Affordable housing developer Vitus to open new offices at renovated Belltown property

In December, national affordable housing developer Vitus will move into new offices at 2607 Second Ave. in Belltown. Stephen Whyte, president and CEO of Vitus, purchased the property, which dates back to 1925, via an LLC in 2021. Construction is currently underway on tenant improvements and renovations designed by Graham Baba Architects.

The original building is 20,565 square feet and has three stories, plus a basement. Levels two and three are office space and there are two approximately 1,000-square-foot ground level retail spaces. A 3,250-square-foot penthouse, with two outside decks, is being added at the top of the building.

Following renovations, Vitus will occupy about 1/3 of the property with around 7,000 square feet of office space on level three and the penthouse live/work addition. The remaining office and retail space will be rented out. Whyte said the retail spaces will be rented to businesses that best serve the Belltown community.

Vitus was formerly located at 1700 Seventh Ave. Ste. 2000 in a property it did not own. “We had been thinking about opening a bigger office in Seattle for some time and following the pandemic we wanted a space where we could control our own environment,” Whyte explained. “We looked at many neighborhoods and there was just something about the historic nature of this one and the property that was appealing,” he continued. “The building’s beauty stuck out. It was also a manageable size with lots of potential.” Choosing a renovated older building to be the firm’s new office also makes a lot of sense for a company which, since 1993, has specialized in restoring and renewing existing affordable housing stock so that buildings remain affordable and residents can age in place.

To get 2607 Second ready for its new tenant(s), the building is undergoing seismic and several other systems upgrades to bring it to code. Internal renovations are fairly extensive. “Inside we have stripped the building back to its bones to reveal original heavy timbers and board-formed concrete interiors,” Jim Graham, project architect, said. A new elevator has been added and an existing stairway moved and expanded to reach the penthouse addition. Having a feature stairway was a main design priority. “Creating a compelling walk from the third floor to the penthouse was really important for Vitus,” Graham explained. A custom light installation by Resolute Lighting hangs over the entire length of the stairway. The building will also get a new entry vestibule, canopy and alley entry gate at the rear.

The rooftop addition has been designed to respect and blend with the historic building. “The penthouse has a minimalist and refined aesthetic to emphasize the dialogue with existing structural characteristics of the building, including exposed timber structure, masonry facade and new interior board-formed concrete structure at the main feature stair,” Graham continued. It is also set-back and partly covered by trees. In the summer months the penthouse is barely visible from the main entrance on Second Avenue and the legacy building’s primary facade reads almost entirely as it used to. “The visual impact of the addition on the neighborhood is quite light but it will bring so much to the building,” Whyte shared describing how the space and its two rooftop decks will be used as an extension of Vitus’s third floor offices and an ideal place for hosting meetings, seminars and happy hours for staff and visiting guests. “We really think this new office will be a destination building and an attractive place where people will want to come and work,” Whyte concluded.

MRJ Constructors broke ground on the project in November 2021 and work is estimated to be completed this November. Vitus plans to move in around 26 staff in December. Until then, staff are working from home. Vitus currently owns and operates affordable housing properties, many for seniors, in over 25 states. It has two properties in Washington, one in Seattle and one in Kennewick, both of which are senior housing. Whyte said he hopes the new Belltown office will be a jumping-off point for more work in the state.

2607 Second Avenue Renovation

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Rendering: Graham Baba Architects
Photos: SSF


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