KING 5’s owner is close to signing a long-term lease that would move the television station’s headquarters from South Lake Union to the Sodo neighborhood across from Safeco Field, according to commercial real-estate sources.
The NBC affiliate’s owner, Gannett, has agreed to terms with American Life, Sodo’s largest private landowner and developer of the Home Plate Center complex in the 1500 block of First Avenue South, said two sources familiar with the details.
The television station is expected to occupy about 70,000 square feet on the first, second and third floors of Home Plate Center’s 158,000-square-foot North building, said Flinn Ferguson broker Brian Hayden, who’s not involved in the negotiations.
The six-story North building was completed in 2012. RealNetworks, a digital-media-technology company, leases about 86,000 square feet on the top three floors.
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KING 5 envisions a studio on the first floor so passers-by could peek at its live broadcasts on game days, similar to how “Today” televises its shows in New York, Hayden said.
Ray Heacox, the station’s president and general manager, acknowledged in an interview that Home Plate Center was one of the sites being considered. He said executives at Virginia-based Gannett would make the final decision within a month.
In April, KING 5 said it would move its studios and 300-person staff out of its Dexter Avenue headquarters. Booming land values in South Lake Union prompted the station’s owner to explore selling the headquarters and moving the operation to a new site.
But selecting a site is tricky. “Building a television studio inside any pre-existing building is not a simple thing,” Heacox said Thursday.
The new site won’t have a helipad; the station shares a helicopter with KOMO-TV, which has a helipad on its rooftop.
Asked about the possibility of a first-floor studio at Home Plate Center, Heacox said, “If that were our location, we would always love to be in a location where we could have as much contact with the public as possible.”
A Gannett spokesman said the company had no further comment.
A KING 5 employee who wasn’t authorized to speak said some employees also have heard the station would move to Home Plate Center, but that a lease had not been signed yet.
Officials at American Life couldn’t be reached immediately for comment.
KING 5’s current headquarters on Dexter Avenue — occupying the entire block between Harrison and Thomas streets — is widely expected to be sold and demolished to make room for a new building.
South Lake Union, anchored by Amazon.com and home to a growing number of tech startups and biotech firms, is one of the nation’s hottest office markets.
The station’s 155,000-square-foot building was built in 1947 — with major renovations in the 1980s — and was the corporate headquarters of King Broadcasting, founded by Dorothy Bullitt.
The building includes satellite dishes on its roof, two sound studios and a basement gym that’s so dated the dumbbells are labeled “Property of D. Bullitt,” according to a former employee.
The company was sold to Dallas-based Belo in the 1990s, and last year Gannett acquired Belo.
KING 5 has relatively few choices in its hunt for space: As vacancy in the downtown office market has fallen to just over 10 percent, so have the number of large vacant office spaces.
There were just five buildings in downtown Seattle’s central-business district with more than 50,000 contiguous square feet in the second quarter, according to the Broderick Group, a Seattle commercial real-estate brokerage.
Another broker, Dan Dahl at Colliers International, said KING 5 likely needs high ceilings, large floorplates, convenient loading bays and reliable access to electricity for its television operations.
KING 5 could conceivably lease space in Home Plate Center’s 186,000-square-foot South building, which was completed last year and remains largely unoccupied.
But American Life is more likely to lease the remaining space in the North building to KING, rather than break up a precious large block that might be coveted by a bigger tenant, said a third commercial real-estate broker who spoke on condition of anonymity.
American Life also owns the building behind Home Plate Center known as Stadium Innovation Center, which has a 2 megawatt generator and data-center infrastructure — both potentially useful facilities for a television station.