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Updated Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 12:15 PM

Amazon has its eye on 3 more blocks in Denny Triangle

By Eric Pryne
Seattle Times business reporter

Voracious Amazon.com, which already plans a high-rise office complex on three blocks in Seattle’s Denny Triangle, has agreements that could let it buy the equivalent of three more adjacent blocks, public records indicate.

If the giant online retailer does end up buying all the additional properties, its holdings would stretch north along both sides of Seventh Avenue from Virginia Street to Denny Way.

Seattle’s Clise family, which is selling Amazon the three blocks for the high-rise campus in a sale expected to close by Dec. 31, also owns the additional parcels on which Amazon has options or a first right to negotiate a purchase.

When news of the high-rise deal broke in February, Clise Properties Chairman and CEO Al Clise said Amazon also had options to buy still more of the family’s holdings, but declined to identify them.

The properties are listed, however, in two documents the companies filed with King County several months ago. They include almost all of two full blocks, plus two half-blocks.

One document says Amazon has options to buy almost all of the full block bounded by Seventh and Eighth avenues and Blanchard and Bell streets, as well as the half-block across Seventh.

One small parcel on the full block is not owned by Clise. Amazon signed a contract in late September to buy that property, now a parking lot, another county record reveals.

That transaction could be a hint that Amazon intends to exercise its options with Clise.

The second Clise-Amazon document says the online retailer has a 10-year “right of first offer” on the properties under option, as well as 1½ blocks immediately to the north across Bell Street.

That means Clise would have to try to sell the properties to Amazon before marketing them to anyone else.

The actual agreements between the companies are not on file with the county, and their terms are not known. Amazon declined to comment Wednesday, and Al Clise wouldn’t discuss the agreements’ details.

“The smart thing is to control their future, and that’s what they’re doing,” he said of Amazon.

The biggest buildings on the properties covered by the agreements are three low-rise midcentury motels. Cornish College of the Arts leases two of them from Clise for student housing.

Elsewhere, single-story buildings house a cafe, a rental-car office, an architecture firm and a liquor store.

City zoning permits office towers of up to 340 feet on the properties under option and up to 240 feet on the blocks where Amazon only has first right to negotiate to buy. That’s shorter than the 500 feet allowed on the three Clise blocks Amazon already has agreed to purchase.

If Amazon does buy the properties subject to the agreements, any development probably is years away. The company has indicated it most likely won’t finish developing its three-block high-rise complex for at least five years.

Those three blocks are bounded generally by Sixth Avenue, Westlake Avenue and Blanchard Street. Plans call for a 38-story tower and a smaller building on each block, for a total of 3.3 million square feet of office space.

That’s in addition to more than 3 million square feet Amazon already leases, or has agreed to lease, on downtown’s northern fringes.

The company announced earlier this fall that it is buying, for $1.16 billion, the 1.8 million-square-foot South Lake Union headquarters complex it now rents from developer Vulcan Real Estate.

Altogether, the Clise properties Amazon has under contract or under option, or has first right to buy, account for about 10 of the 13 acres the family put up for sale in 2007, attracting international attention.

Clise, which began accumulating the parcels in the 1920s, said it envisioned a master-planned community on the scale of New York’s Rockefeller Center.

Clise pulled the collection off the market less than a year later, citing the global credit crunch, although its real-estate adviser said bids had topped $600 million.

When Cornish began moving students into Clise’s two motels in 2009, the college said its lease was for 10 years. Richard Stevenson, Clise Properties’ president, said at the time that a provision in the lease would let Clise terminate it early — at considerable expense, and with much advance notice to the college.

A Cornish spokeswoman said the college wasn’t aware of Clise’s agreements with Amazon.

Eric Pryne: epryne@seattletimes.com or 206-464-2231






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