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May 2016

Seattle's first high-rise condo since 2012 set to break ground by year-end

Nexus condo artist's renderingDevelopers plan to break ground by year-end on Seattle's first downtown condominium high-rise since 2012. Unit reservations in the 40-story tower at 1200 Howell Street are now being accepted, with the first wave of occupancy forecast for 2019.

Called NEXUS, it will be the first of several "significant" projects the Burrard Group is planning for the Seattle area, according to Christian Chan, executive vice president at the Vancouver, BC-based real estate development firm.

The Burrard Group expects downsizing empty-nesters, second home buyers and international investors to be among the purchasers of homes at NEXUS.

Prices at NEXUS are expected to start in the $300,000s for small one-bedroom units. At the other end of the spectrum, fewer than 20 penthouse and high-end "sky terrace" units are planned, according to Chan. He said prices for these larger options (up to three bedrooms) in the 403-unit "next generation" condo have not been set, but  the company plans to offer low down payment options and mortgage payments that are comparable to prevailing rents.

"We view downtown as a fundamentally strong housing market and believe trending will increasingly favor homeownership as home values grow, interest rates remain low and thousands of renters contemplate the benefits of homeownership," Chan stated in an announcement about the project.

"Prices are rising quickly in downtown Seattle and NEXUS will offer owners the potential for capital appreciation, unlike rent which only benefits the landlord" said Brian O'Connor, principal of O'Connor Consulting Group, which provides market and feasibility reports to various clients. Developers also promise low down payment options and mortgage payments that are comparable to prevailing rents.

Commenting on the April 15 date for the project's announcement, O'Connor said, "This debut is well-timed with IRS Tax Day. I believe renters of those newer apartment buildings built since 2011 have missed an estimated $40 million in income tax deductions in 2015. Sellers of principal residences also enjoy tax free capital gains up to $250,000 for single owners or up to $500,000 for married couples."

O'Connor also believes NEXUS will meet pent up demand for "attainably-priced homes" as nearby condominiums in downtown Seattle's urban core have all but sold out of inventory below $900,000. (As of May 1, a search of Northwest Multiple Listing Service data reveals about 50 condo listings priced under $900,000 in the downtown/Belltown map area.)

Chan points to Seattle-area rents, which have grown by 35-percent in the last five years as the city now ranks among the top ten most expensive apartment markets in the U.S., according to CNN Money, even though nearly 10,000 new apartments that have been built in the downtown submarket since 2011. Condominium values and corresponding supply are also making a comeback with 22-percent median home price increases year-over-year during the first quarter of 2016, according to research conducted by Realogics Sotheby's International Realty ("RSIR") and O'Connor Consulting Group. They project 17,000 new housing units in the pipeline could deliver over the next five years but 85-percent of them are expected to be rentals.

Developers say the condo project will feature multiple levels of amenities, including a service-oriented retail and lobby level, a 7th level with co-working space, fitness center, dog run/lounge, great room, media facility and outdoor patio. Also planned is a rooftop-level Sky Club with social spaces, an exhibition kitchen, private dining, sky bar, recreation room, view terrace with open air kitchen and fireside lounge with views of downtown Seattle, Lake Union and Capitol Hill. Owners will also be able to reserve in-building guest suites and have flexible parking options, business center amenities and other services.

A virtual tour of NEXUS and Seattle's future skyline called "Cityscape 2020" showcases the burgeoning neighborhood in 2020 after more than two dozen projects including residential towers, hotels, office buildings and the Washington State Trade and Convention Center expansion are set to open.

Burrard estimates the project will cost $200 million to develop, with the general contractor not yet named. Seattle architecture firm Weber Thompson designed Nexus, which is named for the building's interconnecting cubes and the project's location between the South Lake Union, downtown and Capitol Hill neighborhoods.

Founded in Vancouver in 1987, Burrard has a diverse portfolio of successful master-planned communities, multifamily developments, high-end single family residences and resort lodging properties.

Other current projects include Cypress Place in Whistler, B.C., Makali'I in Wailea, HI., and 1288 Howard, a 125-unit mixed-use residential, office, and retail development in San Francisco.