December 2014

Unico’s buying spree continues with $70M acquisition of Brooks’ new HQ

A joint venture of Unico Properties and Laird Norton Properties has bought Stone34, the new super-green office/retail building that houses Brooks Sports’ headquarters in the Fremont/Wallingford area of Seattle.

Unico and Laird Norton Properties paid Skanska USA Commercial Development nearly $70.1 million for the asset, according to a deed that was recorded with King County on Friday. Stone34 is at the foot of Stone Way North near where the Burke Gilman Trail winds along the north shore of Lake Union.

The sale price works out to $539 a square foot. That’s less than the $749 a foot that a similar-sized new South Lake Union building that’s leased to sold for 2013. Unlike that building, which is called 202 Westlake, Stone34 is farther from the central business district and is on leased land that the Fremont Dock Co. owns.

As the headquarters of a global company like Brooks, Stone34 is the type of asset that is often attractive to big institutional investors like pension funds. It’s also the type of property that is somewhat unusual for Unico and Laird Norton Properties to buy.

Laird Norton Properties President Nick Pavelich said that his company and Unico often focus their sights on properties that need to be repositioned to realize their full value. These kinds of assets are often “below institutions’ crosshairs or not attractive” to them, Pavelich said.

With more than $400 million in real estate assets, Laird Norton Properties is the largest subsidiary of the 159-year-old Laird Norton Co. Unico is also a long-time Seattle company that buys and operates office and apartment properties in the West. The five-story Stone34 has 21,000 square feet of retail space. Brooks’ flagship store occupies one storefront and outdoor equipment retailer Miir has leased the space next door for its flagship outlet. The other retail slots are still for lease.

Unico has been on a buying spree. Separate from Laird Norton Properties, Unico recently bought three old brick buildings in Seattle’s Pioneer Square, and it’s rumored that Unico is buying the venerable Smith Tower.

Stone34 was the first commercial real estate development in Seattle for Skanska, the Swedish construction giant that self-financed all of the project’s development costs. The company, which is known for developing energy-efficient projects, built Stone34 to qualify for the city of Seattle’s Deep Green Pilot Program, which requires 75 percent energy and water savings. Stone34 also has a large outdoor public plaza with edible landscaping.
“Stone34… pave[s] the way for greener and more community oriented commercial buildings,” Skanska Executive Vice President Lisa Picard said in a press release.

Skanska is also developing an office/retail project in South Lake Union, an apartment project in Bellevue and a high-rise in downtown Seattle.

Read the original article by Marc Stiles at the Puget Sound Business Journal here.