With the iconic Space Needle defining the Seattle skyline since 1962, you’d have thought the city had the idea of tall and skinny high-rise development down pat. Not so, attests Tom Parsons, general manager for Bellevue, Wash.-based Opus Northwest. “Seattle zoning has historically been very blocky, and the blocks have filled up wall-to-wall,” Parsons says.

As a result, the city of Seattle has pushed for a return to tall and skinny from developers seeking to add to the skyline. Opus NW looks to be the fi rst to meet that challenge with Fifteen Twenty-One Second Avenue, a 36-story, 440-foot condo tower featuring 143 luxury units located on a mere 0.37-acre site.

Using shear-core construction on a concrete foundation that took 20 hours to pour, the tower eliminates the need for an abundance of exterior columns, allowing Opus to offer expansive views from each unit and maximize salable square footage. Not that it was easy. “Your cost-per-square-foot goes up dramatically when you only have a 10,000-square-foot floor plate to begin with and still have to account for vertical transportation and exits,” Parsons says. “It is an expensive product.”


Location: Seattle
Builder: Opus NW Contractors
Developer: Opus NWR Development
Architect: Weber Thompson Architects
Opened: December 2008
No. of Units: 143
Unit Mix: Two-bedroom condos
Prices: $1 million to $5 million

Indeed, the units at Fifteen Twenty-One Second Avenue fetch an average of $1.8 million in one of the toughest condo markets in recent memory—and with good reason. With no more than fi ve condos per floor, the 2,000-plus-square-foot units feature Sub Zero refrigerators, Dornbracht faucets, Blanco sinks, and Wolf appliances. Units also off er enclosed solariums in lieu of balconies to maximize square footage and eliminate water intrusion concerns.

A great use of construction techniques and design for a high-rise with a limited footprint, a fitting addition to the Seattle skyline. —Greg Bonifield, Partner, Woodfield Investments

Gone, however, are luxury amenities such as onsite restaurants and theaters. “We found in pre-construction focus groups that most of the people viewed the building’s amenity package to include the neighborhood,” Parsons says. “Within blocks, we have Pike Place market and more than 90 restaurants and performing arts venues.” As a result, homeowners’ fees are $0.55 per square foot vs. $0.75 in comparable high-rises. No small issue in an economy where even luxury condo buyers are becoming cost conscious.