Market Perspectives – Complex Site Development

Demand for centrally located property in Seattle remains high, despite health and economic concerns from the Covid-19 global pandemic. But geographic constraints, in addition to the waning supply of developable parcels, makes new development increasing difficult.

GIS views these market obstacles more like opportunities — for specialization. We have a long history of developing and constructing buildings on highly complex urban parcels characterized by the following conditions:

  • Environment clean-up
  • Tight urban parcels
  • Steep slope sites

Project Site Tour

Madison Plaza in Kent

GIS recently started construction on Madison Plaza, a 7-story mixed-use residential building with 157 market-rate units over a 2-floor retail podium. The site is unbeatable — just steps away from Kent Station, the ShoWare Center, and a host of other local service and lifestyle amenities.

Designed by IHB Architects, Madison Plaza features a robust on-site amenities program – 1,200 SF of ground-floor retail, secure entry lobby, water features, fitness center, game-room lounge area, bike storage and washing, turf and dog run, BBQs and a 12,000-SF rooftop gathering space, to name just a few. The building will also have 157 parking stalls for residents and their guests.

The TOD is perfect working professionals, particularly those in the tech space. And, there’s tremendous demand for upscale apartment homes in the area, with most existing projects at least 3 years old. Construction will be complete in approximately 24 months.

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Q:  What are the most critical issues facing the future health of our industry?

A: There are several, for sure, with a couple that immediately come to mind. First, the regulatory climate has become a major issue for new project development and permitting, especially with the complexity of commercial projects, evolving infrastructure, and the recent pandemic. The barriers to entry are now so high that the separation between giant projects and infill developments is becoming wider and wider every year.The other issue, which is related, that I think about frequently these days is the remote-work environment. Its adoption in construction and real estate has been pretty seamless, in fact. But as industry professionals become used to remote working, it’s getting harder to convince them that real, one-to-one face time remains critical for problem resolution, team cohesion and collaboration. In addition, measuring employee performance remains a significant issue — and sometimes, a challenge — in today’s remote work environment.

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Eugene Gershman

The Executive Minute

Eugene Gershman, CEO, GIS International Group

 

 

 

GIS in the News

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New 6-story Mixed-Use Development on 109th, GIS Plaza, Breaks Ground

GIS Plaza, the mixed-use six-story development in Downtown Bellevue, recently broke ground. The address of the project is 930 109th Avenue Northeast.

The mixed-use development will be comprised of 16 condos, ground-floor retail, office space, and subterranean parking with 21 stalls. The first floor will include retail, parking and the building lobby. The second floor will feature GIS International Group’s executive offices, plus two residential units.The remaining floors, three through six, will be residential units.

Designed by nationally renowned SkB Architects, the development is being engineered and constructed by some of the region’s top performing companies.

The property was purchased in 2005 for $1.3 million. The corner lot is 6,659 square feet and will overlook Northeast 10th Street. The building is close to the public library, Ashwood Park and Bellevue’s urban core.

GIS Plaza is slated to reach completion in fall 2021.

GIS International Group is a Redmond-based full-service real estate company. They are known for developing custom homes and commercial buildings, working on all types of terrain with an understanding of difficult building sites like steep slopes.

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Seattle’s march toward legacy city

Over the past few development cycles, the region’s urban communities — notably downtown Seattle and Bellevue — have continued a path toward rapid densification. As employment rises in the core, so does the need for housing, multi-modal transit and other fundamental elements supporting urban growth.

The evidence is everywhere: Our downtown communities rank near the top of all U.S. cities in the number of tower cranes on major construction sites. Developers and their partners are delivering a range of project types to meet demand from urban residents, large-scale office users, health, education and research organizations, retailers and hospitality operators, among others. And while the coronavirus has impacted the projected pace of some downtown development, there’s reason to believe that Seattle and Bellevue remain healthy targets for domestic and global investors. The area’s overall desirability, in addition to its ability to adapt to the “new normal,” has given further strength to the local residential market.

Eugene Gershman

The area’s historic growth requires new innovations for complex site development.

