Cinematic highlights of a recent Southport wedding: The ceremony was a traditional Hindu wedding that took place outdoors under a pink and white draped mandap. The groom arrived on a white horse for his baraat.
RENTON, Wash. ― Manly Grinolds isn’t a fan of change. After all, the retired aerospace contractor has been coming to Rubattino’s for breakfast since he was 7 years old.
“This apartment, the one over here on Second and Main, that’s out of place,” Grinolds says, pointing in the direction of a new six-story complex in downtown Renton. “And it took away some of our view.”
Across the red counter at Renton’s oldest restaurant, Carl the Cook, as he prefers to be known, joins the conversation about this city’s future. Carl sees the proverbial writing — or dollar signs — on the wall. A growing economy, driven by a population that spiked 30 percent to more than 100,000 in the past decade, has created opportunity for investors.
“If you have money to play the Monopoly game,” says Carl, “you might really love Renton.”
Twelve miles south of downtown Seattle, on the southeastern shore of Lake Washington, bordered by a giant regional mall on one side and a popular wildland park on the other, Renton has long been the butt of its larger neighbor’s jokes ― a city mostly disregarded with the exception of its Boeing assembly plant and the dreaded “S-curves” along Interstate 405. In a 1991 airing of the beloved Seattle TV show Almost Live, comedian John Keister called Renton a “pit.”
But times are changing. Momentum is building. Renton could be on the verge of becoming the newest Pacific Northwest tech hub.
Along the way, this city is emerging as a case study in both the promise of the new economy and the difficult challenges that come with it. Just how far can the tech boom extend beyond Seattle? Can Renton stay true to its longtime residents and their values? And if the transformation takes hold, can this city avoid problems such as housing affordability, gridlock and other challenges that have accompanied similar transformations elsewhere in the region and the country?
Blake Diers, a senior account manager at Amazon, is one of many tech employees who are migrating south from nearby neighbors such as Seattle or Bellevue, where the tech boom has caused housing prices to skyrocket. Diers believes that Renton could become not only a place where he and his girlfriend can afford a house with a yard, but also a major employment hub.
“Bringing in high-paying technology jobs is the only way Renton will be able to get out of the persona that has developed over the years and fix a lot of the problems that the city of Seattle has not been able to fix,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for economic development, better schools, decreased crime, and a tangible vision for a walkable neighborhood district.”
Renton is home to a handful of small tech startups and Wizards of the Coast, the geeky company behind Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons. Boeing is the city’s largest employer with more than 16,000 people helping assemble 737 aircraft, the best-selling jetliner in history, on a 229-acre site with 4.3 million square feet of building space. Paccar has a sizable manufacturing campus, and a flurry of aerospace suppliers call Renton home.
There are nearly 62,000 jobs in Renton, with an average salary of $54,315, according to Payscale. But the city, located just six miles from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, is nowhere near the scale of the global tech and engineering hubs that have formed up north.
That could change if one real estate developer has its way.
Perhaps the most visible sign of Renton’s growth is the new Southport project, a triumvirate of office towers designed for tech companies totaling approximately 730,000 square-feet, right next door to Boeing’s factory on the shores of Lake Washington, adjacent to a 57-acre park, and just off Interstate 405. It also includes a completed apartment project and hotel.
Seco Development, the real estate company behind the site, has plans to operate a water taxi between Southport and Seattle/Bellevue. It built Southport specifically with the growing tech industry in mind. [Editor’s Note: Seco is the underwriting sponsor of this kickoff of the GeekWire on the Road series.]
“Tech companies that are household names will all be present [in Renton] because this is the most logical place to grow in this region,” said Seco Development CEO Michael Christ. “I don’t see it happening further out. I don’t see any other place that has the availability and scalability of land.”
There’s also a push from City Hall to help encourage development, make Renton more business friendly, and not rely so heavily on one industry or company such as Boeing. It issued more than 5,700 business permits in 2017 and private investment in the city eclipsed $500 million last year.
