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Friday, December 14, 2007

Loser of the Year: Wright Runstad

posted by on December 14 at 13:40 PM

As we speak, Amazon and Vulcan lobbyists are calling city council members and squashing a rumor that’s intended to derail their South Lake Union deal.

The rumor? Development company Wright Runstad has an alternative property deal for Amazon.

Here’s the story: Wright Runstad got a sweet deal from the city back in the late 90s to redevelop the PacMed building on Beacon Hill and voila, score their high-dollar tenant, Amazon.

However, with Amazon looking to expand (that is: move to Vulcan’s South Lake Union property), Wright Runstad is losing a major tenant.

To add insult to injury, Wright Runstad is about to lose big when the Council votes on Monday to protect industrial zoning in SoDo and Georgetown. Indeed, Judy Runstad has been e-mailing and lobbying council to allow commercial developments there.

Here’s an e-mail she sent to council member Richard Conlin after he tried, unsuccessfully so far, to amend the industrial zoning legislation to make room for more commercial development:

“Judith Runstad” 12/13/2007 12:06 PM >>> Thank you for trying to bring some rational thought to the discussion yesterday. In my almost 35 years of land use, I have never seen anything so sweeping or potentially damaging with so little thought and data. I hope you will continue to press on this in the new year. Judy

Why is Judy Runstad hot on rezoning to allow commercial? Because Wright Runstad is trying to derail Vulcan’s deal in South Lake Union by putting together a competing deal with Amazon, using land owned by Runstad’s client, SoDo property owner Henry Liebman. Liebman owns a 22,609 square foot piece of property in SoDo.

At least Wright Runstad wants the council to believe they’ve got a deal in the works.

Amazon went on the offensive today to save their deal with Vulcan. Their lobbyist (and Vulcan’s) is calling council members right now to tell them: “You know this Wright Runstad deal you’re hearing about… It’s not true!”

This is a serious burn on Wright Runstad. They’re on the losing end of a sweetheart deal for Vulcan after benefitting for years off their own sweetheart deal at PacMed.

What goes around comes around. Here’s a suggestion for Wright Runstad: Turn PacMed into condos. Killer views.

Footnote: Of course, Vulcan is the big winner. If no industrial land is rezoned to allow commercial, then Vulcan’s remaining properties in South Lake Unionówhich is being rezonedóbecome that much more valuable.

RSS icon Comments


Maybe Jamie Pedersen and Joel Horn can ride to Wright Runstad's rescue again this time...

Posted by Joe | December 14, 2007 1:43 PM

Wright Runstad rocks. I love them. I can't get enough of them. I'm going to start a band called Write Runstad & Company. We're going to sing Beatles songs and do some death dances for Mr. Feit. It's going to rule.

Posted by Mr. Poe | December 14, 2007 1:43 PM

The real loser is the public.

Instead of competition -- which would happen if both sites were availalbe to Amazon -- including competition over the amount of "public benefits" and ayment to an affordable housing fund -- we will get a legal monopoly favoring Vulcan if the only available site is SLU.

The whole SODO zoning restrictions being imposed are a form of monopoly and lack of competition.

Why not have Amazon in SODO, why not require them to build some rentals there too? It's certainly chepaer land than SLU and could probably bear the burden of the more affordable housing better.

Oh and why protect those current uses in SODO?
Nostalgia over density?

Amazon would help transform the whole SODO area (yes some folks would hate and some love that) .... we don't need an anchor tenant for SLU it already has one.

Posted by unPC | December 14, 2007 1:44 PM

*Wright. Oops.

Posted by Mr. Poe | December 14, 2007 1:45 PM

Poe, you told me that you only sang E.L.O. covers.

You fucking liar.

Posted by wisepunk | December 14, 2007 1:48 PM

That wasn't the only lie I told you.

Posted by Mr. Poe | December 14, 2007 1:49 PM

I worked in the PacMed building during the Nisqually Quake in aught whatever, and I can tell you that I'd never ever ever EVAR live in a condo in that damn building.

Unless I wanted to die.

Posted by el ganador | December 14, 2007 1:55 PM

The whole SODO zoning restrictions being imposed are a form of monopoly and lack of competition.

Well, yes! But why having zoning at all, really?

Seriously, though, it is one means to preserve local industries within the city, and ensure that our local economy doesn't just become dot-com monoculture. Rezone SoDo, and the Port of Seattle is going to become much less competitive when compared to Tacoma. it is a very, very blunt instrument, but controlling land costs and rents for industrial businesses through zoning is really the only thing that a city can do.

