West Seattle development: Harbor Properties’ merger

(Harbor Properties’ year-old Link, 38th between Alaska and Fauntleroy)
One of the highest-profile development companies to build in West Seattle in recent years is merging with another company. Harbor Properties‘ merger with Los Angeles-headquartered Urban Partners was first reported this morning by the Puget Sound Business Journal, and we just spoke with Harbor executive Denny Onslow to find out what this means for the company’s West Seattle properties, mixed-use (apartment/retail) Link in The Triangle and Mural in The Junction (both WSB sponsors), plus all-apartment under-construction Nova (4600 37th SW).

Onslow describes the intent of the merger as “to generate more capital so we can stay active and committed to our urban development,” which includes other neighborhoods around the area. But he stresses that the need for “more capital” does NOT mean Harbor is in financial trouble: “Any time you build a building, there’s a tremendous amount of equity in that building that lenders want and demand, and once it’s invested, it’s invested, you’re going to have to generate more capital.” He says the deals like the Harbor merger and Chicago-based Equity Residential‘s recent purchase of the former Conner Homes site at California/Alaska are a plus for Seattle, “bringing capital from other parts of the nation to invest into the Seattle economy.”

The merged company is Harbor-Urban, according to Onslow. Any job cuts are “to be determined,” but he acknowledges that mergers – Urban already had a presence in Seattle, and has moved it into Harbor’s offices – do often yield some as “a matter of efficiencies.”

As for the West Seattle properties: Construction of Nova continues as planned. But, asked about a rumor that Link and Mural are or will be up for sale, Onslow replied: “We have had strong interest to buy Link, Mural, and even Nova. That’s reflective of (the strength of) the multifamily market … We are always getting a constant look at our buildings, we’re always potentially sellers if the right offer comes along.” He added that Harbor’s strength has tended to be in development rather than operational, and obviously Link, which opened a year ago, and Mural, which opened 3 years ago, are operational. But he said neither one is currently listed for sale, nor is there a “signed agreement” to sell either one.

And the merger won’t affect the possibility of future Harbor-Urban projects in West Seattle beyond Nova, Onslow said.

As for his future – he has been the most visible Harbor executive in West Seattle over these past several years: “Right now I’m staying with the company, working through the transition. Everybody’s getting on the bus; we have to figure out what seats on the bus we’re going to be in.”

According to its website, Urban Partners has a previous project in the region nearby – Burien Town Square, developed as condos just as the market tanked, then foreclosed on, with its current owner announcing last year that they’d try putting the condos on the market again. (Added – as Diane points out in comments – Urban also was/is involved with 37-story Aspira, downtown.)

4 Replies to "West Seattle development: Harbor Properties' merger"

  • Diane February 17, 2012 (2:34 pm)

    Urban Partners has another project in the area, and I think much more significant; the Aspira Apartment Tower, award winning, in downtown Seattle, Denny Triangle, at Terry & Stewart (1823 Terry Ave)
    I attended the big splashy opening; touted as the greenest apt tower ever built in Seattle; 4 star Built Green
    Aspira/Urban Partners have been in the news a lot lately re rumors that Aspira was for sale, which it was, but recently taken off the market, waiting for prime time to sell, when occupancy gets back up to peak levels; when I saw your story, immediately thought, didn’t I just read about them a few days ago; yep, in the DJC
    wow, there’s a lot of great stuff going on in the development world, so fast and furious, it’s hard to keep up; very exciting for our city
    here’s the link on UP website re Aspira
    and Aspira website

  • Diane February 17, 2012 (3:17 pm)

    January 27, 2012
    Owners will wait to sell Aspira tower
    By MARC STILES Journal Staff Reporter
    The 325-unit Aspira apartment tower in downtown Seattle is off the market, but could go back on later this year. “We are holding the building for now,” Matt Burton, a principal with Urban Partners, said yesterday.
    January 26, 2012
    Real Estate Buzz:
    Owners weigh options on Aspira sale
    By MARC STILES Real Estate Editor
    Real estate watchers have been waiting for the sale of the Aspira apartment tower in downtown Seattle, but now there’s talk it won’t be sold despite rumors of an eye-popping offer.
    Aspira is at 1823 Terry Ave. and is owned by a partnership of Urban Partners of Los Angeles and Seattle, and O’Connor Capital Partners of New York.

  • Hmm February 17, 2012 (4:13 pm)

    I thought the Cobb was the “greenest” apartment in Seattle.

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