Denis Law, the city’s mayor since 2008, wants to attract tech companies of all types to Renton.
“I would love to see that,” the mayor told GeekWire last week in an interview at his office. “I would love to see a young workforce and young families coming into the area.”
Even with that enthusiasm, most large tech companies that have planted roots in the region in recent years — including Salesforce, Facebook, Google, Apple and dozens of others — have chosen the high-tech clusters of Seattle or Bellevue.
But Renton has room. There is 4.3 million square feet of office space, according to Colliers International, the most of any market in South King County, and that doesn’t include the new Southport office buildings. Triton Towers, a 3-building complex on a 19-acre lot just off I-405 and SR-167, has more than 230,000 square feet available. New hotels including the Hyatt Regency and Hampton Inn have also recently opened.
Renton also has the priciest office rent across South King County, but the square-foot rate ($35.16) is cheaper than in Seattle or Bellevue.
While Renton proper isn’t chock-full of tech talent, it’s still in close proximity to the surrounding cities. Chris Cocks, president of Wizards of the Coast, said the company — founded by a former systems analyst at Boeing — uses the location of its 500-person Renton office as a recruiting advantage.
“It’s a fairly easy location for a lot of people to get to,” he said.
Gavin Fysh, founder at Bloqs, a Renton-based website developer, said his employees come from all around the region.
“If your startup is heavily-funded, go to Bellevue. You can afford heavy rents; you can afford the excess; you’re going to be poaching people from the large tech companies,” he said. “But if you do it like we did, building a more traditional business, I would suggest coming to Renton. It’s less expensive rent and you can get cool space that’s available.”
But is Renton cool enough to attract young tech workers and up-and-coming companies that might grow into the next Microsoft or Amazon?
While it may not be quite as hip as Seattle or as fancy as Bellevue, the vibe in Renton might appeal to those looking for something different.
“In the long run, I think Renton will never be Seattle or Bellevue, but its own unique city with a different lifestyle and characteristics that I am personally learning to love,” said Alysha Perisho, another Amazonian who recently moved to Renton.
Added Sean Greenlee, a Starbucks executive and former U.S. Navy officer who arrived in Renton five years ago: “It’s not as overly pretentious as Bellevue and the money communities. There’s a lot of balance.”
People in Renton are “fun, kind, and caring,” said Mary Hudspeth, who helped open Four Generals Brewing in downtown Renton two years ago with her husband and son. It has been easy to make friends, she said. People look after each other here.
“It’s a funky place,” Hudspeth added. “But it’s really cool.”
A flurry of new bars and restaurants have opened up around Renton, both at The Landing, an 11-year-old 600,000 square-foot shopping center, and downtown, where a series of revitalization projects are set to begin.
Marley Shain Rall owns The Brewmaster’s Taproom, another craft beer hotspot that has quickly turned into a popular local watering hole. Rall previously worked at non-profit organizations and helps organize monthly fundraisers at her bar.
She said Renton has a good mix of both new residents and longtime locals that get along with one another.
“Renton is really resilient,” she said. “It hasn’t had the turmoil you find in a lot of places where you have different economic zones mixing.”
Grinolds, the Renton native who has lived through the ups and downs in this city, knows that change is inevitable. And after all these years, he’s still eating at his favorite spot, volunteering for the high school basketball team, walking around the 29 parks, and enjoying life up the hill with his dogs and wife.
“If you move here, you’ll like it,” he tells me at the Rubattino’s bar over brunch last week. “I wouldn’t stay if I didn’t like it.”
Roots of Renton
Renton’s manufacturing history started decades before Boeing. The Denny-Renton Clay & Coal Company and The Seattle Car Manufacturing Company — known today as Paccar — both had Renton plants that opened in the early 1900s, a result of booming business up in Seattle. The city was named after Captain William Renton, a lumber and shipping entrepreneur whose investments helped lead to coal production in the region.
