Financial Distress Relieved, Smith Tower Seeks To Build Occupancy

By Alex Girda, Associate Editor, and Paul Rosta, Senior Editor Closing a chapter of financial distress for Seattle’s first high-rise office building, the Smith Tower has come under ownership of CBRE Capital Partners.  The firm was the sole bidder for the century-old building and offered $36.8 million at a King County foreclosure auction last month, the [...]

Closing a chapter of financial distress for Seattle’s first high-rise office building, the Smith Tower has come under ownership of CBRE Capital Partners.  The firm was the sole bidder for the century-old building and offered $36.8 million at a King County foreclosure auction last month, the Puget Sound Business Journal reported.

The acquisition culminated a process that began last October, when CBRE Capital bought the debt on both the Smith Tower and the neighboring Florence Tower from Munchener Hypothenkenbank for $42.5 million. Goodman Real Estate Inc. has served as court-appointed receiver since December.

That debt sale, in turn, stemmed from a loan default by Walton Street Capital, which bought the properties in 2006 and intended to convert the 252,000-square-foot Smith Tower to 150 condominiums, the Business Journal noted. But when the condo market went south, Walton Street cut back the residential redevelopment to only the top 12 floors of the 42-story building. Office tenants headed for the exits, and today the office portion of the building is only about 20 percent occupied.

If the new ownership can ride Seattle’s improving office market to boost occupancy, it will mark a turnaround for the 522-foot-tall building, which was the fourth tallest in the world when it opened in 1914. Among other distinctions, it also was the tallest building west of the Mississippi for 20 years as well as the tallest on the West Coast until completion of Seattle’s Space Needle in 1962.

Photo Credit: user X-Weinzar via Wikimedia Commons