Historic Washington Building sold to Unico; to be converted to apartments

Real estate investment and operating company Unico Properties LLC, announced Tuesday, Jan. 3, that it has purchased the historic 18-story Washington Building in downtown Tacoma.

Unico plans to restore the 1925 building and convert it to apartments, bringing residents and vitality back to Tacoma’s urban core.  Unico is collaborating with the City of Tacoma to ensure a successful conversion of the historic building.  The city assisted Unico in defining the structural and permitting requirements for the conversion project as well as provided guidance on city and community interest about the historic integrity of the building’s façade.

When built in 1925, the Washington Building was the tallest building in Tacoma and the second tallest building in the Pacific Northwest, behind Seattle’s Smith Tower.  The 124,191-square-foot property is approximately 30 percent occupied and requires significant upgrades.

“We are grateful for the City of Tacoma’s insights and input in helping us to achieve our vision to restore this beloved building in the heart of Tacoma and bring it back to its original glory,” said Julie Currier, Unico Properties Director of Development.  “We’re honored to own and invest in the Washington Building – we’ve had an ownership presence in the Tacoma market for approximately 20 years and we’re thrilled to do more for the city by revitalizing its historic downtown building and bringing back residents, life, and excitement after hours to the heart of the city.”

With 18 floors, the Washington Building is now the second tallest office building in downtown Tacoma behind the Unico owned and managed 25-story 1201 Pacific building (formerly Wells Fargo Plaza). The Washington Building’s floor plates are rectangular-shaped from the basement up through the third floor and they are ‘U’-shaped from the fourth story upwards. The floor plates and shallow bay depths provide ample window line for natural light.  The historic character of the building, the floor plates and unique height make this an ideal property to convert to apartments, delivering a unique residential offering in the Tacoma marketplace.

“We look forward to seeing the Washington Building, a landmark since the 1920s, evolve to meet a growing need for housing in downtown Tacoma,” said Mayor Marilyn Strickland. “Unico’s decision to invest in downtown Tacoma is evidence of our shared vision for honoring our past while continuing to enhance the vibrancy of Tacoma’s downtown core.”

In 2015, Unico purchased the iconic 42-story Smith Tower which was built in 1914 – the oldest skyscraper in Seattle.  Its multimillion-dollar investment in the renovation and preservation of Smith Tower resulted in the grand opening of a new visitor experience and tours of the landmark in August 2016.

“We were thrilled to revitalize and re-energize Seattle’s first skyscraper and we’re honored to do the same in Tacoma.  Reintroducing the city’s historic building as new apartments, and blending past and modern worlds to create a bright and beautiful new residence in downtown Tacoma is our goal.  We’re excited to help this special building reach its full potential and bring people back downtown,” added Currier.

“Tacoma’s heritage buildings are among the community’s finest assets when it comes to attracting private investment,” said Pat Beard, a project manager with the Community and Economic Development Department.  “Adapting older buildings to modern codes and financing requirements can be challenging, however, both Unico and City staff are working collaboratively to ensure the preservation of this downtown icon and increase the number of downtown residential opportunities at the same time.”

Unico secured several daytime and off-peak parking licenses at various city parking facilities in the downtown area for the Washington Building’s future residents.

“We are excited to contribute to the transformation of Tacoma’s historic district to help anchor this part of town with its architecturally-important buildings, and make this a premier, downtown destination to live, work and play,” added Currier.

The preservation of the Washington Building is one of several planned renovations of historic structures in Tacoma’s downtown core. The approximately $25 million hotel and brewery development by McMenamins of the century-old, seven-story Tacoma Elks Lodge on Pacific Avenue is expected to open in fall 2017.  McMenamins is also planning to convert the nearby Old City Hall into a boutique hotel.  Expected completion of the conversion of the Washington Building into apartments is late summer 2018.

“We’re thrilled to see the investment in the Washington Building and it’s great to see the focus on housing that more downtown employees can afford. Creating great spaces to live in a walkable community, close to quality jobs, is so important for the vibrancy of downtown. We look forward to working with the Unico team to make transportation options available to new residents,” said Kristina Walker, Executive Director of Downtown On the Go.

Unico Properties LLC is a real estate investor and full-service operator focused on office and multifamily assets in the Western United States. For more than 60 years its investors and partners have relied on Unico for its local knowledge, institutional rigor, and boutique service, which consistently deliver results.  Founded in 1953, Unico is headquartered in Seattle.

With more than 10 million square feet of LEED-certified properties, the company is a leader in sustainable best practices, developing and managing some of the world’s highest performing green buildings.

On the web: www.unicoprop.com

The Washington Building, on Pacific Ave. in Tacoma, was built in 1925. Credit:  Unico Properties.
The Washington Building, on Pacific Ave. in Tacoma, was built in 1925. Credit: Unico Properties.

 

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