World War II sparked an economic surge for Renton. Paccar built B-17 wing spars and Sherman Tanks. Boeing arrived in 1941, opening its first production facility that pumped out B-29 heavy bombers.
“Population exploded overnight and we did not have the infrastructure,” said Sarah Samson, curator of collections and exhibitions at the Renton History Museum.
Could history repeat itself in Renton, with another boom in Seattle spilling south? Add a potential major tech company landing at Southport, as politicians and developers so desire, along with a budding healthcare industry (Providence and Kaiser Permanente, which has a 29-acre campus in Renton, already employ thousands), and Renton will be dealing with some serious growing pains.
“The city will change radically as it has in the last 15 years,” said Vicky Baxter, CEO of the Renton Chamber of Commerce, who relocated from Newport Beach, Calif. five years ago. “Some people will embrace the change and others will not. My hope is millennials who are attracted to Renton for all the attributes found here will engage in public service, continuing to build on the legacy of successes.”
Transportation and affordable housing challenges are top of mind for Mayor Law, who called traffic around Renton “horrendous.”
While Renton’s central location makes it well-positioned, it also causes major highway backups in and out of the city. The evening commute from Seattle to Renton and Bellevue to Renton exceeds 20 minutes, according to INRIX data, but that can oftentimes go longer with the current traffic conditions.
Law also said the city needs to get creative with its housing mix, “so people who aren’t necessarily living on two six-figure incomes can afford to live and work here.”
Policy leaders will need to balance creation of affordable housing with an increasing amount of mid-century homes being torn down and turned into multi-million dollar properties.
Renton had the fastest population increase of any Washington city between 2000 and 2010. That has led to higher housing prices: the median home value last month was $467,000, up from $338,000 in 2008, according to Zillow data. But the spike isn’t as pronounced as Seattle, where the median home value went from $427,600 to $739,600.
“Renton’s advantage is rooted in being a more affordable city with access to Seattle jobs,” said Skylar Olsen, Zillow’s director of economic research and outreach.
Median rent values are more similar — $2,236 for Renton in September, compared to $2,479 in Seattle. Still, rents have increased 34 percent over the past five years in Renton.
That means people may not be able to afford Renton any longer, just like how some long-time Seattleites have been pushed out.
Will Renton keep its funk?
Renton’s population is 49 percent white; 19 percent Asian; 17 percent Hispanic; and 8 percent black. More than 100 languages are spoken inside its school district, which is the eighth-most diverse in the nation, according to Niche. It’s home to top-rated cuisine from around the world, from Thai to Mexican to Indian. (One of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s favorite restaurants is in the city.)
Popular attractions cover a wide spectrum. There’s the Jimi Hendrix Memorial; the Northwest’s first IKEA; and the Seattle Seahawks headquarters, which is packed with football fans who flock to the VMAC during training camp.
Even Renton’s library has a funky twist: it’s the only one in the U.S. built over a river.
And for the geeks, there’s a giant Fry’s Electronics, an impressive comic book shop, and the 8-Bit Arcade Bar, another a local favorite. That’s where you’ll find Randall Olson, a manager at 8-Bit who has the best beard in Renton.
“It’s a fun place to be,” said Olson, 32, a life-long Renton resident. “Everyone thinks they have to go to downtown Seattle to go have fun. They don’t know what Renton is like.”
But not all of the geeks feel welcome. Renton City Comicon, known as RenCon, moved its geekfest to nearby Tukwila this year after what organizers claimed was a lack of political support for the festival, which was seeking $30,000 in supporting funds from the City of Renton.
“Renton is a blue collar town. It’s the Boeing guys. And it’s a World War II coal mining town…. Right now, Renton is really struggling to find its next identity,” RenCon’s Ben Andrews told MyNorthwest.com last month.
That raises the question: Can Renton maintain its unique culture and small town feel as more tech companies and money and newcomers possibly start to change the dynamic of the city, much like what happened to Seattle and Bellevue?
A lot is riding on the 2019 election, said Marcie Palmer, a former Renton City Councilmember. Next August, residents will vote for mayor and three city council positions.
