A legacy City parking lot could indeed remain a legacy property while serving an exponentially larger public mission and contributing to the soul of Seattle.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s global presence is extraordinary. Yet when it came to developing a real estate strategy appropriate to growth projections, the non-profit’s initial vision was anything but high profile. The preliminary plan called for the identification of a secure, low-visibility, stand-alone office building that would serve as the Foundation’s headquarters. To make it happen, the Foundation looked for a brokerage partner with extensive non-profit expertise and the ability to maintain strict confidentiality throughout the process.
The process began with a strategic conversation. What did the client think they needed? What needs might have been missed? In what other ways could real estate support the Foundation’s mission? The more questions Kinzer asked, the more unexpected the recommendations became. Instead of a lease, consider purchasing. Instead of invisibility, think public education. Instead of short-term, think long-term. The vision took hold and the confidential search was on.
Several sites were identified, but one in particular captured the team’s imagination: a 12-acre parking lot located in the Seattle Center, owned by the City. It took two years of highly confidential negotiations, but all stakeholders eventually agreed that there was a way for the Foundation, the City, and the public to mutually benefit from the sale. What followed was a collective process that resulted in an iconic 900,000 SF headquarters, underground public parking for 1,000 cars, and an on-site visitor center. What was a legacy property remained a legacy property — but one with a renewed public mission and new opportunities for community-wide economic growth.