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Eastside development company ramps up with Bellevue, Kent projects.

An Eastside development company that was on an upward trajectory before the recession with tower projects in Seattle and Bellevue has re-emerged.

The principals of GIS International Group want another crack at a Seattle tower, and as they wait, they’re under construction on two developments, including its downtown Bellevue headquarters, GIS Plaza.

The six-story project, which also has retail and 16 residential units, is rising where GIS planned a condo project, European Tower. With its one-home-per-floor design, it got a lot of buzz before the recession.

GIS also is under construction on Madison Plaza, a seven-story, mixed-use apartment project in downtown Kent near the Sounder station.

“The walkability there is amazing,” said GIS Principal Ryan Grams, who added that some units in existing apartment buildings near the train station “are getting Bellevue rents.”

GIS, which has its roots in Russia, has quietly become a full-service real estate development, general contracting company with design, 3D visualization and other services.

“We decided it was a good time for us to follow in our father’s footsteps and start our own construction company,” said GIS CEO Eugene Gershman.

The family moved from Moscow to Bellevue in the 1990s, and he and sister Tanya have been running GIS for 16 years. She married Grams, who grew up in Bellevue.

The Gershmans’ father Igor still runs the GIS concrete plant in central Russia, making products for projects in far-flung locations with extreme environments. In the Puget Sound region, the company is applying that knowledge to build mostly custom homes on sites with steep slopes and other challenges.

“When we first look at a project that would have to be set on pilings — one most builders would look away from and not ever come back — to us it’s like, ‘Well OK, we’re going to have to drop some piles in the ground. We’ve done that before,’” Eugene Gershman said.

GIS no longer owns the Seattle site at the southwest corner of Stewart Street and Minor Avenue, where they had planned a 25-story hotel/residential tower.

“We still want to do a tower (in Seattle),” Ryan Grams said, adding it’s a medium-term goal. “Short term we’re hoping to capitalize on a few more projects (the size of Madison Plaza) and just keep going.”

GIS International Group

Real estate development services company

  • Founded: 1992
  • Employees: 15 in the office and a handful in the field
  • Past projects: Custom homes, historic preservation work, 12-unit town-home project in Bellevue


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The Importance of Realistic Designs and Earnest Budgeting.

Clients come to us regularly with a disconnects between what they want versus their preconceived budget. It’s our job to wade through the wants, needs and absolute must haves. We must also be respectful to their financial realities.

We sometimes say jokingly that sure we can build your house at X price, but it will be the size of a shoebox. In all seriousness, we’re noticing a trend a fair amount, and that is the notion that we can make any scope meet any budget expectations. In other words we’re so good, and have the best connections and subcontractors we know you guys can make this happen for this price. We believe that we can always reduce some of the costs of things, however many designed elements cost what they cost. A new cost increase due to code changes a lot of projects are facing are storm water retention systems. While we take this sentiment as a compliment, we do not set the market prices of things. We do for sure operate efficiently, and help folks get what they need.

We’ve adopted a philosophy over the years and that is either your scope dictates your budget or your budget dictates your scope. Meaning, we will either have to save on the cost of the land, the amount we dedicate to design and development, or the more common option reduce the scope. We’ve never worked with anyone that has an “open wallet” wherein money is no object. Rest assure that we can help.

Unfortunately, there are many predatory contractors in the construction industry. There are also others that simply do not have the skill set to estimate and properly budget your scope of work. Yes, there are market fluctuations for the pricing of many materials. Believe it or not several materials like steal, lumber, concrete and hardwoods fluctuate all the time. This is why we believe in setting adequate contingency budgets. We can always work to reduce the overall cost, once a reasonable budget has been established through value engineering and realize savings.

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GIS Brochure

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