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SEATTLE-The Metropolitan King County Council this week voted to approve the development agreement for a $101-million county-owned Downtown office building that will supplant some 284,000 sf of leased space in at least seven different Downtown buildings. Locally based Wright Runstad will develop and manage construction of the project. The new office building will be located on the site of the county garage adjacent to the King County Courthouse. Council budget chairman Larry Gossett has said the county’s leased space would cost upward of $4.8 million a year by 2007. By building its own space and vacating leased space, the county will break even on the cash flow after about four years, and thereafter we will be saving money it would have paid out for rent. When the mortgage for the new building is paid off in 28 years, Gossett says the county will be saving more than $11.7 million every year in avoided rents, “and we will own a valuable capital asset that can be kept or sold.”"This is the culmination of seven years of analysis by both the county and four independent real estate studies,” says Gossett. “And their conclusions are simple: it’s better to own than to rent, and it’s better to build than buy.”The new office building will house employees working for public health, the prosecuting attorney, public defense, community and human services, finance, information and technology services and the county print shop. Those employees and agencies are currently spread out among the Exchange Building, Key Tower, the Bank of California Building, the Wells Fargo Building, the Greybar Building, the Walthew Building and 1916 Boren. The new facility will be a “green” building, meaning recycled energy-efficient materials will be used in its construction. Further savings will be generated through the construction of a central hot water system that also will serve the courthouse, administration building and county jail. As part of the project the county will build a larger county parking garage that is up to current seismic building codes with 921 spaces, 191 more than the existing facility. “By including a parking garage with the facility we will avoid having to spend $4 million just to seismically retrofit the old garage,” said Gossett. The council formally adopted the policy to transition from leased space to owned space with the adoption of the 2002 Space Plan. In December 2003 the King County Council hired the Staubach Co. to conduct an independent review of the “Alternatives to Reliance on Leased Space” report. Staubach concurred that it is in the county’s best interest to transition from leased to county-owned property.

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