SEATTLE—This week's featured community was just named Multifamily Community of the Year in the National Association of Home Builders' Multifamily Pillars of the Industry Awards competition. One of its many talents was the ability to perform a neat community magic. Developers Pillar Properties and Daniels Real Estate turned a Seattle submarket not known for its residential allure into a potential multifamily hotspot. For details on the upcycle reality behind the magic, just read on.


This Week's Project: Stadium Place
City: Seattle
Award Category: Market-Rate Rental Multifamily
Developer: Pillar Properties, Daniels Real Estate
Architect: ZGF Architects
Interior Designer: Ankrom Moisan Architects Inc.

Mission: Bill Pettit, SVP of locally based Pillar Properties, refers to his firm's style of development “local-icious.” It references the firm's focus on “place making,” he says, leveraging the “unique elements of the various neighborhoods surrounding Seattle's Downtown core.”

In the case of Stadium Place, that would mean three distinct destination submarkets: the historic Pioneer Square, the International District (commonly referred to as Chinatown) and the Stadium District. But setting out to do that raised a lot of eyebrows and a lot of naysayers. The historic district hadn't seen a new residential development in years. In large part that was due to a long-standing reputation that was less than savory.

The district “was a daytime, nine-to-five neighborhood that went dark until the nightlife kicked in,” Pettit says. It was also known for its transient population and history of crime. Hence the naysayers.

But what the location did have going for it was proximity to the regional Amtrak and light rail lines and the Puget Sound ferry. It was also proximate to Century Link Field, the former site of the Kingdome and home of the Seattle Seahawks; Safeco Field, where the Mariners set up home base; and proposals for another NBA/NHL arena.

In short, where the naysayers saw questions, Pillar and Daniels saw answers. “We needed fewer historians and more pioneers in Pioneer Square,” Pettit says. “This was an opportunity to create something that would serve as a connection, especially between the historic district and the Stadium District.”

Execution: According to the NAHB application, the project required “more than a decade of long-term planning, as well as numerous community meetings with stakeholders including businesses, city agencies and neighborhood citizens from the historic district alongside the stadium to gain approval. Pillar and Daniels worked very closely with the stadium stakeholders to build a partnership and gain their support, a key element to the success of the development.”


A primary question for the development team was how to envision a residential project in Pioneer Square. In terms of branding, does it face toward the past or the present? And who to cater to? The answer to the second question came in the firm's typical MO.

Unlike so many CBD projects that have a specific eye toward the Millennial population, “We don't approach any project catering to a single demographic or a particular trend or fad,” says Pettit. “We design for appeal to the widest variety of the population.” That means addressing the needs of the Millennial population, which he admits is the firm's largest demographic, but Baby Boomers as well, empty-nesters and “everyone in between.”

Ultimately, when it came to branding, the solution came by facing both the district's past and future. Not one, but two buildings would rise from a single parking/retail pad to capture the dual essence of the area, with amenities that would reflect the theme of each.

In terms of the crime issue, Pettit reveals that while security cameras and motion detectors were a given, the reputation that Pioneer Square had was largely a thing of the past. “It was more reputation than reality,” he tells That naturally was due in large part to the good work of the local police department. Between the city's long-standing efforts and the onboard security systems, “Our residents don't have to think about crime.”

End Game: Stadium Place has been recognized as one of the largest transit-oriented developments on the West Coast, according to the award application. Two towers above 18,000 square feet of retail address the dual essence of the community, bringing to life the developer's goal of “place making.”

One of the towers, Nolo, so named because of its location on the North Lot of CenturyLink Field, offers 163 units in 11 stories and captures the historic feel of the area. It does so by incorporating “the more traditional brick material used nearby, in keeping with the turn-of-the-century commercial buildings in the district,” according to the application.

Next door, the 26-story Wave provides 333 units in a much different envelope, created of glass and steel and “divided into two- to four-story boxes stacked on top of each other,” says the application. “But not directly. Some boxes overhang while others pull back,” creating a much more modern vibe. The name, appropriate to the district, can be seen as a play on the Puget Sound, the cheering fans at the stadiums or the new local interest the development is spurring.

The amenities are sensible to the buildings they are in and underscore the developer's “local-icious” mission: “First and foremost we leveraged the amenities of the neighborhoods and created complimentary services to promote rather than compete with the surrounding area,” says Pettit.

Key among the amenities are meeting places in each, one facing the Seattle skyline and the stadiums and the other facing Puget Sound. One naturally serves more as a wine bar. The other, with its multiple flat screens, serves as more of a sports bar.

The feel of the community is underscored by the location of the project. Stadium Place serves as a recognizable backdrop to every end-zone dance televised on Monday Night Football.

“There are a number of ways to measure success,” says Pettit. The local support of the community (thanks in large part to the early buy-in the developers got) and the branding it provides the district are two solid examples of that success, he says. Lease-up, of course, is an undeniable measure—Nolo's was complete in six months, and the larger Wave in 10. Both are market-rate except for 30 affordable-housing units.

Most important, both to Seattle and the developer, was that “this was a disruptive project,” says Pettit, in that it redefines the local community and sets the stage for similar developments. “It bucks all local multifamily trends because no one was focused on Pioneer Square as a whole. We definitely took a risk because we believed in the mission.”

And that is the very definition of a pioneering spirit.


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John Salustri

John Salustri has covered the commercial real estate industry for nearly 25 years. He was the founding editor of, and is a four-time recipient of the Excellence in Journalism award from the National Association of Real Estate Editors.