The Smith Tower is hands-down the most appealing structure ever built in downtown Seattle, or in Washington state. It stands in sharp contrast to the Columbia Center just a few blocks away. One terra cotta, one black glass. Smith Tower isn’t doing too well on the commercial market, however.
Smith Tower has struggled a bit to attract and retain business tenants as more modern office towers emerged in recent decades.
“The building itself was never ideally suited to a modern, commercial office-type tenant,” said Kevin Daniels, president of Nitze-Stagen, a private commercial-property investment firm.
The floor space in the upper stories is too small — just 2,000 square feet — and the spaces on the lower levels are either too cut up or too big.
Smith Tower’s occupancy rate was up to 90 percent last year, from 75 percent a decade earlier. But that could reverse itself with the reported departure of two of its largest tenants.
Perhaps my favorite reason to see Smith go residential:
Matthew Gardner, principal in the Seattle-based land-use economics firm Gardner Johnson, said Smith Tower’s conversion “could be incredible.”
“The building itself is iconic, so it does make sense to go down this road.”
Gardner also said the switch would benefit Pioneer Square by bringing more residents into the neighborhood.