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‘One of Seattle’s biggest turds,’ north Broadway apartment building sells for $20.25M

(Image: King County)

Here’s what eight years and several million dollars will get you. Nearly a decade after its emergence as the early 2000s poster child for ugly mixed-use on Capitol Hill, the 700 Broadway apartment complex has been sold to a real estate investment company for $20.25 million.

“As the most densely populated neighborhood in Seattle, we expect Capitol Hill will be one of Seattle’s premier neighborhoods over the next decade and our property will definitely be a focal point given its highly visible location,” said Security Properties chief investment officer David Dufenhorst in a statement released by the Seattle-based investment firm.

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In 2004 when the building was completed, the reaction to the mixed-use mass was, at best, mixed. The Stranger documented this dispute over one critic’s attack on the building and the design by Weber + Thompson:

“A prime example of how mediocre architecture can drain Seattle’s vitality and saps our soul… a cacophony of shapes, details, and cheap materials… [a] debacle.” The development, Olson proclaimed, “blindly mimics but does not grasp the lessons of the past…. It’s squandered opportunities like this that erode everyday life.”


More recently, the site Fucked Architect let it rip on 700 Broadway: “… to celebrate the neighborhood’s culture and this property’s incredible potential, the architects at Weber Thompson totally dropped trouser and left behind one of Seattle’s biggest turds.”

The announcement refers to the building as “iconic” and says the company was drawn to 700 Broadway “because of the quality construction and its location, which boasts some of the highest rents and lowest vacancy in Seattle.”

The property is also prominently located at the north end of Broadway, five blocks from the future Capitol Hill Light Rail which, when complete in 2016, will provide light rail access to and from the airport, as well as downtown Seattle and the University of Washington. The property’s retail space is especially desirable, given the visibility down the pedestrian-friendly Broadway corridor.

700 Broadway includes 59 residential units and 10,673 square feet of retail. It is home to the Starbucks Roy Street Coffee location as well as a busy FedEx Kinko’s and the Russian-spirited cafe Kanape. A retail swath facing Broadway that was once home to a pizza joint and most recently a tanning salon has sat empty for months.

The new owners say they plan to spend $430,000 to make improvements to the building. Perhaps they can put some of that to use lobbying for a streetcar extension to connect north Broadway to the currently planned terminus at Denny.

The site circa 2003. It was already too late (Image: King County)

The sale is a payoff on a longterm investment by partners Terrance Lien and Martin Nelson. Records show they bought the property in 2000 from Union Oil Company for $1,050,000.

While there appears to be a trend of investment companies buying area apartment buildings over the past 12 months, most of the activity near this area has happened on First Hill. CHS did report on this $4.3 million sale of the Winston Apartment building on E Pike earlier this year. Seattle area vacancy rates have reportedly dipped into the 4% range in recent months.

Meanwhile, the apartment stock on Broadway will see a major boost early next year as the 230 Broadway building is expected to be completed. The project will add more than 200 apartment units to the street — and another 11,000 square feet of commercial space.

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39 thoughts on “‘One of Seattle’s biggest turds,’ north Broadway apartment building sells for $20.25M

  1. I kind of like that building. It isn’t the greatest architecture in the world, but it is better than the flat boring walls that you can find on the Hill. I also remember what was there before, a gas station, followed by a weed covered lot. This is better.

  2. Although the building is new (boo!) and apartments cost more than older nearby ones (boo! boo!) I don’t think the building is incongruous with the neighborhood. Heck, it’s just a couple of blocks south of million dollar mansions and within a block of two $100-a-person restaurants.

    The only thing about this story that surprises me is the price. I live in the Copperfield, which was sold recently for $16.4 million, and there is no way in this world that the Copperfield is 75% as nice as this building is.

  3. If I recall correctly, The Stranger also ragged on the low-income housing / Walgreens building at Broadway and Pine, which also took the place of… a gas station. Their pro-gasoline bias is duly noted.

