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Viaduct gold rush: Big money flows into area around doomed Seattle highway

By Mike Rosenberg for The Seattle Times

Even before the Alaskan Way Viaduct finally comes down, the gold rush to cash in on soaring property values in the area is in full swing.

On just one block near the waterfront: Prolific developer Martin Selig, known for building the Columbia Center, paid $44 million to buy a drab, century-old office building connected to the viaduct — so he could tear it down and build an 18-story office and apartment project in its place. And next door, an East Coast investor spent $50 million to buy and renovate another aging office building, and got local gaming company Big Fish Games to move its headquarters there. The owner then flipped the property for a $186 million payday.

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Another block north, Gonzaga University, which was bequeathed a parking lot by a Spokane philanthropist in 2015, inked a deal with a national developer to put a 17-story apartment complex on the site. The university deemed the land too valuable to sell, choosing instead to get regular rent payments.

The strip on Western Avenue where these projects are springing up isn’t incredibly desirable right now: It’s noisy, hemmed in by the hulking highway and dotted with tents. But within a few months, it will have unobstructed views of Elliott Bay, West Seattle and the Olympic Mountains, and within a few years it will be steps from a waterfront park.

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