From their roots in historic renovation, Lake Union Partners’ principals have quickly expanded into new development projects at strategic spots around the city.
Financial Armageddon brought the four principals of Lake Union Partners together.
Joe Ferguson, Patrick Foley and Tyson Feaster worked together at Pioneer Development, a Seattle firm that bought historic buildings and converted them to condominiums.
But the financial crisis of 2008 crippled the projects hatched during the good times. Pioneer Development folded. Ferguson and Foley found themselves standing on a curb, wondering what to do next.
“That was the genesis of Lake Union Partners,” recalls Foley.
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Feaster, who had left Pioneer earlier to be a construction loan officer at Wells Fargo, was in; so was the fourth partner, Scott Roberts, who’d previously worked with Foley and brought expertise in construction management.
As a startup, Lake Union Partners focused initially on selling consulting services to developers, property owners and investors.
Jobs included obtaining the permit for what eventually became Cirrus, the luxury-apartment tower across from Amazon.com’s new high-rise campus.
Gradually, however, with the backing of local investors, the firm shifted to developing its own projects in central neighborhoods in Seattle and Portland.
In 2013, the firm scored success on Seattle’s Capitol Hill with the opening of 19th & Mercer, a 50-unit building with four local retail tenants. The apartments leased up quickly.
The secret to its success: Early on, the developer struck a deal with restaurateur Linda Derschang.
She opened Tallulah’s, a New American cafe with outdoor seating, in the new building. Friends followed, including gourmet ice cream retailer Molly Moon’s — whose owner roped in cookie baker Robin Wehl Martin.
That project led to Lake Union Partners’ next deal: It just so happened the Wehl family had listed for sale the landmarked Schoenfeld Building, a 125-year-old brick structure on First Avenue between Madison and Spring streets.
In the fierce competition among buyers for downtown real estate, Lake Union Partners got a thumbs-up from Martin.
“That little nuance helped us get the deal,” Ferguson said.
These days, in addition to their renovation of the Eitel Building, Lake Union Partners’ pipeline is humming with projects of all types and sizes.
• At another high-profile spot, 820 Roy St., just north of Amazon.com’s campus in South Lake Union, the firm has partnered with Talon Private Capital and Chicago-based Walton Street Capital to develop a seven-story building that would open in fall 2017.
The firm envisions a local grocer on the ground floor, topped by six floors of offices.
The site was long the home of two businesses: Buco di Beppo Italian Restaurant, which recently moved a block east, and motorcycle dealer Ducati Seattle, which moved to Lake City.
• Next month, after a massive renovation of the Schoenfeld Building for commercial office space, the firm reopens it as The Standard. One addition: a sixth floor, with a “jewel box” office penthouse and deck.
• In October the firm opened Rooster, a 197-unit mid-rise apartment complex that’s a short walk from a light-rail station in Seattle’s Roosevelt neighborhood. Parking is provided for about 60 percent of the units. It’s more than 80 percent leased, Foley said.
“We think it’s a great case study in density,” Ferguson said.
• And in the Central District, the firm has three apartment projects totaling 277 units along East Union Avenue, where it hopes to create a critical mass of new residents to support their ground-floor retail tenants and the corridor itself.
The first project, called The Central, opens Feb. 1, followed in March by another called Stencil. The third, East Union, will start construction this summer.