Owners of soon-to-be neighboring towers in downtown Seattle are meeting in a courtroom; the Starbucks in Las Vegas will be offering the perfect site to people-watch; Bellevue’s MOD Pizza is booming.

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Two of downtown Seattle’s most prominent skyscrapers will soon stand shoulder to shoulder on Fifth Avenue, but right now their owners are elbowing each other in the courtroom.

Kevin Daniels, whose firm is now erecting the 44-story The Mark at Fifth and Columbia, has sued the owner of 76-story Columbia Center over “giant cables and shoring mechanisms” apparently left in the ground 30 years ago when the city’s tallest building was built.

These tiebacks, as they’re called, “extend from Columbia Center under Columbia Street” and onto the site of The Mark, according to the suit.

It’s a standard construction technique, says Kate Simonen, a structural engineer and associate professor of architecture at the University of Washington: “You literally are tying the soil back so it’s not going to move.”

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To hold the walls of vertical steel beams and horizontal timbers that frame the deep pit for a high-rise’s foundation, builders drill outward into the dirt and run anchored metal bars into those holes, she explains. They may then pump in pressurized concrete grout, and tension the bars for extra holding power.

“It’s very common that tiebacks will go across the street and across property lines. And they are often abandoned (in place).”

That’s all true, Daniels says in an interview, but when a builder needs to do that, “they usually get an easement from the property owners and it takes care of the costs.”

In this case, according to a letter filed by Daniels’ lawyer, those costs topped $550,000 — for delays, damaged equipment and additional labor to deal with the protruding gear.

The lawsuit says Daniels Real Estate, which bought the tower site and the adjacent 1908 domed church sanctuary from the First United Methodist Church in 2008, “is unaware of any agreement allowing installation of the tiebacks” in the first place. Now the company wants payment for the complications caused by the “continuing trespass.”

An attorney for Columbia Center Property LLC, the target of the suit, did not respond to calls seeking comment. Columbia Center Property this past week moved the lawsuit from King County Superior Court to federal court.

Daniels says his builders were aware that the tiebacks were somewhere on the site. When construction crews started to “pound down the big steel beams, (they) tried to avoid hitting the tiebacks … but we hit every one. And you can’t drive piles through solid concrete.”

Despite some delay, completion of the building is now scheduled for April 2017, he says. “We hit the bottom of the hole a few weeks back and are starting to build the infrastructure.”

Of course the sum in dispute is small compared to the projected $440 million to build The Mark, or to the $711 million paid this month by the new owner of Columbia Center, a Hong Kong-based investment fund.

That may be why Daniels says confidently, “We will resolve it with them at some point.”

— Rami Grunbaum: rgrunbaum@seattletimes.com

Vegas Starbucks’ stadium viewing

Some have compared the excessive delights of Las Vegas to the less savory days of the Roman Empire. So now Starbucks is providing some Circus Maximus-quality seating to see the hordes of pleasure-seekers walk by.

The Seattle coffee giant’s newest Vegas store, at the Grand Bazaar Shops, a 120-store development on the Strip, has three-tiered grandstand seating for 30 to 40 people. Starbucks says the unique feature is inspired by the terraces where coffee is grown.

Some 20 million people should walk by that part of Sin City every year, according to the shopping center’s calculations — providing Starbucks patrons what Las Vegas Weekly called a “buffet of world-class people watching.”

“Anything could happen, and we want it to,” the paper enthused. “The unfortunate flesh-colored leggings, the scrappy costumed characters, the Midwesterner who rocked a few too many booze-slushy guitars — yes, please. More, please. Thank you.”

The new store opened Monday. Aesthetically, it will provide some relief from the garish palette one has come to expect from the Strip. Its “neutral” colors with “serene architectural elements” will offset the visual vibrancy of Vegas, according to the company.

The stadium seating will be made of walnut wood, black steel, concrete and glass.

There won’t be any slot machines — but, like the city, it will be open 24 hours. And if the grandstand seating puts you off … well, there are at least 34 other Starbucks stores in four miles of Strip.

— Ángel González: agonzalez@seattletimes.com

MOD Pizza is booming

MOD Pizza, a Bellevue-based fast-casual pizza chain, said Wednesday it has more than tripled its head count since the beginning of the year to some 1,700 staffers as it expands aggressively across the U.S.

The company says it expects to have close to 2,500 employees and 100 stores open — up from 62, currently — by the end of the year.

MOD, founded in 2008 by a Bellevue couple who previously sold their U.K.-based coffee chain to Starbucks, is putting to use the more than $70 million it has raised from investors.

The company closed its most recent funding of some $40 million last March; that round was led by PWP Growth Equity, a private equity fund run by Perella Weinberg Partners.

MOD is seeking to carve a big slice of the red-hot market for fast-casual pizza.

Fast casual, which sits in between classic restaurants and fast food, focuses on better-quality ingredients and was first popularized by Chipotle Mexican Grill, but it’s pizza parlors that are the rage these days. Even Chipotle is experimenting with the format, through a venture dubbed Pizzeria Locale.

Many of MOD’s executives come from Starbucks and Qdoba, and several heavy hitters advise it, including Starbucks Chief Digital Officer Adam Brotman and Jim Alling, the CEO of TOMS Shoes and former T-Mobile chief operating officer.

— Ángel González: agonzales@seattletimes.com