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Originally published December 11, 2010 at 10:01 PM | Page modified December 15, 2010 at 7:05 AM

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Sunday Buzz

Ace pitcher Lincecum gives Seattle condo market a small boost

Tim Lincecum buys into three-quarters empty luxury condo tower; also, Boeing's first commercial 747 is in sorry condition as the backdrop for a noodle shop in South Korea.

Seattle Times staff

World Series hero and local-boy-made-good Tim Lincecum has a new place to hang his baseball cap when he comes home.

The San Francisco Giants pitcher, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, bought a condo last month on the 28th floor of the luxury Escala tower at Fourth Avenue and Virginia Street in downtown Seattle, public records show.

Lincecum, who pitched at the University of Washington and Renton's Liberty High School, paid $1.575 million for the 2,400-square-foot unit with a 500-square-foot deck on the building's north side.

Financing probably wasn't a problem: Lincecum earned $8 million last season, and is in line to make $13 million in 2011.

His new condo isn't the biggest unit at Escala, or the most expensive. Records indicate a dozen buyers have paid more, topped by the $5.95 million that parking-lot czar Joel Diamond paid in July for a 30th-floor penthouse.

But those records also show that buyers have closed on just 63 of the tower's 269 units — fewer than 25 percent — since Escala was finished a year ago.

The tower has averaged about eight sales a month since spring, when its owners whacked prices and homeowners' dues, and began marketing the project in earnest.

At that pace, the building wouldn't sell out until late 2012 or early 2013.

But Escala sales manager Erik Mehr says he and the building's owners are more than satisfied with how sales are progressing. Nineteen more condos are under contract, he says, and half the units should be sold by late March.

In this market, he says, that's more than OK.

Escala certainly isn't doing any worse than several other high-end, high-rise condo projects that had the misfortune to come to market just as the economy tanked, credit constricted and real-estate values plunged.

Olive 8, another downtown building that began closing sales in spring 2009, has sold fewer than half its 227 units, according to public records.


And across the lake, at Bellevue Towers in downtown Bellevue, fewer than one-quarter of the 539 condos have sold in nearly two years.

— Eric Pryne

First passenger 747

decaying in Korea

The oldest 747 to fly commercially could be expected to enjoy an honored retirement somewhere in an aviation museum. After all, the only jumbo jet more senior — the first one built, which was only used for test flights — now sits outside Seattle's Museum of Flight.

But the plane delivered to Pan Am four decades ago now languishes in a near-deserted suburban lot outside Seoul, South Korea, its insides musty with old menus and upended chairs scattered across the floor, the Los Angeles Times reports:

Purchased by South Korean investors from a Southern California airplane graveyard a decade ago, the airliner — dubbed the "Juan T. Trippe" after the Pan Am founder — endured years as an aviation-themed restaurant. Then that venture failed.

Its owner winces each time she stands beneath the big fuselage, which reminds her of a business miscalculation of colossal proportions.

"We have no regret in purchasing the plane, just sadness — a feeling of emptiness," said the owner, a 50-ish woman looking smart in a brightly colored scarf who declines to give her name because of her embarrassment over the lost gamble.

Boeing officials say the Trippe was the second 747 of the 1,000 the company has produced. A different 747 was the first to enter commercial service for Pan Am in January 1970, as the Trippe remained part of the flight test program for several months.

"This plane helped shrink the world," said Michael Lombardi, Boeing's corporate historian. "It brought people together, making it possible for anyone anywhere in the world to get on a plane and go anywhere else in the world."

The Trippe went into service in October 1970. The plane's current owner has a photo of then-first lady Pat Nixon smashing a bottle of Champagne to christen the aircraft, as well as the plane's depiction on the Jan. 19, 1970, cover of Time magazine.

The airliner was shown at the 1970 Paris air show before spending the next 21 years on transatlantic flights for Pan Am, a record interrupted only by a two-year loan to an air company in Zaire.

The niche website contains numerous photos of the Trippe in service, including a touchdown at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport on Nov. 1, 1991, that marked Pan Am's discontinuation of transatlantic service to the airport.

The "tired old bird" went on to be used in cargo service before ending its airborne career with Aeroposta, an Argentine charter airline, according to the website.

Eventually retired to a Southern California aircraft lot, the Trippe soon began yet another life.

A South Korean couple purchased the jet in 2000 on the wings of a trend in South Korea that used real airplanes to house theme restaurants.

They paid more than $1 million for the Trippe, betting that the plane's history would draw customers. Then they peeled off $100,000-plus to have the jet disassembled and shipped to South Korea in 62 40-foot containers.

The couple had the airliner reassembled on a lot outside Seoul. They cut off the right wing, which would have overhung a nearby road, but the landing gear and original engines were all preserved.

"The proudest moment was when we finished reassembling the plane and put it up here," the owner said. "Having the world's number two 747 in our own backyard, that was cause for celebration."

The airliner-restaurant trend quickly crashed, and the couple found it difficult to make ends meet — it took a barrel of fuel oil every two days to heat the big plane.

In 2005, the couple closed the restaurant and opened a noodle shop in a small building under the severed right wing.

Meanwhile, the Trippe has gained a cult following on the Internet. Visitors began stopping by to ask about the plane, which sits rusting in the open air, its body propped on giant steel supports.

Aviation buffs have recently expressed interest in the Trippe, including some Japanese businessmen who might want to display it at Haneda Airport in Tokyo.

But for now, the Trippe is in for another cold winter.

"If it ever gets a new owner," its current owner said, "I hope it finally gets the historical recognition it deserves."

Comments? Send them

to Rami Grunbaum:

or 206-464-8541.

Information in this article, originally published Dec. 12, was corrected Dec. 14. The 747 jumbo jet that eventually became an unsuccessful restaurant venue in South Korea was not the first delivered nor the first to carry passengers, contrary to a Los Angeles Times story cited in the column. According to Boeing corporate historian Michael Lombardi, the plane — the second 747 built — was used in the flight test program before delivery to Pan Am in October 1970. Another 747 flown by Pan Am was the first to enter commercial service, in January 1970.

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