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SEATTLE-Brooks Brothers has signed a lease that will move and expand its Downtown storefront here from about 5,000 sf at Rainier Square into about 15,000 sf across Fifth Avenue in the Skinner Building. Both buildings are managed by Unico Properties on behalf of the University of Washington.

The high-end clothier will be located at the corner of Fifth Ave. and Union St., on the ground floor of the Skinner Building. The lease will backfill about half the space being vacated in February by Eddie Bauer, which is looking to downsize its Downtown space from 32,000 sf to between 8,000- and 10,000 sf, according to Unico. Unico tells GlobeSt.com it is hoping to accommodate Eddie Bauer somewhere else its Downtown portfolio, but acknowledges the retailer also is negotiating with owners of buildings closer to Pacific Place and Westlake Mall.

Brooks Brothers, which has leased space Downtown since 1977, celebrated its 185th anniversary this year as America’s oldest clothing retailer. Unico general manager John Miller says the departure of Eddie Bauer has made available “the kind of high-profile, premium downtown space that Brooks Brothers has been waiting for.”

Unico says the Brooks Brothers move will add a distinguished “anchor” to Unico’s growing collection of upscale retail shops along “Upper Fifth,” Unico’s name for the promenade on Fifth Avenue between Union and University Streets. Escada, St. John Boutique, Nancy Meyer Fine Lingerie and the 5th Avenue Theatre already do business in the Skinner Building. Across Fifth Avenue in Unico’s Rainier Square, Alexandria Rosoff Jewels and Rare Finds opened this fall, adjacent to Neuhaus Chocolates.

“The goal is to make Fifth Avenue and Rainier Square the high-end retail destination in Seattle,” says Miller. “I think we’ve got our cornerstones.”

In September, Unico announced that luxury retailer Louis Vuitton, the French purveyor of luxury leather goods and accessories, had renewed and nearly doubled its leasehold at Rainier Square, signing a 15-year lease for 3,270 sf the corner of 5th Avenue and University Street, across from the posh Olympic Hotel, where it has been located for the past five years.

In hope of attracting more high-end merchants, Unico also is adding more retail opportunities along “Upper Fifth” by fronting the Benihana’s restaurant property caddy corner from the Louis Vitton space with two 2,500- to 3,000-sf storefronts. Construction of the new retail complex, to be located in front of the IBM Building at Fifth and University, will begin once a signature retail tenant is secured. As well, Unico is in the early planning stages for a major redevelopment of Rainier Square’s non-street-level retail space, which is currently housed in a three-level enclosed vertical mall and only 60% leased, says Miller.

The new Brooks Bros. location will open next fall. The expansion and renovation of the Louis Vuitton store will begin in January 2004 and be complete by May. During that time, Louis Vuitton will operate out of space in the Skinner Building that is flanked by the Fifth Avenue Theatre and Nancy Meyer.

Both Brooks Bros. and Louis Vitton will be spending several hundred dollars per sf on the build out of their new spaces, with Unico contributing a portion of the cost. Louis Vitton will be paying an annual rent believed to be in excess of $70 per sf, while Brook Bros. will be paying in excess of $65 per sf.

Rainier Square and the Skinner Building are part of what is known as the Metropolitan Tract, a six-block parcel bound by Union and Seneca streets and Third and Sixth avenues that is owned largely by the University of Washington. Unico has developed and managed the Tract since 1953. In addition to Rainier Square and the Skinner Building, major properties on the tract include Rainier Tower, Puget Sound Plaza, Financial Center, the IBM Building and Cobb Building.

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