SEATTLE-The Clise family has put up for sale a 12-acre chunk of Downtown that was four generations in the making. The portfolio of mostly parking lots and low-rise buildings could fetch $600 million or more, thanks to a recent up-zoning of the area, which is known as the Denny Triangle.

Strategically located between the Downtown core and South Lake Union, where billionaire Paul Allen is developing some 60 acres he controls, the Clise portfolio is capable of supporting between 10 million and 13 million sf, making it one of the nation’s largest infill assemblages in a major urban market. Clise Properties chairman Al Clise tells he hopes the sale leads to a rapid transformation of the area.

“I think it needs to happen now, (and) for us to do it, because of the size of the company we are, would be very difficult,” Clise says. “We have developed high-rise real estate for many years, but this is on a different level, a bigger level than we could probably do in any kind of timeframe. Others are better suited to do it than us…or we might do it with them.”

Last year’s up-zoning of the area increased the allowable building height by 30% to approximately 40 stories. As a result, the Clise portfolio at maximum build out could total approximately 13 million sf. Recent land-sale comps suggest a property value of between $40 per sf and $60 per sf that can be built, which translates to between $400 million and $780 million, depending on how much the buyer thinks it can develop and how much it‘s willing to pay on a per-sf basis.

Clise tells he expects the property to be sold before the end of the year. Jones Lang LaSalle managing directors David Doupé and Michel Seifer are handling the disposition with assistance from JLL offices in London, Dubai, Sydney and Hong Kong. “The reason we were hired was our global reach, our access to international capital,” JLL managing director David Doupé tells “I’d say there’s a greater than 50% chance that the group that acquires the portfolio will include offshore money.”

Clise says the portfolio has no historic preservation issues, no affordable housing issues and no long-term lease impediments. “Everything has construction clauses in them,” he says. In addition, Clise says one parcel is far enough along in the development approval process that a buyer could be breaking ground for a one-million-sf office condo project by next spring.

As for what will be done with the proceeds, Clise says he will be looking to exchange into more mature, cash-flowing real estate. “We’ll look primarily on the West Coast,” he says.

With shrinking vacancy and rising rents, Seattle was recently named the most desirable place to buy and own office property in 2007 Emerging Trends in Real Estate, an annual report on the state of the US real estate markets published annually by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the nonprofit Urban Land Institute. The report, which puts Seattle in the top five overall for commercial development and investment prospects, states that Seattle benefits from having the nation’s shortest shipping lanes to Asia and a diversified corporate roster that includes Microsoft, Boeing, Washington Mutual, Starbucks, Amazon, Nordstrom and Costco. As a result, the report concludes that Seattle has a better chance than any other city to become a new 24-hour gateway center.

Clise Properties was founded in 1889 by JW Clise, who played an integral role in rebuilding Seattle after the Great Fire of the same year. As part of the business establishment, Clise supported the Denny Regrade Project, a massive 32-year effort begun in 1897 to connect Puget Sound to South Lake Union by razing Denny Hill. The result of that project was the Denny Triangle.

Second-generation family leader Charles F. Clise began buying property in the Triangle in the late 1920′s and 1930s. A citizens’ initiative in the early 1980s capped building heights, stunting development of the area. The city up-zoned the area last year as part of its plan to channel growth to the urban core and make maximum utilization of the region’s multi-billion investments in public mass transit.

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