Seattle's tallest building sold

Updated: 2015-08-13 12:04

By Linda Deng in Seattle(China Daily USA)

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 Seattle's tallest building sold

Columbia Center, the city's tallest skyscraper, was built 30 years ago. At 943 feet, it is the second-tallest structure on the West Coast. Provided to China Daily

Hong Kong group cuts one of the biggest deals in region's history; Gaw Capital Partners finishes purchase of 76-story Columbia Center

Hong Kong-based Gaw Capital Partners completed its purchase of the 76-story Columbia Center in Seattle for $711million on August 7.

It ranks as one of the biggest real-estate transactions in the region's history and it is the first time a big Asian investment firm has acquired a trophy tower in Seattle.

Asian institutional investors have been shopping for deals in the Seattle area over the past year, but Gaw Capital's successful bid for a trophy tower against domestic funds and long-established European investors

The Wealth-X and Sotheby's International Realty Global Luxury Residential Real Estate Report 2015 suggested a wave of foreign-direct investment and immigration has arrived to the Pacific Northwest as an alternative to traditional West Coast gateway markets.

"We know that some secondary markets have become a primary focus for many savvy overseas investors - they target and help to create the next global cities," says Dean Jones, president and CEO of Seattle-based Realogics Sotheby's International Realty. "The Seattle/Bellevue metro area has gained favor as a destination for those from China."

Asian funds have bought other commercial properties in the region. Last year a Chinese group paid $30 million for the First Congregational Church's 1.5-acre property in downtown Bellevue.

This February Plus Investment USA, backed by investors from mainland China, paid nearly $46 million for a large site in downtown Bellevue. The site is said to be developed into a large mixed-use residential development in downtown Bellevue.

Columbia Center becomes the largest office property in Gaw Capital's U.S. portfolio, which includes buildings in San Francisco, New York and Chicago, according to the firm's website.

Investment by Chinese institutions, corporate funds and wealthy individuals in global commercial real estate reached an all-time peak of $10 billion last year, according to brokerage CBRE.

The US attracted one-fifth of that total, with a majority going into hotels, offices and development sites, the commercial-real-estate brokerage said.

The Hurun Report says a majority of millionaires in China want to invest in and plan to eventually live in North America. The Seattle-Bellevue metro area has been a hot destination for Chinese seeking real estate.

"The reason that Seattle/Bellevue is coming into favor (especially for the rising middle class) is this goal is closer, less expensive and has a propensity for greater capital appreciation as our region plays catch up to other West Coast markets." Jones comments on the increasing interests of the wealth to the region.

Gaw Capital also has a pending deal to buy the 27-story Seattle Tower, a historic office building also in the central business district at the corner of Third Avenue and University Street, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Marc Berger, account supervisor of China Practice at Nyhus Communications said he is confident that the Greater Seattle Region will be a popular destination for the Chinese business investors in the near future not only in the real estate market but also in the industries that Seattle has already showed leadership, such as Information technology, aerospace, bio technology and life science.