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Originally published Friday, October 1, 2010 at 4:10 PM

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Developer plans to start Bellevue apartment tower next spring

Apartment builder Su Development has submitted preliminary plans for a two-tower high-rise complex in downtown Bellevue — and says it hopes to break ground on the first, 21-story tower in early 2011.

Seattle Times business reporter

Apartment builder Su Development has submitted preliminary plans for a two-tower high-rise complex in downtown Bellevue — and says it hopes to break ground on the first, 21-story tower next spring.

The project, called Soma Towers, is the first new high-rise proposed in downtown Bellevue since before the recession began, said Bellevue city land-use planner Ken Thiem. "We're happy to see someone's willing to take a risk," he said.

Isaac Alshihabi, a development associate at Su, agreed the project is "kind of a little bit of faith on our part." But the firm is committed to downtown Bellevue, he said, "and we've seen some signs of things getting better, especially in the apartment market."

Site for towers

Soma Towers would be built at the northeast corner of Northeast Second Street and 106th Avenue Northeast, on property now occupied by a restaurant and a two-story office building.

Construction would begin on a second, 18-story tower no later than 2013. The towers, with a total of 266 apartments, would share a three-story "podium" with retail space over four levels of underground parking.

Apartments would range in size from 400 to 1,200 square feet, and would be priced for a range of incomes, according to a checklist Su submitted to the city last month.

Apartments are a bright spot in commercial real estate, nationally and locally.

Over the past three months, the apartment vacancy rate in the Greater Seattle area has dropped, while rents have risen.

"We are in the midst of a very strong turnaround" because many renters are reluctant to buy homes while prices drop, Tom Cain, president of research firm Apartment Insights Washington, said in a recent report.

New projects

In response, developers have begun several new complexes in recent months — among them Su Development's Soma, a 6-story, 80-unit project a few blocks from the Soma Towers site.

National office and apartment developer Legacy Partners once owned the Soma Towers property, and had proposed a 250-unit apartment tower on the site. That project fell victim to the recession. Su Development has been a major developer in downtown Bellevue. In recent years it built 989 Elements and Elements Too, high-rise apartment projects just west of Interstate 405 that together have more than 460 units.

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

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