Latest Condo Conversion: Smith Tower?

If the owner of the Smith Tower gets what they want, you can add yet another condo to dozens already planned for downtown’s future. Walton Street Capital is hoping to convert the Smith Tower into condos:

Ninety-three years after Pioneer Square’s Smith Tower was built as an elegant business address, its new owner hopes to turn the 38-story landmark into residential condominiums.

Chicago-based Walton Street Capital filed papers with the city Wednesday to begin what could be a months-long process of getting approval to redo the tower as housing.

It seems that living in old buildings is more charming — and practical — than working in them.

“We bought it, frankly, as an office building, and it wasn’t until we found out we would lose the two largest tenants in the building that we really looked carefully at what our options were,” [Walton Street representative Michael] Allmon said. “We’ve just become excited about the possibility of changing its use.

“It’s important that all possible current and future uses be explored in the preservation of this iconic tower,” he added.

Allmon believes a condominium-ized Smith Tower would have little trouble competing with the dozen or so swank condo developments under construction in downtown Seattle.

“I think this really is a category unto itself,” he said.

I personally think it would be pretty awesome to live in the Smith Tower (that is of course if I worked anywhere near downtown). It’s always been one of my favorite buildings in Seattle. I made a crude LEGO model of it (crude compared to this one), and it is featured prominently in the only painting my wife and I own.

On the other hand, they’ll most likely be ridiculously expensive luxury condos, far out of reach for most people, and besides that, does downtown Seattle really need yet another tower full of condos, on top of the 49 others in the works? Really?

(Amy Martinez & Elizabeth Rhodes, Seattle Times, 02.22.2007)

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About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market. Tim also hosts the weekly improv comedy sci-fi podcast Dispatches from the Multiverse.


  1. 1
    christiangustafson says:

    I saw this in my old hometown, Chicago, while visiting over Labor Day. It shocked me quite a bit to see so many once-productive office buildings converting to condos. So many tacked on little balconies above Washington St downtown. And I lived in the Loop for 7 years, 45th floor of Marina City. But these were office buildings changing over, everywhere, HUGE bubble there.

    It’s like Chicago was in transition to a California state of being, where we don’t have jobs or offices or do work anymore, we just swap price-inflated assets every 2 years. Is there something wrong with Smith Tower hosting law offices, architects, and web companies?

    I’ll send a couple of pix to Ben’s blog tonight. 55 E. Monroe was the most shocking. It’s a modern office building, about the last place you’d ever want to live.

  2. 2
    Erik says:

    Whatever happened to “highest and best use”? Have the fundamentals of land use changed along with the shift to the new (housing) economy?

  3. 3
    Matthew says:

    Pioneer square is pretty ghetto. That is a cool building though…

  4. 4
    seattle_slow says:

    It is a great building. The elevators are awesome. It’s like going back in time. The chinese room at the top is killer. It is by far my favorite building in Seattle.

    That said, For 5 years I worked a block away from the Smith tower – and I’ll tell you what – that particular block (specifically the SE corner of Yesler and 2nd Ave) can get real dicey during certain hours of the day. I witnessed a knife fight there one evening that was quite alarming.

    It would be a shame to turn that building into condos. Nothing like spending $950K for a 2 bedroom condo and feeling like you should be packing a piece with you when you leave to hit the 7-eleven up the street for a Big Gulp.


  5. 5
    The Tim says:

    Nothing like spending $950K for a 2 bedroom condo and feeling like you should be packing a piece with you when you leave to hit the 7-eleven up the street for a Big Gulp.

    How appropriate that the “Smith” in Smith Tower is the same Smith of Smith & Wesson fame.

  6. 6
    Eleua says:


    You are a true renaissance man. The whole time I thought it was the Anna Nicole tower.

  7. 7
    Joe Consumer says:

    I used to work there. I saw a shooting on Denny from a SE corner conference room. Lovely neighborhood that won’t be shaping up any time soon.

    Interestingly enough, someone lived in the steeple of Smith Tower. Went up there a couple of times. Now THAT would be a great condo. Three floors tucked against the sloping steeple, opening to the center. The coolest is at the very top. Large enough to stick your shoulders through, there’s a large glass globe at the top, with a 360 degree view.

    Here’s a nice photo of the top:

  8. 8
    uptown says:

    Makes me wonder if the commercial RE market is getting a little weak. Just noticed the 2 buildings on W Mercer, that Isilon used to be in, look like they are empty on the top 2 floors.

    Maybe WaMu has finished moving into their new building, and the latest round of musical chairs has left more office space than people.

  9. 9
    Pegasus says:

    Tim….”How appropriate that the “Smith” in Smith Tower is the same Smith of Smith & Wesson fame.”

    I had never heard that. Are you sure? Link please.

    That tower is loved by many and some of the many smoked weed on the top while overlooking Seattle with their mates. God knows what else went on.

    I would think if it was done right the place would surely command a premium.

  10. 10
    The Tim says:


    I had heard it a number of times, and the Seattle Times article I linked to in this post even repeats the claim (in the little info box on the right).

    However, I went looking for more references, and found out that while Lyman Cornelius Smith, the Smith Tower’s namesake, was indeed in the gun manufacturing business, his company was L. C. Smith Shotguns.

    Here are some sources:

    Syracuse Then and Now
    The Honored Marque
    The L.C. Smith Collectors Association

    Thanks for asking, I enjoy learning new things. I hope my answer was informative to you.

    I guess that means my original comment should have instead been:

    How appropriate that the “Smith” in Smith Tower is the same Smith of L.C. Smith Shotguns fame.

  11. 11
    Pegasus says:

    Tim…Thanks for the info. My dad had an old LC Smith shotgun which my brother ended up with when he passed. My brother has to tell me every time I see him about the gun and how great it is. Hmmmmm Now I can tell him about the Smith Tower and what really goes on up there, ta hell with the shotguns. :~)

  12. 12

    […] what happens when you make a big public announcement about intentions to convert to condos, scaring away all your good tenants, then fail to follow through because you stupidly kicked off […]

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