Food & Culture

Next-level Amenities Emerge in Seattle and Bellevue’s Newest Condo High Rises

Condominiums are aiming to be all-in-one vertical neighborhoods, with top-to-bottom amenities and socializing ops—and apps

By Shannon O'Leary August 9, 2019


This article originally appeared in the August 2019 issue of Seattle Magazine.

This article appears in print in the August 2019 issue. Click here to subscribe.

I’ll see your 360-degree-view rooftop barbecue pit and raise you a pet-washing station…and Tesla ride-sharing!

Following in the footprint of a high-end apartment building boom, we are about to be spoiled with amenity-rich condominiums. And while it is fun to make fun of their ever-expanding amenity menus, this is a high-stakes business as more condos vie for the eyes (and wallets) of buyers.

In the next few years, according to condo-marketing company Polaris Pacific, some 6,000 condos will open up in Seattle and Bellevue. Downtown Seattle alone is expected to welcome some 1,660 luxury condos by 2022. And all will be bringing those eye-popping perks.

“What used to be just par for the course—to throw a StairMaster in a broom closet and say, ‘Hey, here’s your fitness amenity’—is no longer tolerated,” says Dean Jones, owner of Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty. “What condos have started to do is really follow the hotel model.…And much like a hotel, you’re probably not going to stay in your hotel room all day long or weekend; you’re going to live in a vertical village, with a sky lounge, fitness facility, wine tasting room, access to concierge, the yoga studio, the working lounge, the exhibition kitchen.”

Jones’ firm represents many of the rising Seattle condos that are packing in the amenities. The 41-floor Nexus (389 units; $1.2 million and up; opening this fall; downtown, 1200 Howell St.) will be fully tech-enabled, from home automation and electronic guest passes to a bespoke app for booking everything from dog walks to slots in yoga classes. Plus, there’s the lobby-level restaurant and bar, fitness and media room, pet lounge, “human think tank” (aka coworking space) and “sky club” with a games room, fireside lounge and exhibition kitchen. Of the latter—increasingly common in these high-rises—Jones says: “They are setting up these incredible exhibition kitchens with the idea of attracting a cook to come in on a Thursday night. Then [they’re] crowdfunding, so everybody goes in on the app for $20 and now you’re eating an incredible meal with 50 or 60 friends.”

Not far away, the 41-story Spire (350 units; from $500,000; opening in 2020; Belltown, 600 Wall St.) will include a yoga/spin studio, Skype room, coworking lounge, gaming room and theater on its lower level, with water views, a sky-high cardio studio and a dog run at the top. It also boasts the city’s first fully automated parking system, which will deliver or park your car at the push of a button via an elevator-like apparatus.

Amenities in the 17th floor club at Koda include an exhibition kitchen, lounge and billiards. Courtesy of Dali Development

The similarly amenity-rich Koda (201 units; from $400,000; opening winter 2020; Chinatown–International District, 450 S Main St.) has a 17th-floor club designed with sociability in mind, with an exhibition kitchen, fireside lounge, multimedia lounge/screening room, full bar and billiards—and two guest suites.

Taking the “be a hotel” approach literally is Avenue Bellevue. The $1 billion, 3-acre mixed-use enterprise will include one tower (98 units; $1.3 million and up; opening 2022; Bellevue, 10300 NE Eighth St.) housing the Northwest’s first InterContinental hotel (with 252 rooms), plus 85,000 square feet of high-end retail, restaurants and nightlife. Hotel amenities, from housekeeping to room service and a fitness center, will all be available to residents. The second, all-residence tower will have 230 units.

KIDS WELCOME: Among the amenities at One88 Bellevue is a playroom for children. Courtesy of Bosa Development

Also to be located in Bellevue is the 21-story One88 (143 units; from $1.9 million; opening 2020; Bellevue, 200 105th Ave. NE). Its 25,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor amenity space includes communal kitchen and dining; there’s also an “activated” lobby with a media lounge, and rotating art and social events arranged by its concierge, through whom residents can also arrange for grocery-delivery, dry-cleaning, auto-detailing and floral services. There will also be a grassy area for outdoor yoga and lawn games, and a children’s playroom.

Josh Nasvik, Polaris Pacific vice president, knows a thing or two about one-upmanship when it comes to amenities. “The amenity war has really taken a strong hold in the apartment world and as a result of that, condos are now having to deliver a nicer, better product, because now we are trying to attract these apartment renters, who we want to turn into buyers,” he says.

Presently, Nasvik is focused on rolling out The Emerald, a 40-story condo (265 units; from $495,000; summer 2020; downtown, 121 Stewart St.). “The whole 39th floor is an amenity space,” he says. “You’ve got the barbecue [grills], you’ve got the indoor/outdoor lounge.” In addition to its obvious rooftop entertainment—knockout views of mountains and sound—Emerald social diversions include a media room with catering kitchen, fitness center with open-air terrace, yoga studio, and an outdoor pet run and spa.

And then there are the Teslas. “Somebody’s not going to buy at The Emerald specifically because we’re offering a Tesla ride-share,” admits Nasvik. “[But] it is really cool, and the buyers will kind of latch onto that…it’s part of the conversation, part of the decision-making process.” Better still, it’s not empty pandering to eco-friendliness since The Emerald is targeting LEED Silver certification.

Of course, fancy social amenities aren’t new. When it opened in 2015, the 41-story, twin-tower Insignia (698 units; Belltown, 588 Bell St. and 583 Battery St.), boasted a signature covered pool, a rooftop game room/bar and a battery of barbecue grills. Setting the luxe tone and raising condo expectations even earlier, in 2008 and 2009 respectively, were the 38-floor Fifteen Twenty-One Second Avenue (152 units; downtown 1521 Second Ave.), with its rooftop lounge, two outdoor chef’s kitchens and fireplaces, wine room, and yoga and Pilates studio; and the 31-floor Escala (269 units; Belltown, 1920 Fourth Ave.).

“Escala was built when Seattle was a different Seattle, period,” says Seattle real estate broker Olga Dyckman, Escala’s original listing agent. And the social star of its whopping 30,000 square feet of amenity space—which includes a 24-hour concierge, a fitness center with lap pools and steam room, and a movie theater—is its chandelier-illuminated wine cave. “It literally feels like you’re going to Napa as you go down the stairs,” says Dyckman, who notes the strong social vibe in the building. “They do Kentucky Derby parties, garden tea parties, Game of Thrones parties, book clubs, a movie of the week. It’s a super-social building.”
And given our area’s reputation for work-obsessed, geeky introverts, these condos, wired for social and technical connectivity, might be a pretty easy sell.

Or, as Jones puts it, “When people move, they move because they think their life will be better there. And these [condo] amenities are really programmed to engage and to inspire a life better lived.…You know, you’re just not going to find that in the cul-de-sac.”

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