By EUGENE GERSHMAN
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Market Perspectives – Complex Site Development

Demand for centrally located property in Seattle remains high, despite health and economic concerns from the Covid-19 global pandemic. But geographic constraints, in addition to the waning supply of developable parcels, makes new development increasing difficult.

GIS views these market obstacles more like opportunities — for specialization. We have a long history of developing and constructing buildings on highly complex urban parcels characterized by the following conditions:

  • Environment clean-up
  • Tight urban parcels
  • Steep slope sites

Oftentimes, we find ourselves taking on development projects that many of our competitors pass on, for a variety of reasons. One example is the Park 12 townhome community, on a former dump site, we built recently near the Spring District. The site was close to sensitive wetlands, and GIS restored a portion of a salmon-bearing creek that runs through the property.  We also replaced fallen trees with new plantings home to a wide range of at-risk birds and insects.

Our team is currently constructing GIS Plaza, situated on a tiny (quarter-block) parcel in downtown Bellevue. The site is too small for traditional subterranean parking, so we’re installing a fully mechanical parking system at the building, with the help of noted partner SkB Architects. It’s Bellevue’s first of its kind, providing 21 stalls in a space that typically would accommodate just seven cars.

Steep-slope sites have historically deterred developers, specifically for single-family homes. Not GIS. We recently built one of the region’s most tech-advanced homes, Alta Vista, in Bellevue. It’s located on a 100% slope so, like any successful project, we needed experienced partners. Our structural engineer Pasko with CK Engineering, helped us to install 29 auger cast pilings, some 75 feet long, to retain the hillside and provide stability to the home, which sold in 2017 for $2.6 million.

Project Site Tour

Madison Plaza in Kent

GIS recently started construction on Madison Plaza, a 7-story mixed-use residential building with 157 market-rate units over a 2-floor retail podium. The site is unbeatable — just steps away from Kent Station, the ShoWare Center, and a host of other local service and lifestyle amenities.

Designed by IHB Architects, Madison Plaza features a robust on-site amenities program – 1,200 SF of ground-floor retail, secure entry lobby, water features, fitness center, game-room lounge area, bike storage and washing, turf and dog run, BBQs and a 12,000-SF rooftop gathering space, to name just a few. The building will also have 157 parking stalls for residents and their guests.

Madison Plaza is perfect for working professionals, particularly those in the tech space. And, there’s tremendous demand for upscale apartment homes in the area, with most existing projects at least 3 years old. Construction will be complete in approximately 24 months. 

The Executive Minute

Eugene Gershman, CEO, GIS International Group

 Q: What are the most critical issues facing the future health of our industry?

A: There are several, for sure, with a couple that immediately come to mind. First, the regulatory climate has become a major issue for new project development and permitting, especially with the complexity of commercial projects, evolving infrastructure, and the recent pandemic. The barriers to entry are now so high that the separation between giant projects and infill developments is becoming wider and wider every year.

The other issue, which is related, that I think about frequently these days is the remote-work environment. Its adoption in construction and real estate has been pretty seamless, in fact. But as industry professionals become used to remote working, it’s getting harder to convince them that real, one-to-one face time remains critical for problem resolution, team cohesion and collaboration. In addition, measuring employee performance remains a significant issue — and sometimes, a challenge — in today’s remote work environment.

 Q: What are our most profound obstacles to growth in this region?

A: Overregulation is by far the most profound obstacle to growth in our region. Real estate development is such a complicated process, requiring such a lengthy approval process, that it sometimes can create unnecessary barriers. These barriers limit supply, which in turn causes indefinite cost escalation. A typical commercial project takes between 18 to 24 months to permit, on average. Inconsistencies in review process, and uncertainty in jurisdictional interpretation of certain codes can increase the cost of new projects — therefore, causing an ultimate increase in housing prices. A more streamlined approval and permitting process for single- and multi-family residential projects could help significantly reduce housing costs, an outcome that we can all embrace.

Q: Describe a couple of opportunities for market expansion that GIS will leverage moving forward

A: GIS is focused on multi- and single-family residential projects. We are greatly concerned with the homelessness crisis in our area and would love to bring an affordable housing project to the market in the near future.

Q: How has Covid-19 had a positive change on the way you conduct business on a daily basis?

