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For rent: The penthouse atop Seattle’s Smith Tower

By Heidi Groover Seattle Times

For the right long-term commitment, a Seattle renter could snag a unique apartment that has never been on the market before: the pyramid-shaped penthouse atop Seattle’s historical Smith Tower.

The price: $17,000 a month.

Listed for the first time since it was converted to a living space in the late ’90s, the 2,128-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment spans two levels. A catwalk surrounds the living room, and triangular windows offer views of the city and Elliott Bay. Take the staircase to reach the glass globe at the very top of the tower.

Venture capitalist Petra Franklin famously remodeled the space into a penthouse with a 20-year lease that has now ended. The new lease would be for three to five years or longer, said listing agent Moira Holley.

Holley said she has received “several serious inquiries,” including families with children.

“The unique aspect and the iconic aspect of the property are what are driving the interested parties,” she said.

The penthouse is not open for public viewing and tours by would-be tenants require pre-qualification, according to Unico Properties, which owns the building along with Goldman Sachs affiliate Broad Street Principal Investments.

Franklin moved out in 2019, according to Unico. Attempts to reach her were unsuccessful.

Smith Tower includes 33 floors of office space and, as of 2016, a bar and viewing deck on the 35th floor. The building features old-fashioned elevators that until a few years ago were operated by employees wearing suits modeled after those worn when the building opened in 1914.

Architect Jim Castanes, who designed the penthouse in the late 1990s, said it needed a dramatic transformation.

“It was just a mess up there,” Castanes said of the top floors of Smith Tower. “All we saw was a bunch of pipes, mechanical stuff and the catwalks that went up.” Names and dates scrawled on the walls dated to the 1920s, he said.

The team cleared out equipment and interior walls, rerouted pipes and finished the apartment with doors, wood trim and marble repurposed from elsewhere in the tower, Castanes said.

The space has since been renovated to a minimalist contemporary design “stripped back to the essence of Smith Tower,” said architect Jim Graham, who designed the new penthouse.

Unico declined to disclose financial details of the previous lease.

At $17,000, the apartment would rent for nearly eight times the downtown Seattle average. Rents downtown fell about 13% last year as the pandemic emptied office buildings and shuttered restaurants and theaters. The average asking price for downtown apartments of all sizes was $2,175 last year, according to CoStar.

From inside the penthouse, windows offer glimpses of downtown, Mount Rainier and ferries gliding on Elliott Bay.

“Your views to the outside are pretty much determined by the architecture of the pyramidal tower,” said Castanes. “Each view was like a snapshot in itself.”

But it’s not all bliss.

“Try to get your groceries from the sidewalk up to that space,” he said.

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