Moving in after Amazon backed out: Inside Rainier Square, Seattle’s new office and residential tower


Rainier Square, a new high-rise office and residential building in the central business district of downtown Seattle. (GeekWire photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Two and a half years after Amazon stepped down from plans to occupy a huge new skyscraper in downtown Seattle, commercial and residential tenants are moving to Rainier Square, a curved glass tower that has occupied a prominent place on the city’s skyline.

The 58-story, 850-meter-tall building is located in a central business district along Union Street between 4th and 5th Avenues. It has 38 floors, or 734,000 square feet of office space, all of which are now available for sublet from Amazon, and 20 floors of residential units above, with 189 of the tallest homes in Seattle.

The building – second only to Columbia Tower six blocks south – is designed to overcome uncertainty as to whether workers will return to downtown office buildings after the pandemic-induced remote work. Concerns about crime and an abandoned population on the streets below are being traded for hope that Seattle’s boom can be realized in this so-called “vertical neighborhood”.

Moving in after Amazon backed out: Inside Rainier Square, Seattle’s new office and residential towerThe Space Needle is visible from the living room of a one-room apartment in Rainier Square. (GeekWire photo / Kurt Schlosser)
Floor-to-ceiling windows in the sky lobby on the 40th floor of Rainier Square, which serves as the starting point for the residences above. (GeekWire photo / Kurt Schlosser)

On a recent tour of the Residences in Rainier Square, GeekWire got the unobstructed views high above the rest of Seattle with views of Puget Sound, Mount Rainier and beyond from a variety of apartments priced starting at $ 3,000 per month for enjoyed an entry. One-bedroom, 720-square-foot, one-bedroom, at $ 25,000 a month for one of four sprawling 3,000-square-foot penthouses.

Are people ready to live in this place at this point in time?

“We think so,” said Holly Gardner, president of the Schuster Group, who serves as the owner’s representative for the Wright Runstad & Company residential development team. “I think, despite all of our challenges, Seattle has a proven history of recovering from these challenges. We firmly believe that we will do it again. “

So far it works for a unique class of apartment hunters in the city.

One of four 3,000 square meter penthouses on the 58th floor of Rainier Square. (GeekWire photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Rainier Square opened the doors to The Residences in late June and they are over 40% rented and 30% occupied. Two of the four penthouses on the 58th floor have already been taken. The building is unique in Seattle in that it offers leases for up to 20 years, which has attracted buyers from cities like New York and Chicago and elsewhere where this is the norm.

“Our homes start where everyone else in Seattle ends,” Gardner said. “There are no residential towers that are higher than 40 floors.”

Gardner also credits proximity to attractions in the heart of downtown such as civic, arts, and recreational activities. But the building itself has plenty of reasons not to venture far away, with free amenities on the upper floors such as business and entertainment spaces including private focus rooms, a conference room, maker room, gym, library, and full swing Golf simulator, indoor barbecue hangout and more.

Window cleaners make their way down the 850-foot Rainier Square building. (GeekWire photo / Kurt Schlosser)

At the base of the tower, a PCC Community Market will be created along with more retail outlets.

“You never really have to leave, it really is a vertical neighborhood,” Gardner said, adding that this lifestyle appeals to a mix of retirees, executives and business owners who have opted for the larger, higher-priced units, while tech workers like Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and elsewhere have snapped up cheaper apartments.

The sky lobby on the 40th floor is 170 m above the street and has glass walls from the floor to the 6 m high ceilings. On the 59th floor, above the penthouses, there are no windows and things have gone to the dogs, with a pet play area, private foster stations, and a patch of lawn that is changed every few weeks so dogs can sniff and use real grass up high in the sky.

Amazon’s change of heart

The signage for an Amazon Go store that hasn’t opened yet on 4th Avenue not far from Rainier Square. (GeekWire photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Six blocks from the towers of Amazon’s headquarters, the tech giant is ubiquitous on the streets around Rainier Square. Prime vans are driving their routes and an Amazon Go convenience store opens just around the block on 4th Avenue. What is missing are the thousands of employees at the tech giant who would have filled the commercial space in the skyscraper.

Some of these corporate and technical employees may work in downtown Bellevue, which you can see from the upper floors of Rainier Square to the east.

Why Amazon wants to find the rescue with a new building in a city where it already employs more than 50,000 people goes back a few years to the hostility that was driven by its own growth. The company’s decision to withdraw from Rainier Square and instead move 25,000 employees to Bellevue came after disputes with the Seattle City Council over the company’s impact on the community and the city’s efforts to impose new taxes on large corporations.

Amazon now employs more than 4,000 people in Bellevue as the company rents more space and unveils more skyscraper plans for what some refer to as the actual “HQ2”. Amazon is also building space and people in Redmond, Washington, where more than 500 people are employed to support Amazon Web Services and its Project Kuiper broadband satellite project.

The towers of Amazon Headquarters in the upper center are visible from Rainier Square. (GeekWire photo / Kurt Schlosser)

About 30% of the available office space in Rainier Square has been sublet, according to Amazon. Seattle-based commercial real estate agency JLL says on its website that 526,000 square feet are still available. This number accounts for around 28% of the total available Class A sublet space in the city’s central business district.

Amazon – and Rainier Square – have attracted subtenants like Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, RBC Wealth Management, and law firm Schroeter Goldmark Bender, according to an April report in the Puget Sound Business Journal. Bank of America is the largest of these subtenants at 116,000 square feet.

Amazon says it continues to interact with potential subtenants.

The company did not want to comment on whether there was a scenario in which it might want to take its own employees into the building. And now that Rainier Square has been built and is attracting attention as a luxury residential and office property, Amazon declined to say if it regretted ever retiring.

“It’s a beautiful statement tower,” said Gardner of the Schuster Group. “You can always change your mind, I suppose.”