GIS was able to set up a reliable remote work environment to allow our office to perform most of their required tasks from home (excluding construction field operations). In the beginning of lockdown, we introduced company-wide weekly “virtual happy hours,” which have become important team-building exercises. These meetings are optional, but most team members do sign in for some social interaction every Friday afternoon. We play virtual games, share stories, and tell jokes, which is very important for people who do not normally interact on a daily basis.

Q: What do you believe is truly unique about the Puget Sound region compared to other markets?

A: I think it’s our access to top-level talent in this market. I learned in early 2000s when attending UW’s Foster School of Business that students who move to this area, and those who grow up here, do not typically move away. With the tremendous growth of tech and aerospace companies, the Puget Sound region is quickly becoming a major new workforce hub. That became especially evident when large tech companies from the Silicon Valley began establishing their secondary location in this market — Apple, Facebook, and Google, to name a few.

Q: How would you describe your leadership style?

A: First, I am pretty hands on. I like diving deep into issues, interacting personally with clients and investors, and participating in project meetings. It is becoming more challenging as the company grows, so I am dedicating more of my time to company growth and development.

Q: Who has had the most profound impact on your career?

A: Definitely my father. He literally and figuratively raised me to join and run the company. When graduating college with a degree in economics, I initially thought that I would make my own career in the financial services industry. However, after completing my MBA a few years later my father gave me an opportunity to set up and run a small branch office of GIS. My finance background helped me to get started, but with his guidance I was able to advance my leadership skills.

Q: Name a public figure (in or outside your industry) you most admire, and why

A: I’d have to choose business/tech leaders like Elon Musk and Steve Jobs for their charisma, devotion to their goals and bravery when faced with adversity.

Q: Name an interesting movie you’ve seen recently that has changed the way you look at life

A: “The Game Changers,” a documentary. I recently eliminated most animal products from my diet. I didn’t go on a very strict plant-based lifestyle as the film suggests but drastically reduced my meat and poultry consumption. I still enjoy seafood or fish once or twice a week and do have occasional cheese, but otherwise mostly eat plant-based food.

Q: What do you do in your spare time (assuming no Covid restrictions)

A: I rarely have spare time, but I am passionate about music. I continue studying music theory and practicing guitar and piano — time permitting. It is also fun to jam with my kids, who are getting more and more fluent in music these days. I am happy to admit that my oldest daughter (13) is a much better piano player than I am. We started learning together when she was 5.

 GIS In the News

Eastside Development Company Ramps Up With Bellevue, Kent Projects

Puget Sound Business Journal, Mar. 16, 2020

Real Perspectives Podcast: Ryan Grams and Eugene Gershman, GIS International Group

The Registry Seattle, May 21, 2020

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New GIS headquarters in Bellevue includes housing in 6-story complex

Fifteen years after the small downtown Bellevue property at 930 109th Ave. N.E. sold for $1.3 million, GIS Plaza is now under construction, and has risen above ground.

Its long, ill-starred history is belied by what’s taking form today.

The current project, designed by SkB Architects, is a six-story building with residential units, retail and office space. Stacked parking will provide 19 stalls.

GIS International Group, a Redmond-based developer with Russian roots, is building its future headquarters. A retail bay and parking will occupy the first floor (with some parking also below grade). Offices and apartments will go on the second, with more apartments on the third and fourth floors.

Floors five and six were originally to be three large condos — for a total of 13 units. GIS recently said there will be 16 units, so the project appears to have changed somewhat since permits were issued. A roof deck is also planned.

The 6,659-square-foot corner occupies an odd bit of downtown Bellevue real estate, where large blocks are the norm. Essentially an alley, 109th wraps around the site and neighboring Metropolitan condos to the south. GIS Plaza will overlook Northeast 10th Street, facing the library and pocket park. The site is also bounded by 110th Avenue Northeast to the east. It’s basically at the north tip of a long, skinny mini-block.

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Home Office Design Trends to Maximize Remote Working Productivity

If the COVID-19 pandemic has you working from home for the first time, you’re likely encountering some issues with productivity. Making the shift to a remote work environment can be a difficult task.

