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Originally published January 9, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified January 9, 2008 at 7:39 AM

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Bellevue condo tower opens this weekend

Washington Square, one of the largest projects under construction in Bellevue's fast-rising downtown, will open its first phase this weekend...

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

Washington Square, one of the largest projects under construction in Bellevue's fast-rising downtown, will open its first phase this weekend, continuing the already fiery competition for downtown Bellevue condo buyers.

Residents will start moving into a new 188-unit condo tower, with a second condo tower opening in April. About 15,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, including the first Top Pot Doughnuts on the Eastside, will open in May or June.

Up to seven towers will eventually fill a 10-acre "superblock," off Northeast Eighth Street between 106th and 108th avenues Northeast.

The developer, Wasatch Development of Utah, plans to complete the project over the next seven years, with 2.5 million square feet of total space. Two future towers are slated for senior living, another — on Eighth — will be offices and another will be a hotel.

The $1.6 billion project will have 180,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, including a focus on small, local businesses, some of which may have been evicted by new developments elsewhere in the city, company officials said.

"Washington Square is seeking to be different," said Wasatch CEO Dell Loy Hansen. "We want to be the counterculture to the big-box names."

The new condo towers will soon be followed by several other condo projects. The 42- and 43-story Bellevue Towers, with 540 condos, will begin to open to residents late this year. The Bravern, a huge mixed-use development a couple of blocks away, will have 450 condos and be complete next year.

The first phase of Washington Square includes 353 condos and 26 ground-floor town houses, selling from $300,000 to $2.6 million. The first tower is 90 percent sold and the second tower is 70 percent sold.

While the national housing market may be slipping, the local condo market is still going well, said Bill Hurme, a real-estate agent for the project.

Younger tech workers make up a large segment of Bellevue buyers, Hansen said. It's a group that is expected to get bigger with the arrival of Microsoft, Expedia and Yahoo offices in downtown Bellevue over the next year or so. Two Seahawks players, including quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, each bought a condo, said Wasatch President Troy Thompson.

About 40 percent of the Washington Square buyers are 45 to 65 years old, approaching retirement and looking to move into a smaller home, Hurme said.

Bob and Alta Strayhan, both 60, are planning to move into a Washington Square penthouse in February. Bob Strayhan is retired and the couple's children have moved out, so it was time to move from their 3,000-square-foot town house west of downtown Bellevue, they said.

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The Washington Square condo towers are in a quieter part of downtown than the Bravern or Lincoln Square condos, but still close to a lot of shops and restaurants, Bob Strayhan said. "We figured, why not shorten our commute?" he said.

The opening of the project's first phase has been decades in the making. Developer Eugene Horbach, who died in 2004, spent 17 years acquiring the pieces of the 10-acre block but sold to Wasatch after getting into financial trouble. He became good friends with Hansen and was planning to partner with the company on the project but was unable to find the money before he died.

Wasatch officials visited similar projects in Vancouver, B.C., Portland's Pearl District, San Diego and Denver for inspiration, Hansen said. Planned amenities include a dog park, public pathways through the block, private garages for some residents and residential room service from the project's first restaurant.

Staff reporter Elizabeth Rhodes contributed to this report. Ashley Bach: 206-464-2567 or abach@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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