  4. I agree as well. I don’t think this is an ugly building at all and although no one knows how a building will wear over time, what can be said about its uniqueness right now is that it is very unlike every other glass and steel mixed use building going up around CH. With the Loveless building next to it, and the Anhalt just a half a block, but visible to the east, I think the architects were very thoughtful in NOT erecting another modern glass building. But if there’s some legitimate reason the building actually sucks, I’d be open to hearing it but aethetically, I don’t believe so.

  5. With Harvard District to immediate north and Hipsters to the south, its not a terrible transition. Which building out there would have been a better model?

  6. yeah, I never thought that this was beautiful, but compared to the typical “minimum of four different kinds of random surfaces and colors from the bargain bin” style of architecture, I appreciated that this building at least showed some restraint by being mostly brick and blending in with its surroundings.

  7. While this building is no great shakes, I’ve never understood why there is such hate against it. It is certainly not even close to the ugliest new building around. At least it’s not another building with corrugated metal siding that looks like a tin roof shack.

  8. I just moved out of Copperfield. The building is pretty crappy, but the location is more valuable than this “turd” on broadway.

  9. Imagine a 100 years into the future, I bet the people around will be trying to save this “turd” from being demolished like the we’re trying to save the Melrose building today. Time makes ugly and hideous into unique and character filled.

  10. This building isn’t all that ugly. It’s not as ugly as the box thing on 12th and Harrison this blog raved about a few weeks ago. (at least, on the outside. Never been inside the two to compare the insides)

  11. At per unit prices like that, only top of the market rents can justify these kind of sale prices. And with every new development in the pipeline, the gentrification of Capitol Hill keeps picking up more and more steam. Before long, the ONLY people who will be living on Capitol Hill will be yuppies working in SLU or Redmond and 20-something hipsters who are willing to spend every last dime on rent because they have nothing else to support except their PBR habits.

    This neigbhorhoods days are numbers for anyone who either doesn’t make $100k+ a year or is under 24.

  12. I don’t understand how anyone could consider this building “a turd” when compared to ANY other building on Capitol Hill built after the 1940’s. It’s brick & stucco. It’s modern but classic. I live here, so I admit the materials (inside) are as cheap as they come, but unless you’re blind, the exterior is far better looking than most buildings on the hill. Generally speaking, I’m proud to live here.

  13. of ever uglier so-called mixed-use (limited to corporate chains) buildings. It’s both uglier for being the trendsetter, and less ugly because the city lets developers do whatever they want to maximize profits. Seattle will regret letting development happen this way eventually.

  14. It looks better than the Jouel (sp?). The brick is not the best looking, but I like the scale, the in and out facades, etc.

    The retail is terrible… the “secret starbucks” sums up N capitol hill.

  15. There used to be an architecture critic for the PI. The critic pointed to how bad Weber Thompson projects have turned out. Free/True speech was quashed by Weber Thompsons attorneys. You can however find Weber on the cover of numerous magazines as he has a PR group pimp his name out wherever possible.

  16. I feel that if people understood how these buildings are bought and sold there would be a greater understanding of what gets built and why here in the PNW, especially Cap Hill. These buildings are investments, pure and simple. And while I don’t love this one, it is indeed a lot better, from a materials standpoint (brick exterior), than a lot being built right now, hence the higher price. But what it comes down to is rents. The vacancy rate on Cap Hill is like 2% right now, and rents are skyrocketing, meaning these buildings make a handsome profit. Which is why all these other buildings are going up right now! Who can get in, and how fast, before the Light Rail is up and the neighborhood is 100% gentrified.

  17. OH come on, I’ve seen far worse buildings on Capitol Hill being built now. The ones that look like cardboard boxes. It’s not a bad building. I currently live in this place as well. Very curious what the new management will be like as well as these “$430,000 to make improvements to the building”. I imagine the rent will increase now. Then I might think of moving.