There’s plenty of distractions at home, and holding yourself accountable can be a tough feat. If you add children, dogs, Netflix, or neighborhood noises to the mix, it can seem like it’s impossible to remain focused while working from home.

Thankfully, there are several things you can do to improve your focus and increase your productivity. It all begins by ensuring that your home office is designed with productivity in mind.

Here are a few office design trends to get you started on the right track. With a little ingenuity and forward-thinking, it’s entirely possible to maximize productivity while working remotely.

Trend #1: Embrace Minimalism

Minimalism isn’t just a trendy word for nomadic, tiny house owners and housewives. No, the minimalist movement has taken a foothold in virtually every facet of the design world, including the home office.

There’s a good reason for it, too. Minimalism is all about eliminating clutter and getting rid of the things you don’t need. Doing so allows you to focus on what matters. Think of it this way, if you have to work in your remote office amongst stacks of paper, and busy decoration, you’re liable to get distracted.

Instead, focus on only keeping what you need in your home office. Minimalism also focuses on space-saving techniques. So, in the home office, that could mean built-in desks, sliding pocket doors, or hidden storage solutions.

Ultimately, minimalism allows you to free up your brainwaves so that you can focus on the work at hand and maximize your productivity.

Trend #2: Add in Natural Features

Natural elements are a huge trend in home design this year. Natural features are also making waves in offices and other commercial properties, too. So, it’s not a leap to include them in your home office’s design. Aside from the fact that natural elements are trendy, these features also promote a wide range of benefits.

Adding plants and natural sunlight is scientifically-proven to increase organization and improve job satisfaction. Moreover, exposure to plants and sunlight reduces depression and anxiety levels.

So, add a plant to your desk or the corner of your office. Succulents, cacti, and bonsai trees are a few charming low-maintenance options. If you have a window in your home office, keep it open during the workday.

Trend #3: Enclose Yourself and Reduce Distractions

If your home office is in the living room or is in a guest bedroom, getting focused and staying productive can be even more challenging. You not only have to battle your own attention level, but you have to worry about being interrupted. Since more people are unexpectedly working from home these days, there’s a new trend emerging.

Rather than accepting the living room as a viable working space, people are turning to solutions like screen wall panels or other separation panels. This allows them to create an enclosed space for working. If this is your situation, you should consider jumping on this trend so that you can close yourself off from the distractions around the house.

Trend #4: Go Blue

When it comes to colors for your home office, the only real rule is to choose a color that you love. However, if you really want to activate the productivity, there’s some science to color selection.

The color blue increases focus and promotes relaxation, all the while boosting productivity. You can paint your entire office blue, paint one wall of your office blue, or just decorate the office with blue décor.

The benefits of blue don’t stop there. There’s been a lot of studies done on the best lighting for increasing workflow. Natural sunlight ranks number one, but blue-enriched light bulbs are an excellent second choice. Research suggests that blue-enriched light bulbs increase happiness, improve alertness, and reduce overall eye strain.

(As a side note, blue-enriched light bulbs are not the same as the blue light that emanates from your computer and phone screens. That type of blue light can have the opposite effect. So, be sure to take plenty of screen breaks during your workdays).

Trend #5: Think About Comfort

While working remotely presents many hurdles, there are also a lot of benefits. One of those is that you can control your environment and maximize comfort.

We all have images of ornately decorated “studies,” with large bookshelves, and bullishly large desks permanently etched in our brains as the standard for home office design. However, this aesthetic isn’t practical anymore.

Nowadays, the trend for the home office can be surmised in one word: comfort. Your office should be catered to you. From the chair to the lighting to the color scheme, it’s about designing your office space to cater to your productivity needs.

This makes sense because if you’re uncomfortable, you won’t be able to focus on anything except how uncomfortable you are. When you eliminate that distraction, your productivity soars. This sort of benefit doesn’t exist in traditional office settings, which is why more people are taking advantage of the power to craft their home office designs around their unique needs.

Maximize Your Remote Working Productivity

These five trends are all centered around maximizing your productivity while working remotely. If you design your home office with these trends in mind, you’ll maximize your productivity in no time.

