Share story

A large site facing Lake Union was acquired this week for nearly $80 million by a developer who has proposed building 800 apartments there.

Holland Partner Group, a Vancouver, Wash.-based real-estate group, bought the 5.5-acre redevelopment site from Chicago-based Equity Office Properties. The site is between Westlake Avenue North and Dexter Avenue North and spans several blocks from just south of Highland Drive to Galer Street.

In preliminary plans filed with the city, Holland proposes to spend about $165 million developing 800 apartments in phases in buildings up to 65 feet high. Holland also has a land-use permit expiring in January 2016 to develop a six-story office building with nearly 150,000 square feet at 1101 Westlake Avenue North.

On Thursday, a Holland official said the company expected to develop that office building and refurbish the former Casey Family Programs building at 1300 Dexter Ave. N.

Tom Parsons, president of Holland Development LLC, said the site was “very desirable” for a hotel as well.

The transaction includes two other buildings that are likely to be demolished in the future: 1271 Westlake Ave. N., home to boating-goods retailer West Marine; and 1287 Westlake Ave. N., a small brick structure.

Most of the site was once owned by the nonprofit Casey Family Programs, which sold the property in 2006 for $52 million.

On its website, Equity Office once marketed Westlake Steps as “an unprecedented opportunity to be part of the most electrifying redevelopment Seattle has seen in decades.”

The new owner, Holland, is a West Coast apartment developer with projects in Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona and Colorado.

According to its website, it has seven apartment projects in Seattle, of which four are in South Lake Union. A fifth is on the way: In October the city approved Holland’s 810 Dexter Avenue North, an eight-story building with 370 apartments.

In total, Holland has built or received permits for about 1,170 apartments in a neighborhood that’s transformed from a melange of homes, warehouses and industrial users into a hub of global corporate headquarters, biotech labs and tech startups.

“We see an opportunity to take an area of South Lake Union that has been in transition over the last 10 years,” Parsons said. “It’s just a phenomenal canvas that we get to paint on.”

Oscar Oliveira, managing director of the Broderick Group in Seattle, which was not involved with the sale, said the Westlake Steps deal is one of the largest land purchases in the city in years and all the more significant for its location.

South Lake Union already boasts the most expensive price-per-square-foot paid in 2013 for an office building — 202 Westlake — and among the highest apartment rents in the Puget Sound region.’s expansion has filled the neighborhood with thousands of employees hungry for apartments nearby.

South Lake Union, downtown and Belltown have one of the lowest apartment- vacancy rates in the city: Under 4 percent, according to Dupre+Scott, a leading apartment research firm.

Sanjay Bhatt: 206-464-3103 or On Twitter @sbhatt