Posted by bma | December 14, 2007 1:59 PM

I agree with @3. The Stranger just blindly picks a side and can't think rationally. You are all for density so why would you be opposed to development in Georgetown. On one hand the Stranger is decrying personal politics while it is practicing it in the same piece. Brilliant.

Posted by left coast | December 14, 2007 2:00 PM

So I assume that you aren't the leading producer of midget shitting porn in the world. The things that I will believe while drinking...

Posted by wisepunk | December 14, 2007 2:02 PM

@3 A monopoly? Really? Vulcan owns all commercial land in Seattle. Wow. I didn't know that! Thanks for the info.

Preserving an industrial sector in our economy is not being nostalgic. To be resilient against the fluctuations of retail/service and high-tech R&D, it's a wise strategy. There will come a day when the US will have to manufacture more on their own; it'd be nice if Seattle had the capacity.

Are homogenous zones the best to protect industrial (or any other land use)? Debatable, but it's what we got now.

Posted by smiles | December 14, 2007 2:15 PM

Better yet, they could turn PacMed into a veteran's hospital....

Posted by NapoleonXIV | December 14, 2007 2:18 PM

@6, so Mr. Poe, does that mean that you don't think Mitt Romney brings lust to your heart?

I am shocked ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | December 14, 2007 2:37 PM

unPC: Oh and why protect those current uses in SODO?
Nostalgia over density?

Why protect current uses? What about 12,000 plus jobs? What about cheaper goods? Less pollution and less damage to roads? These aren't good enough reasons for you?

Posted by dairmuid | December 14, 2007 2:46 PM

Who the hell is Mitt Romney?

Posted by Mr. Poe | December 14, 2007 2:49 PM

Could Paul Allen have picked a more threatening name than Vulcan? Seriously, it sounds as if our fair city needs a superhero.

Posted by it's ME | December 14, 2007 3:17 PM
Posted by tpn | December 14, 2007 3:18 PM


Having that industrial zone in that place is not the "only" thing we can do -- and suggesting it is the only possible zoning that has benefits is fairly stupid.

There are pros and cons for zoning in general and for particular zoning, OK?

But it insults intelligence to act like there are only benefits and no costs in any particular zoning.

HEre we have been worrying about Vulcan screaming we will lose Amazon if the City does not cave in to Vulcan's position on the payment to the affordable housing fund.

If Amazon has another choice (a/k/a competition via W.Runstad in SODO) then we, the City, have a card to play: squeezing more pbulic benefit out of the deal because duh, the land in SODO would be cheaper.

I know the theory of cognitive dissonance means if you like undustrial zoning you want to deny that....but it's a fact.

BTW you can still conclude it is outweighed by nostalgia, jobs or any other "plus" you see in the industrial zoning.

The point is all the costs and benefits should be considered instead of a knee jerk reaction.

Posted by unPC | December 14, 2007 3:19 PM

Seattle has a pretty significant competitive advantage in the global market place because of its policies to retain its industrial sector. Zoning is one of the tools we have at hand. We have capital infrastructure investments and human capital as well.

As the rest of the county slides into recession Seattle's economy remains strong partially because we are a major player in the global trade and manufacturing economies.

The family wage union jobs are certainly a part of it but don't delude yourself into believing that we don't all benefit from an industrial retention strategy. This sector helps to diversify our economy during cyclical downturns (and saved our asses in the dot com bust). I also happen to think itís a worthwhile policy goal to protect blue collar family wage jobs in Seattle. Itís certainly more than that but thatís good too.

Posted by Econ Junkie | December 14, 2007 4:10 PM

@19 - unless you work at WaMu or any of the other firms that laid off tons of people ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | December 14, 2007 4:25 PM

@20 - I don't think I would consider WaMu a manufacturing or industrial business...

Posted by Econ Junkie | December 14, 2007 4:36 PM

I can add a bit to WR's burn, or history. Whatever.
I work in one of the Met Park buildings - a Wright Runstad property.
They were trying to sell those properties this past year and finally found a buyer (sorry, can't remember their name, but they were headquartered in SF). Things got all hot and heavy between WR and the buyer - and it got to the point that the buyers were meeting with building tenants to tell them about how great their new building owners were going to be.
And then. Nothing.
The whole deal fell through, or was aborted. And last I heard the Met Park properties are no longer for sale. Maybe they realized three buildings near SLU and full of tenants isn't such a bad thing.

Posted by camille | December 14, 2007 5:14 PM

Another Josh Feit classic. Umm, Judy Runstad's law firm representes Vulcan in all its South Lake Union developments. Do you seriously think she's trying to derail a Vulcan project?

Posted by kk | December 17, 2007 4:32 PM

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