  18. I’ve lived in this building for a long time now, and really love it. After living on the east side for way too long, I wanted to move to the city, and happened to walk by this building without doing any prior research. Compared to the rest of the buildings I see going up on Capitol Hill and elsewhere, the brick design, real balconies, and location were completely perfect for me.

    I obviously don’t know much about architecture and such, but the building’s well-built, and seems to at least have some character and sense of differentiation. I didn’t know about its business struggles and such, but in terms of structure and design, it seems like anything but a “turd”. My wife and I will be happy to live here for much longer.

  19. I’m siding with those that don’t consider this a turd. I don’t live here, but have never found the building to be an eyesore in any way. It’s brick, somewhat classy and seems to fit the area. Maybe it’s considered a turd because it was a trend-setter? But in light of other more recent construction, I don’t see how it can be considered as such. I’m also not one to go around hating on all the new construction. Some of it is nice, some of it is uninspired. Time will tell.

  20. It’s a faux-old horror made up of cheap modern materials, like current Las Vegas architecture. I’m not saying it’s not nice to live in, but looking at it from the outside is not pleasant. The original negative review in the PI was dead on target.

  21. I find it unfortunate people are finding this building passable by way of comparisons with the more recent mediocre structures that have gone up since. Makes me wonder if 700 Broadway set (or significantly contributed to) a lower bar for the quality of architecture in the neighborhood.

    And the fact the location is such a prominent one, makes it all the more disappointing.

  22. The Tashiro Kaplan building in Pioneer Square was built around the same time, has a similar size footprint and has nearly the same number of units. TK has 50, and 700 Broadway has 59. Both have ground floor retail. I don’t know what construction costs were for 700 B’way, but TK was $16.5m, which is pretty modest – only $158 per square foot to build. So I don’t imagine that 700 B’way could have cost much less – I’d be surprised if it were more, given how it looks. I didn’t do the math on rents to see how they compare, but the one and two bedrooms look comparable per month, and TK has income restrictions.

    But TK fits the personality of the neighborhood with a clean, early century facade and high floor to ceiling heights that open up the window spaces and create a light and inviting structure, with wide sidewalk spaces that people walk along.

    In contrast, 700 B’way is a dark, squat, uninviting jumble of finishes, visual references and unfinished/undeveloped design ideas. And no disrespect to anyone living there; I’m sure its fine when you’re inside looking out.

    Its a lost opportunity to have created something that fit the neighborhood better, with more visual appeal and that enhanced the street experience much more that it does. Its not about whether its better than a gas station. And it could have been so much better. Even a very modern/clean building could have fit well there juxtaposed against the older structures. But my guess is that Weber Thompson presented a few ideas to the developer and this is the one they picked.

  23. So right! Given the existence of hideous projects like Citizen at 13th & Madison with its multiplicity of horrid colors, I’m more okay with something subtle even if it’s otherwise boring/sad. Brick, or the appearance of it, goes a long way compared to a lot of what’s being built around here lately.

  24. I agree. It’s far from perfect, but perhaps the new owners upgrading will make a positive difference. It’s certainly a far better use for that property than the old gas station. Urban density is a good thing.

  25. TK was a retrofit of, and expansion upon, an existing building and it used copious amounts of public subsidy because is was developed as affordable housing. Not a good comparison.

    I love people bitching about rents being too high and then asking for higher quality design and materials.

  26. This really reads a lot more like a personal attack on the architect and the building owner than a report on the sale of the building and continued development plans (whether they be good or bad). Is the building great? No. Is it bad enough to warrant eight years of whining? Probably not. There are taller, cheaper looking, and more contextually inappropriate buildings with more foreboding retail space we could tear apart that have been built much more recently.

  27. I like the building.It looks better than a lot of other buildings on Capitol Hill. And it fits in well with the north end of the neighborhood.

  28. We used to live in 700 Broadway and loved the building and never found anything wrong with the structure. Loved how you could just get everything you wanted just steps away from your front door. Just wish we stayed there and not have moved.