Seattle-based Unico Properties has acquired an historic downtown Tacoma office tower to turn it into apartments.  Unico announced its plans for the 18-story Washington Building Tuesday. It was the tallest building in Tacoma when it was completed 90 years ago and the second-tallest building in the Northwest behind Seattle’s Smith Tower, which Unico also owns.


Unico paid $9.8 million for the steel-and-concrete framed Washington Building at 1019 Pacific Ave., according to public records. The seller is listed as an affiliate of Seattle real estate investment company Stratford Co.

Stratford paid $9.6 million for the Washington Building in 2005, which at the time was 94 percent leased, according to the Daily Journal of Commerce.  The 124,200-square-foot building is only about one-third full and needs significant upgrades, according to Unico, which did not say how much turning the office building into apartments will cost.  The project will help “bring back residents, life and excitement after hours to the heart of the city,” Unico Properties Director of Development Julie Currier said in a news release. The conversion to apartments is scheduled to be done late in the summer of 2018.

The tower is the latest old downtown Tacoma building to attract the attention of investors and developers. Portland-based hospitality company McMenamins is redeveloping the old Elks Lodge on Pacific Avenue into a hotel and brewery. McMenamins also is planning to turn t he Old City Hall into a boutique hotel.  Emporis, a company that tracks building sizes, lists the Washington Building as the third-tallest in Tacoma behind the 25-story 1201 Pacific tower and the 24-story Hotel Murano. Unico also owns 1201 Pacific, formerly called Wells Fargo Plaza.  The Washington Building was not marketed for sale. Unico officials said they worked directly with Stratford and its brokers from JLL (NYSE: JLL) to put the sale together.

In 2015, Unico bought Smith Tower for $74 million and spent millions of dollars renovating t he 42-story building, adding a tour of the property and remodeling the former Chinese Room near the top of the building into a cafe and bar.

Marc Stiles covers real estate for the Puget Sound Business Journal.