“I don’t know if I’d call it a ‘battle’ but there is a growing influx of new ideas and younger energy which views Renton differently than long-time participants,” she said. “With new ideas and energy, there is definitely resistance to change from some who have been the decision-makers for many years. The 2019 elections will be the most interesting in over a decade and could likely change the future of Renton.”
James Williamson credits younger leaders at City Hall for helping make Renton a better place to live and work compared to when he first moved to the city from Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood 15 years ago.
“It used to be where you couldn’t walk downtown Renton without being picked on by teenagers at the transit center or a drug user or having needles everywhere,” said Williamson, who works at St. Charles Place Antiques. “You can’t find that here as much anymore.”‘
Williamson knows Renton has a bad reputation. But he feels strongly that Renton is changing in a positive way.
“Get out of the damn vehicle and walk around, because Renton is not what it used to be,” he said. “It’s changed for the better and will continue to change for the better.”
Renton seems to be getting more popular, said Steve Morales, owner of the Dpad Retro Gaming & Collectables video game store that opened last year. Morales welcomes the idea of more businesses setting up shop in the city and believes it will help grow the local economy.
Alex Castillo, a manager at the store, agreed. He knows housing costs and property rents may rise if a big tech company lands in Renton — and he’s fine with that.
“There will be more population because of that company,” Castillo said. “They will be exploring the city and ideally it brings in more customers. Yes, it could mean our rents increase. But for us, we might be able to survive because of that constant flow of traffic.”
GeekWire reporters Nat Levy and Kurt Schlosser contributed to this story.
Know an interesting tech angle, personality, startup, great scoop or anything else we should be covering during our week in Renton? We’d love to hear from you. Send ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
GeekWire reports from Renton, WA for the week of Oct. 28th to Nov. 3, 2018, covering how the rapidly-changing city at the south end of Lake Washington is positioning for the future.
A developer wants to start a new water taxi running between South Lake Union and Renton. On Wednesday they went for a test ride to show what it’s like to cruise past traffic on the roads.
“We believe it’s the right time to bring service back to the lake, given the congestion and traffic woes of our region,” said Rocale Timmons, senior vice president of planning and development for SECO Development.
SECO plans to start a water taxi service between Seattle and Southport in Renton, where the company is building a sprawling complex of homes, offices, and hotel rooms. The service would be a pilot program and would commence in 2020.
Wednesday’s sailing started at Lake Union Park. The boat took passengers through the Montlake Cut and into Lake Washington. The total travel time to Renton is about 50 minutes.
A proposed water taxi would travel from Renton to Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood.
This is hardly a new concept. A century ago, dozens of boats shuttled people all around Seattle’s lakes.
The “mosquito fleet” went to the scrap yard, in part, because it just became a lot easier to drive everywhere.
Today, with roads jammed and commute times soaring, that open water is looking pretty enticing.
“We’re really at the point now where we’re essentially shopping, we’re creating specifications for the vessels, and we’re trying to understand and drill down on some of the details,” Timmons said.
They still need to figure out how people will get to and from the docks. And then there’s the cost. We don’t know how much they’ll charge for a water taxi ticket, though some are speculating it could be about $6.
Supporters say the goal would be to have regular service for commuters and people trying to get to events in the evening.
“We’re projecting a National Hockey League team to be playing in Seattle by the fall of 2020, and this is a fantastic mobility option to bring people all around Lake Washington into South Lake Union and not bring their cars,” said Mike McQuaid, transportation chair for the South Lake Union Community Council.
© 2018 KING
Southport will feature three office towers designed for technology tenants. Credit: Studio 216
Developer Michael Christ aims to do for a Seattle suburb what Amazon did for its South Lake Union neighborhood a decade ago. All he needs now is a major tenant to make it pay off.
Christ is principal of SECO Development Inc., which is developing a 17-acre, 2.4 million square foot waterfront corporate campus in Renton, a suburb of about 104,000 people 12 miles southeast of Seattle. It is one of many developments across the country seeking to lure companies to suburban locations in the wake of an urban building boom.