 

Jordan Swift is a contributor to the Innovative Materials blog. He is a content writer for the construction and home improvement industries with an interest in landscaping, outdoor remodeling, and interior design. Jordan is focused on educating homeowners, contractors, and architects on innovative materials and methods of construction that increase property value, improve sustainability, and create a warm and welcoming ambiance.

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Green & Sustainable Building Options

Choose GIS For Both Green And Sustainable Building Options

Many of our clients are interested in building homes that are eco-friendly. There are two different yet similar schools of thought in approaching a construction project: Green building and Sustainable building.

Green building refers to the making building choices in design, materials, appliances, and lifestyle that focus on a more efficient use of resources, while minimizing any harmful impact on the environment when compared to other options.

Sustainable building refers to those choices we make that solve specific challenges without having adverse implications in the future. This includes the long-term effect of choosing specific building materials, recycling, and more.

We can make Green buildings choices and selections to create structures that effectively reduce the overall impact on the natural environment. The choices we make in materials and energy use can impact your health, and the health of animals, plants, and the local ecosystem. As we plan your home, multi-family, or commercial building, we can focus on efficiently using energy, water, and other resources while protecting everyone’s health and reducing waste, pollution and any negative impact on the local environment.

We can employ Green Building Strategies for your home or commercial building by focusing on ways to create efficient, energy-saving homes that are eco-friendly.

Green building practices are primarily focused on developing sustainable sites, increasing water and energy efficiency, reducing waste and emissions, using eco-friendly building materials, and improving indoor environmental quality more efficiently than conventional designs.

GIS Can Provide Energy Sources That Are Eco-Friendly Such As:

● Geothermal Energy

● Wind Energy

● Solar Energy (Though we must plan carefully when we use solar in Washington, since it rains so often here)

● Renewable Energy

● Others

GIS Can Provide Water Systems That Are Eco-Friendly Such As:

● Net-Zero Water

● Efficient Water Use Appliances and Household Items

● Rainwater Harvesting and Storage

● Stormwater Management

● Wastewater Treatment

Green Interiors Can Provide Expert Planning For Green Living, Like:

● Flooring and Finishes

● Daylighting/Lighting

● Space Use Efficiency

● Eco-Friendly Material Selection

● Indoor Landscaping

Call GIS at 206.203.3514 and let’s schedule a time to talk about how Green and Sustainable building choices can help you improve your building project, your life, and can have a positive impact on your immediate and future budget.

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What Does GIS International Do For Multi-Family Building Projects That You Can’t Find Anywhere Else?

Traditional builders, in a sense, have a series of experts that handle each step of the building process. However, these builders and their network of specialists inevitably create problems in the “gaps” between each step – with each phase being handed off to the next contractor, there is always a loss of knowledge and momentum as the project gets handed off again and again, through the chain of well-intentioned but disjointed experts.

At GIS, we employ experts, but our systems are uniquely efficient.  Our process works to ensure that there is a constant stream of communication from start to finish, with our network working in conjunction with one another to ensure that the project benefits fully from the knowledge and expertise of each specialist, and the process goes smoothly.

What you will notice includes:

Preparation

Our testing, surveying, and due diligence is far more thorough than what typically occurs on a jobsite. This is because we know that if we spend a dollar in preparation, it saves us $10 dollars in planning, and $1,000 in construction.

Process:

Instead of disconnected experts handing the baton off to the next expert and moving on to their next project, we bring them together to create a comprehensive plan that works in harmony with your overall goals.

Efficiency

We are known for our efficiency – taking it upon ourselves to ensure that every dollar spent is maximized to the hilt.  This belief and approach extends from the first day to the ongoing operation of the building – with ultra-efficient living as our goal.

Result

GIS buildings are stronger, built better, with maximum outcomes for your investment.  They require less upkeep and are more efficient to operate. They are sleek in their appearance and use of resources, bud ruggedly built, able to ensure and withstand the elements.

Want To Discuss Your Ideas For A New Multi-Family Residence?

Call GIS and tell us about your ideas for a new multi-family building. Then, we can schedule a time for a complimentary visit, when we can pinpoint ways that we can improve your building concept and plans.

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