The Highway 99 Blues Club, established in 2004 and located in the basement of a hundred-year-old brick building, is possibly one of the best blues clubs in Seattle. As reported by The Seattle Times, in June, the business was notified that their rent would be increasing. Somewhat normal and understandable considering the immense growth Seattle overall is experiencing, especially downtown. However, their rent isn’t going up just $500, or even $1,000. Starting in January 2016, the blues club, if they intended on staying, would be responsible for paying $14, 959 a month. That’s an increase of 225 percent (or $10,359 more a month) and how the business sees it, an eviction notice.
The commercial real estate market in Seattle is reaching new heights, quite literally and figuratively speaking, so much so that downtown tenants, like the Highway 99 Blues club, are being squeezed out due to astronomical rent increases. This gentrification of downtown Seattle is well supported, as companies haven’t a problem finding tenants to fill local office space in exchange for a pretty penny. In fact, not only are rents 7.5 percent higher (an average of $36.76 a square foot) than last year, but in June of this year “the vacancy rate was 11.4 percent, down nearly by half from its high of 21 percent five years ago,” according to the Seattle Times.
This rise in lease rates in Seattle, Bellevue, and surrounding areas has been greater than any other metro area in the US, and that includes tech hotspots like San Francisco, San Jose, Boston, and New York, according to the New York based market research firm Reis. Still, Seattle is cheaper than Manhattan, San Francisco, and London, and currently offers a thriving and exponentially growing technology and health industry. In fact, many San Francisco-based businesses are on the hunt for Seattle offices, including cloud-computing giant, Salesforce.com.
It’s been reported that three-quarters of newly occupied office space in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties is located in downtown Seattle. Last year a top floor office space went for $30 a square foot, this year a lower floor office space in the same building is asking $36 a square foot. That’s a 20 percent rent increase. Demand for land is what is moving these prices, as business owners are paying huge premiums and signing large lease transactions in order secure a spot to set up shop.
Adding to the difficultly in securing an already existing office in downtown Seattle or nearby areas, many companies are signing pre-leases on buildings that are still under construction. Some of these companies being:
- Amazon just leased 817,000-square-feet of Troy Block, which is part of two-building project in South Lake Union.
- Holland America Line just leased Martin Selig’s new 185,000 square foot building in Lower Queen Anne, set to open next year.
- Tableau Software is set to lease a new 2016 210,000-square-foot building north of Gas Works Park.
- And Juno Therapeutics leased 287,000 square foot building which is under construction at 400 Dexter Ave. N in South Lake Union.
It certainly seems “Seattle is a landlords market,” Stuart Williams, managing director of commercial real-estate brokerage JLL told The Seattle Times. This isn’t a playground for the mom and pop smaller tenant. This game is only available for big time tenants ready to pay up, commit to long term leases and wait patiently for their space in the ever changing Seattle metropolis.