The project, Southport on Lake Washington, will have 712,000 square feet of office space in three towers, with the ability to expand to 5 million square feet. SECO has already built a four-star Hyatt Regency Hotel on the property and seven onsite residential towers with 383 units. Four restaurants and retail space are in the planning phase, as is a water taxi that would ferry workers between Southport and tech-centric South Lake Union.
The Southport development is on Lake Washington. Credit: Studio 216
The development is adjacent to The Landing, a high-end shopping center with 35-plus restaurants, bars and coffee shops and more than 50 stores.
“There are a lot of analogies here to South Lake Union,” said Cliff Long, economic development director for the city of Renton. “Who’s to say in coming decades that we won’t have an equally vibrant hub on the south end of the lake?”
South Lake Union, just north of downtown Seattle, has become one of Seattle’s most vibrant urban neighborhoods since Amazon moved its campus there in 2010. The neighborhood is now home to startups, high-tech labs and other global companies including Google Inc., and it has become an oasis of trendy shops, high-end restaurants, new condos and apartments.
Christ is now actively recruiting large technology companies around the world to serve as an anchor tenant for the project, which sits on land formerly occupied by a power plant.
The first two office towers — 253,000 square feet and 246,000 square feet — will open in December. The third will come online next fall.
Christ envisions an urban environment similar to that of South Lake Union and other downtown areas across the country that appeal to workers seeking proximity to transit, entertainment, restaurants and retail.
“You only get one chance to do something like this,” said Christ, who purchased the land back in 1999 when Renton was known primarily for its large Boeing Co. manufacturing plant and little else. “This will have the same composition of people working in tech communities in big cities.”
Like Christ, suburban developers across the country are taking a cue from their urban counterparts and adding lifestyle amenities to their projects, according to a report from commercial brokerage Jones Lang LaSalle, which noted that workers increasingly crave a mixed-use, live-work-play environment with access to transit.
Nearly half of all office development is now taking place in transit-friendly areas outside of major cities, the report said, noting that office rent is almost 80 percent higher in areas with transit than those without.
“Today’s workers want to feel connected to work, without sacrificing personal time, so they’re gravitating to dense, vibrant and walkable communities where they can ditch the time-sucking commute and live more sustainable, sociable and efficient lives,” said Scott Homa, senior vice president and director of U.S. Office Research at Jones Lang LaSalle, in the report.
The report cites several developments across the country similar to Southport, including Capital One’s 24.5-acre headquarters campus in suburban Washington, D.C., at Tyson’s Corner. The company recently opened its new 31-story high-rise and decked it out with three floors of amenities, including restaurants, retail and a basketball court. It is now developing an adjacent mixed-use project featuring a 1,500-seat auditorium, a grocery store and a high-density residential area.
Another development, Reston Town Center in Reston, Virginia, has more than 50 retailers, about 35 restaurants, a multi-screen cinema, luxury housing and a four-star Hyatt hotel.
In Renton, Christ is piggy-backing on several high-profile developments. The NFL’s Seattle Seahawks maintain their headquarters and practice facilities in the city. The Landing has become a regional draw. Boeing Co. remains the city’s largest employer, and the community is home to several major health care systems.
The region is also attractive to investors. Earlier this month, Colorado real estate investor Griffis Residential plunked down $283 million for two adjacent apartment buildings — among the highest single-transaction prices ever paid for multifamily property in the entire Puget Sound region, according to CoStar data.
Christ is convinced his almost 20-year quest will pay off. A big selling point is cost: Class A office rents in Renton average $39.03 per square foot, $10 less than in downtown Seattle and much cheaper than South Lake Union’s average of $59.90, according to CoStar.
“You already have things here you saw in Seattle. They’re already part of the fabric here,” he said. “There’s nothing around here available like this, period.”
