The buyer is a Los Angeles real-estate investment group that specializes in revitalizing old corporate campuses.
Los Angeles-based Industrial Realty Group paid $70.5 million Tuesday for the Federal Way campus of Weyerhaeuser and says it plans to sell off large pieces for redevelopment.
The corporate campus, about 23 miles south of Seattle along Interstate 5, covers 425 acres and nearly 811,000 square feet of office, lab and industrial space, officials said. With suburban office markets across the nation in a slump, Federal Way officials and neighbors are eager to see what the buyer proposes to do with surplus land surrounding existing buildings.
“That’s been a big fear: People think the meadows are going to be single-family dwellings or multifamily housing,” said Brian Wilson, chief of staff to Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell. “We want to see job growth.”
Weyerhaeuser, one of the Pacific Northwest’s oldest companies, moved from Tacoma to the campus in 1971. But in August 2014, it shook up the region’s office market by announcing it would relocate to a new building in downtown Seattle in summer 2016.
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The rare availability of so much developable land in the Seattle suburbs drew bids from institutional investors around the world. But ultimately Weyerhaeuser chose privately held IRG, which has a 100 million-square-foot portfolio.
Revitalizing old corporate campuses has become the Los Angeles real-estate firm’s sweet spot, including former McClellan Air Force Base near Sacramento, Goodyear Tire and Rubber’s home base in Ohio and recently drugmaker Pfizer’s headquarters in Pearl River, N.Y.
The former Air Force base, now called McClellan Park, has about 15,000 people working on it in industrial space, aircraft hangers, a luxury hotel, housing and restaurants, among others, according to IRG.
While IRG officials say the firm tapped foreign capital through the EB-5 visa program to help redevelop McClellan, Goodyear and a handful of other campuses, they don’t plan to raise money through EB-5 for the Federal Way project.
John Mase, IRG’s chief executive, said the firm expects one or more tenants to lease the widely admired, five-story Weyerhaeuser headquarters, with its signature green terraces. It was one of the first open-landscape office designs in the U.S., officials said, maximizing natural daylight and visibility in the building. The campus has lush gardens and trails IRG plans to maintain.
County records show IRG paid $70.5 million for the property.
A Weyerhaeuser official said the timber company will continue to lease the technology center on the campus for research and development even after the corporate headquarters moves into a new 150,000-square-foot building at 200 Occidental Ave. S. in Pioneer Square.
Stuart Lichter, IRG’s president, said Tuesday he expects the bulk of the surplus land to be converted to office and industrial use. But the company must contend with a nationwide slump in demand for suburban offices as corporations like Weyerhaeuser flock to urban centers.
“Companies are migrating to the city because they perceive they need to attract talent,” Lichter said. “The dichotomy between what you can lease a suburban building and downtown building for has never been this wide.”
But he expects that at some point, the pendulum will swing back and some companies will leave pricey downtowns to cheaper suburban digs — but won’t want to sacrifice quality surroundings.
“We feel we have by far the best building,” Lichter said.