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Esplanade condo sales reviving

Post by John Gillie / The News Tribune on Feb. 26, 2010 at 1:42 pm |
February 26, 2010 1:42 pm

There’s nothing like a big price cut to pump up sales at a struggling condominium project.

The biggest Tacoma condominium project ever to enter foreclosure, the Esplanade on the Thea Foss Waterway near downtown, has seen its sales triple in two months since the project went back on the market, said Mark Ossola, the project’s developer.

Thirty of the 162 units in the waterfront building just south of South 15th Street on the waterway’s west side have now sold. Just 10 units had been sold when the $82 million project went into foreclosure last summer. The bank that financed the building’s construction now owns the structure.

Ossola said the new price structure cuts asking prices by an average of 25 percent.

“It’s a great deal when you can buy a condominium for less than the owner’s construction cost,” he said.

Those price cuts mean that the building’s smaller units, which were being sold for over $300,000 before the price cuts, can now be acquired for less than $200,000. Some penthouse units are $250,000 off the former list price.

A “grand opening” last weekend attracted some 125 potential buyers, said the developer.

Of those, about 60 percent said they would have to sell their existing homes before buying a new condo, but the remaining 40 percent said they were unencumbered by an existing home.

The new owner has partnered with MetLife Home Loans to offer financing on the units.

The Federal Housing Administration may soon approve the building for financing, which could potentially lower down payment requirements, he said.

Meanwhile, the new owners are talking with the City of Tacoma to loosen up shoreline regulations on leasing of retail space in the building. The owners hope the city will allow some of the ground floor space to be leased for offices instead of retail.

An engineering firm has expressed interest in leasing about 6,000 square feet on the water side of the building. Even if they were allowed to lease that space, the corner spaces on the waterfront side of the building would remain available for retail uses.

Retail leasing along the waterway has been difficult because housing units are still vacant and because parking for other customers can be difficult to find.

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