It’s impossible not to feel the stress of life lifting off your shoulders while reclined in an Adirondack chair, with a glass of wine in hand, sitting just feet from Lake Washington. Small airplanes glide overhead beneath the thick canvas of clouds, and the sound of seagulls is faint enough to be relaxing.
The experience at Southport in Renton is one that can’t be replicated. The once-industrial area — home to Boeing’s 737 factory and operations for Puget Sound Energy — is slowly being redeveloped and redefined by Class “A” office space, high-end apartments, restaurants and retail, and the Hyatt Regency.
CEO Michael Christ of SECO Development — a Renton company incorporated in 1989 that specializes in infill, high-end mixed-use projects with an emphasis on residential, hotel, office, and retail — had his eye on the waterfront property for years, knowing the area could be revived if it was infused with people to enjoy its offerings. His vision for Southport has been more than 20 years in the making, but SECO’s development projects in their current state are just a taste of what’s to come.
Being in such close proximity to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Seattle, the Eastside’s bustling cities, and numerous activities, Southport in Renton makes for a luxurious staycation or home base for your visiting friends and family.
The Hyatt Regency opened July 2017, and it’s the molecular details of its construction that truly make it special. A feng shui expert was flown in from China to advise on the layout and design elements. The shape of the hotel represents a figure sitting in the middle of the structure, with the U-shaped wings as the arms resting outward toward the water. The “hat” on the top of the building is the crown placed atop the sitting figure and was added to the building to keep the luck inside. The Asian influences carry throughout the hotel (and SECO’s neighboring Class “A” office campus) with a caressing touch, from the interior design, to the spa, to the Water’s Table restaurant menu.
Upon entering the lobby, sightlines of the water and warm, walnut finishes welcome guests. Everything about the design was crafted to balance the hotel’s waterfront location with rich tones and grounding stone and wood elements that juxtapose the fluidity of the lake. And the rooms were uniquely configured to capitalize on the views, so roughly 80 percent overlook Lake Washington.
Drop your bags inside one of the luxurious, modern suites, and then head down to the spa for an afternoon of relaxation. Be sure to make an appointment ahead of time, choosing from a menu of tantalizing options. One of the most popular choices is the Calm Mind Massage. It begins with a scalp massage using a signature blend of lavender, peppermint, and tea tree oil. Take a deep breath to settle your mind. The full-body massage is heavenly paired with a warm bamboo foot massage and scrub. And since this is a vacation, why not add in a facial that detoxifies your skin, leaving you with a renewed glow? All the spa experiences are tailored to the Swedish Kerstin Florian products used.
The spa is next door to the fitness center, and it’s not the minimalistic hotel gym you’ve experienced in the past. It also overlooks the water with a variety of cardio and strength training equipment. The saline pool is in the same wing, along with a large whirlpool, hot tub, and steam room.
Now that you’re feeling refreshed, take a short walk over to Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park. It offers 57 acres of paved walking trails, tennis and volleyball courts, boat launches, and fishing docks. This time of year, the scenic park is glowing with red and orange fall leaves, and the linear trail follows the waterline and leads to Ivar’s Seafood Restaurants & Chowder and Kid Valley restaurant. Covered and uncovered picnic tables also are scattered around the park. If you take the road past the north end of the park, you’ll arrive at the Seahawks’ training center, The Virginia Mason Athletic Center. You may even be lucky enough to spot one of the players around town. Many of them live in the Southport area.
The Landing, a mixed-use residential and shopping center on Southport Drive, offers a myriad of restaurants, including Vino at The Landing, an excellent wine bar. Also in the complex is The Seahawks Pro Shop, which is one of only two in the state — the other is located at CenturyLink Field.
While you’re in Southport, though, you must try Peyrassol Café, which is just a few paces from the entrance of the Hyatt. The quaint café offers an intimate environment and meals that rival other Eastside restaurants. Order one of the pasta dishes. The hand-cut noodles nestled with fresh vegetables and sauce are the ultimate comfort food, without the heavy feeling.
