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619 Western Building On Verge Of Dramatic Comeback

Written by Stephen Cohen

A drive on the Alaskan Way Viaduct along the waterfront reveals a buzz of activity at the 619 Western building near Pioneer Square. But it's what will happen after the viaduct is taken down in that will make the renovation really special.

The former warehouse and renowned artist workspace, owned by L & B Property Investments LLC, is in prime position to take advantage of dramatic Elliott Bay and Olympic Mountain views when the viaduct comes down in early 2016. It's something potential tenants are already aware of.

"We're noticing that there are firms that are anticipating (the viaduct demolition), and we're anticipating that as well," said broker Stanley Piha of Stanley Real Estate. "So from the standpoint of doing lease negotiations, we recognize that there is a transition period that they get in first. So they're going to end up dealing with that transition at the beginning, and they're entitled to the benefit after the viaduct."

As it stands now, prospective tenants will have the opportunity to work in a painstakingly restored building with original elements, modern amenities and tremendous skyline views.

The renovation, designed by Ron Wright & Associates and contracted by GLY Construction, will feature two retail/restaurant spaces on the first floor (5,248 and 5,251 square feet, respectively), while the second through sixth floors will be used for office rentals. The developers took care to preserve as much of the building as they could, using as much of the original floors and ceilings (after walnut shell-blasting), beams, columns and window frames as possible. "We've done our very utmost to be able to restore this in a manner in which it was," said Piha.

The developers faced a complicated task, juggling the responsibilities of a true historical renovations to National Parks requirements with the challenge of meeting modern safety standards while correcting major structural flaws. But after taking advantage of financing through historical tax credits and working alongside the Pioneer Square Preservation Board, the renovation has been an exercise in cooperation and compromise, said Piha.

"We have found the state representative and the city representatives very helpful in being able to work through the issues of trying to maintain a historical renovation without necessarily being able to meet the guidelines that are in place today for new construction," he said. "The governmental agencies have been really cooperative."

Tenants will be able to choose whether they want to take advantage of natural ventilation, use mechanical cooling system, or a combination of both. Heating will come from a radiant hot water system. A new parking garage has been added underneath the retail areas, and a key fob-accessed rooftop deck with dramatic skyline views will serve as a common area for all building tenants.

The owners are taking a page from another one of their properties (the Polson building next door at 71 Columbia Street) by permitting tenants to customize their floors. "We are allowing the tenants to pretty much design their own interior spaces," said Piha. "Next door, the floors are so different because they reflect the personality of the firms. And it becomes a happier place for their employees to do business based upon the way they conduct their practices."

Stanley Real Estate has already started marketing of the building, with occupancy anticipated around July of next year.