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Originally published April 25, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 25, 2008 at 1:09 AM

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Clise pulls 13 prime acres in Seattle's Denny Triangle off market

Citing the global credit crunch, Seattle's Clise family has pulled nearly 13 acres of prime real estate in the Denny Triangle off the market...

Seattle Times business reporter

Citing the global credit crunch, Seattle's Clise family has pulled nearly 13 acres of prime real estate in the Denny Triangle off the market.

"It's just not the right time to be doing this," Clise Properties Chairman Al Clise said Thursday. "Very large real-estate transactions all over the world are not getting financed."

The family, which began accumulating the property in the 1920s, put it up for sale as a unit last June, attracting international attention.

Clise had said it was looking for a buyer that shared its vision of a master-planned community on the scale of New York's Rockefeller Center.

In retrospect, Clise said, the family should have begun marketing the property a year earlier, before the credit crisis deepened.

The kind of development it envisioned would cost up to $8 billion to build out, he said, "and that kind of deal involves financing, no matter who the buyer is."

The Wall Street Journal reported Clise had selected Emaar Properties of Dubai from among several serious bidders and was negotiating a sale before both sides decided to pull back.

Al Clise would not confirm that, but in a statement, he said the family had been in "serious negotiations with an astute international developer."

If the family puts the property back on the market, Clise said he's "sure they would continue to be interested."

David Doupé, a managing director of Jones Lang LaSalle, which advised Clise, said the family had received bids topping $600 million and that some had been rejected because they didn't conform to the Clise vision.

Al Clise said the family has no plans to sell the property in pieces.

"Our vision has not changed," he said. "This is an incredible opportunity for the city that may never come again."

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The blocks are mostly occupied by parking lots and low-rise hotels but are zoned for office and condo towers of up to 40 stories.

Other developers and real-estate professionals said Clise's announcement wasn't a big surprise.

The family first said it had hoped to wrap up any deal by the end of 2007, then by the end of the first quarter.

But the company didn't have to sell, President Richard Stevenson said in November, and the global financial jitters complicated the process.

The sheer size of the Clise property was its greatest attraction and its greatest challenge, said Greg Johnson, president of Seattle developer Wright Runstad.

"When you buy that much property, it's really expensive," he said. "You're especially vulnerable to the kind of vapor lock the credit markets have gone into."

The Clise property could take 15 to 30 years to build out, said Douglas Howe of Seattle developer Touchstone, and holding land that long would be a challenge for any buyer.

"But those properties are great properties," Howe said. "It's just a matter of time."

John Powers, senior managing director of the Seattle office of brokerage Colliers International, agreed.

He said the next opportunity could come when the Gates Foundation opens its new headquarters nearby in 2010.

"The day that hits and it's real is the day that everything in that neighborhood — everything within a half mile — takes an immediate bounce," Powers said.

Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231 or epryne@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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