Once the neighboring office campus is finished — the third and final building is scheduled for completion in late 2019 — a whole new menu of offerings will be available to Southport visitors. It’s too early to say who the retail tenants will be, but one exciting restaurant has announced it will be opening there. Black Rooster, a renowned farm-to-table Chinese restaurant, decided to open its first North American location in Southport. Its famous black chicken soup is known to have people waiting in line out the door.
So, you’ve toured Southport, and now for the grand finale. You can’t leave the area without dining at Water’s Table, which won our 2018 Best of 425 awards for Best Outdoor Dining, Cocktail, and Romantic Dinner. We can personally say it lives up to the hype.
The neutral tones and soft lighting allow the food and libations to be the focal point, along with the Lake Washington view, of course. Arrive just before sunset to watch the sun quietly melt into the clouds until the sky matches the deep blue lake.
Try the Summer Nights Dream cocktail with Crater Lake Vodka, lemon juice, strawberry pureé, rhubarb bitters, and sparkling rosé. The bright strawberry flavor married with the crisp, bubbly rosé makes this drink one to experience. For dinner, order the Shoyu Duck. It’s slow-roasted and served with Asian pears, green apple slivers, and cabbage. If you’re one to avoid duck because you’re not a fan of the fatty meat, we encourage you to give this a try. It’s cooked so the interior is tender and juicy, and the exterior skin is crispy and lightly seasoned.
End the night with a rich dessert, like the Prada 9, a spongy chocolate cake with coffee sabayon and chocolate mousse. Whatever you do, you must order the Taylor Fladgate Porto off the dessert menu, and it pairs beautifully with the Prada 9. The 20-year port from Portugal is perfection. The blend of oak and fruit has a slight caramel finish and is the ultimate nightcap. Take your drink downstairs to the outside seating area. The restaurant shares a border with Boeing, and there’s nothing like enjoying the waning day next to a flickering fire with stately Boeing 737 planes 150 feet away.
For decades, the Eastside commercial real estate community has been largely defined by downtown Bellevue, Redmond and a limited number of other area submarkets.
The distinctions are well-earned: As the state’s second largest central business district, Bellevue has a formidable core, with more than 10 million total square feet of commercial office space. And Redmond, after all, is home to Microsoft, which began its tech-office campus development in the mid-1980s, before broadening its footprint later into Bellevue, Seattle and other markets around the world.
Imagine getting away to a beautiful amenity-laden hotel with impressive Pacific Northwest luxury décor, a fine-dining restaurant, waking up to a lake view with eagles fishing for breakfast. Oh and you can watch the news on a 65 inch flat-screen TV. Not far from I-5 or Sea-Tac Airport, Seattle Southport is a new upscale waterfront development, which is home to lake-view condos and small shops and adjacent to a city park. This was the destination for my getaway at the stunning Hyatt Regency Lake Washington.
Southport, part of the town of Renton, is close to both Seattle and Bellevue. The architectural beauty of this development combined with the natural beauty of Lake Washington, is a major reason why business meetings, weddings as well as individuals and families find the Southport’s Hyatt Regency Lake Washington a perfect location. Upon completion, the Southport campus will feature four restaurants and additional first floor retail space.
Beauty and Convenience of Hyatt Regency Lake Washington
While the 347-room Hyatt Regency Lake Washington is new and beautiful, the attention to detail lies in service and convenience as well. Each morning I left my 11th-floor lake view and had a hot breakfast in the second floor Hyatt Regency Club. The club is a place where you can relax, watch a game, read the paper and enjoy self-service snacks and beverages all day. For breakfast, they served steaming hot oatmeal, fresh-cut fruit, and varied hot breakfast items—all with a view of the lake.
While conferences proceeded in the immense meeting rooms on the first floor, I spent my time exploring the Seattle waterfront (a half hour away), walked the pathways through the adjacent Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park, and sat in the warm sun on a comfortable lounge chair on the hotel’s dock. The dock is available to boaters who want to tie up and have a meal at Water’s Table, the hotel’s fine dining restaurant.
