destroy and degrade for job providers.

    PS it IS ‘rare to see a site like this come available in a major metro market for a major development’…because you can’t usually bulldoze an entire region without regard to the current tenants.

    • Idontthinkso

      Exactly. The community that currently exists is probably the most valuable asset most of these people have, and despite the intentions of the project, that’s being destroyed.

  • Idontthinkso

    If it’s going to offer all that space to private industry, shouldn’t Seattle think about diversifying its economic base a bit? It’s not like we’re short of tech companies and tech job opportunities.

  • lunarmobiscuit

    Thanks for the post John. Do note the FAQ and video were useful to understand that this wasn’t about replacing a low-income neighborhood with a new home for Twitter or Facebook.

    And it’s a good thing the street car is almost done, as the walk from Pioneer Square up Yesler is like the Queene Anne hill climb.

  • Guest

    Nice! We approve of this development. The new streetcar will help drive more business to the area.

  • Tyler

    The money will go to “affordable housing” in the neighborhood, that’s nice. Only thing is they are going to demolish the entire neighborhood. The definition of “affordable housing” much like Yesler Terrace is being demolished. The current residents will be expected to somehow raise their incomes significantly in order to afford this affordable housing, which will probably all be converted to market rate within five years anyway or yes they will be pushed out of Seattle in order to make more room for yuppies.

  • Paul Furio

    Interesting project, and near our home. What’s the timeline for full development?

  • doublsh0t

    Munchery (a food-related tech startup that just came to Seattle from SF) currently has its operating headquarters RIGHT near this highlighted Yesler location.

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