Dale Chihuly to sell Tacoma site

Renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly is selling the Brewery District building that houses his publishing and shipping operations to a Kirkland-based development company.

The sale is scheduled to close in February.

Janet Makela, a spokeswoman for Chihuly Studios, said Thursday that the studio is “studying its options with respect to relocating its Tacoma operations” within Tacoma. About a quarter of Chihuly’s employees work at the Jet Building at 2101 Jefferson Ave., Makela said, though the exact number was unknown.

“This is the first we have heard that there’s been a transaction on the building,” said Ryan Petty, economic development director for the City of Tacoma. “We value Dale Chihuly and look forward to working with him with a view toward keeping his operations in Tacoma.”

The Jet Building has about 80,000 square feet of space. It’s really a series of three buildings that are attached, one by skybridge, MJR Development partner Mark Lahaie said.

Lahaie said Wednesday that negotiations to buy the building began in July and were ongoing when MJR bid for the lease for Tacoma’s 100-person state Attorney General office. The state has been searching since July. MJR won the request-for-proposal process but withdrew last week. The state decided Wednesday to go another direction to find that office space.

“Some time ago we became very interested in the Brewery District, mostly because of all of the development going on around there, the (University of Washington Tacoma) – all the exciting things happening there,” Lahaie said. “We started looking around the district and contacting owners, seeing if they were willing to sell.”

University spokesman Mike Wark told The News Tribune on Oct. 1 that if the school had known that a building so close to its campus was for sale, it would have been interested. On Oct. 2, MJR withdrew its bid to be the Attorney General’s Office’s landlord. Lahaie said Wednesday the reason for withdrawing was because the company started to believe it couldn’t get the work done within the state’s timeframe.

Lahaie also said that after reading about the University of Washington’s interest, he placed a call to a person he knows at the university but that no meetings have been scheduled. Wark said Thursday that the decision-makers have not been contacted yet.

Nonetheless, Wark said the school was interested in the property. The UWT is closely following the city’s plans for the district because as the school grows, Wark said the district is a natural place for student services.

“We want to own property. But if a developer were to develop a property to meet our needs, that’s something we could consider,” Wark said. “We’re always willing to talk to people.”

MJR, meanwhile, will proceed over the next few months with its study of the building and its possible uses.

Mike McClure, a partner with MJR, said Wednesday that the company focuses on Class A commercial real estate.

“We tend to work on raw land or buildings that need a lot of love and turn them into Class A projects,” McClure said. MJR recently completed a 40,000-square-foot building next to Lakewood’s City Hall. It’s occupied by offices for the state’s Department of Social and Health Services and the Employment Security Department.

Lahaie said MJR already had done some preliminary design work for the Jet Building but that design can’t be finalized until the use of the building is clear. McClure said the company also will survey the market before the sale closes.

“Will there be demand over the next few years for office space in that area? We’re optimistic on that right now,” he said. “But three months from now we might be talking about something different.”

Kathleen Cooper: 253-597-8546