I was intrigued by the activities at the Boeing plant next door to the hotel. Huge green airliners were lined up while workers, during the day, put the finishing touches on the interior. Boeing has a large presence in the area, along with a number of other high-tech firms. Much of the newer sleekly modern office buildings, restaurants, and shopping is due to the influx of professionals from around the world to work on these campuses.
Dining at Hyatt Regency Lake Washington
One evening I had the pleasure of dining at Waters’ Table, the fine dining restaurant at the Hyatt Regency. As I settled at my table with a view, I enjoyed watching families walking on the lakeside promenade below. After work boaters and personal watercraft entertained me on the lake. I sipped on a local Washington wine and perused the decidedly Asian and Pacific Northwest menu. The restaurant, decorated in neutral colors with interesting fabrics and textures, surrounded an open bar and featured an attached patio for al fresco dining.
The waitress explained to me that the Asian influence on the creative menu was due, in part, to the preferences of the Chinese co-owner of the waterfront development.
That evening I enjoyed the excellent and beautifully plated Campbell River salmon with Walla Walla onion juniper soubise, sautéed pea vines, and garlic morels—very farm to table. After a light dessert, I joined the people walking the pathways outside waiting for the sunset and enjoying the view of the lake with the city of Seattle in the distance.
Upscale Amenities at Hyatt Regency Lake Washington
Sunset comes rather late during Pacific Northwest summers. So, I eventually retired to my multi-windowed room to watch the clouds form and the sun as it set.
Rooms at the Hyatt Regency Lake Washington truly are retreats. All 347 offer the plush Hyatt Grand Bed™ which are extremely comfortable, 65” flat-screen HDTV, and ample workspace. Their high-end suites offer the extra luxury of an outdoor terrace. After a day of hiking, kayaking, or wine tasting, you can experience a perfect Pacific Northwest escape. My room was on a corner and so had views from windows on two walls. I could see activities on the lake as well as views Bird Island at Coulon Beach Park. The small reserve, a result of a habitat restoration project, is home to the eagles that soar over the lake.
My visit to the Hyatt Regency Lake Washington was all too short. I noticed the beautiful indoor pool and onsite spa, a must-do for another visit. A stay at the hotel includes complimentary access to the 2,900 sq. ft. Stay-Fit fitness center featuring a dedicated yoga room, steam room, the saline pool, whirlpool, massage and spa services on request, and strength training and cardiovascular equipment.
As I walked through the first-floor hallway from the parking garage, I read about enhancements coming to the development. If you have been to the Seattle area lately you know about the traffic, so I was pleased to see that water taxi routes across the lake are planned for less than two years. The development looked like an ideal work-live-play environment featuring the waterfront of beautiful Lake Washington.
When You Go to the Hyatt Regency Lake Washington
The hotel is dog-friendly (under 40 pounds) and, with the city park next door, would be an ideal place for a family retreat. While I chose to self-park in the garage, they have valet parking service at the front door.
The hotel is located at 1053 Lake Washington Boulevard North, Renton, Washington 98056 and you can call 425.203.1234 for more information or visit online at lakewashington.regency.hyatt.com.
The Hyatt Regency Lake Washington provided an enjoyable waterfront retreat in an otherwise bustling urban area. If you are mindful of workday traffic patterns, you can actually get to some of the Seattle area attractions in a half hour or less. Be sure to check out Wander for more about what to do when you Travel Washington.
Note: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with accommodations and a meal for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.
If you’re heading to North Renton, make sure you check where you’re turning. Few of the street names have changed.
Along the shores of Lake Washington in Renton, there is a lot of construction going on and the area is quickly transforming.
Exxel Pacific and SECO Development marked the topping out of the first two towers of the Southport office campus on May 11. That project is scheduled to finish later this year, for occupancy in early 2019. A third tower is expected to be completed next year.
Black Rooster is a Chinese fine dining restaurant that is focused on the use of fresh, local ingredients.