Why Condos Are Making a Huge Comeback

For years, few of these multifamily structures were being built. But the market is changing—dramatically

By Niki Stojnic

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March 4, 2019

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

This article appears in print in the March 2019 issue, as part of the 21 Hot Neighborhoods cover story. Click here to subscribe.

There’s no mistaking them. Amid all the glittering structures rising up in the Seattle skyline—the apartments, hotels and office buildings—is a species Seattleites haven’t seen in a long time: condominiums. The city is in the middle of a condo renaissance, and according to Dean Jones, co-owner of Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty, this cycle is more robust than the last one, about a decade ago, when the combination of speculation-driven construction, investment buyers and the creation of a Washington state law enshrining consumer protections all collided to freeze the market.

While the law, which put developers on the hook for construction defects and issues arising after purchase, hasn’t changed, demand has, says Jones. Buyers include empty nesters cashing out on their single-family homes, renters maturing into buyers who don’t really want to leave downtown or downtown-adjacent ’hoods, and international and California buyers, the latter of whom reap significant tax advantages in Washington.

There’s no denying the appeal of the condominium lifestyle. “Condos provide everything you need and nothing you don’t,” says Jones.

This generation of condominiums is marketed to buyers looking for convenience—why wrestle with Seattle traffic when you can be steps away from the theater, shopping, light rail and even work? Many of the residences (some complete or almost done, other projects soon to break ground) offer opportunities for community building via luxe communal spaces, such as exhibition kitchens, rooftop terraces and recreation areas like yoga or art rooms, all of which encourage a community-within-the-neighborhood feel.

Nexus—with most of its units already sold—will be one of the first condo complexes to open downtown, in 2019. The Belltown building is a unique 440-foot-high stack of offset glass cubes, with retail on the first floor, and indoor/outdoor spaces for residents and guests to spare, from high-tech workrooms to kitchens, and a pet run complete with washing bay. Nexus touts app-controllable automation, from lighting to security, in each of its studio, one-, two- or three-bedroom homes (ranging in price from less than $400,000 to more than $4.5 million).

Spire, another condo tower, is slated to open in 2020 near Seattle Center, offering one-, two-, and three-bedroom spaces (from less than $500,000 to $4.5 million), and features a 360-degree-view rooftop terrace and an exhibition kitchen with private dining room, where residents can invite guest chefs for an event, or cook and host a party themselves.

Koda Condominium Flats in the Chinatown–International District, adjacent to Pioneer Square, will bring 200 units to the neighborhood in 2020 (priced from the low $400,000s to $1.4 million), and is conveniently located near light rail and those neighborhoods’ many eateries and shops.

Other neighborhoods with their own urban centers are getting condos as well: Encore at Columbia Station (bdrholdings.com/property/seattle-encore) was developed with light rail and car-free living in mind, with 96 condos situated right across the street from the Columbia City light rail station. Opening in 2020, the building will include a community bike area with tune-up station; its studio, one- and two-bedroom units (from less than $300,000 to more than $700,000) include a communal exhibition kitchen and access to a roof deck with outdoor fireplaces.

On the Eastside, One88, a 21-story glass structure, with one-, two- and three-bedroom condos and penthouses in the heart of downtown Bellevue (from $800,000 to more than $5 million), set to open in 2020, was more than 90 percent reserved before presales closed in December. It will be within walking distance of the new East Link Extension light rail track connecting Seattle and the Eastside, with service beginning in 2023. Nearby Avenue Bellevue, a curvy two-tower mixed-use condo/hotel/retail development, has presales and construction set to begin this year; condos that share the hotel building will also have access to hotel amenities. There are also plans for a restaurant helmed by a three-star Michelin-chef to be located here.

Unlike the condo-to-apartment conversions of a decade ago, these communities are here to stay, says Jones. These buildings make staying in as appealing as going out.

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