Tag: Alexandria Real Estate

Unredacted Documents Reveal Initial Megablock Proposal Was for Ground Lease, Not Sale

A newly unredacted version of Alexandria Real Estate’s initial proposal for the Mercer Megablock shows that the winning bidder to buy the three-property parcel initially proposed a ground lease—not a sale—that would have included a $31 million initial payment, followed by annual rent payments that would have started at $2.6 million a year. Renting the land out under a long-term ground lease would have kept the 3-acre parcel in public ownership, but could have been less lucrative for the city, which ultimately sold the land to Alexandria outright for $138 million, plus a $5 million payment for future homelessness programs.

The original request for proposals for the site made it clear that the city “has a strong preference to structure the transaction for the site as an unsubordinated long-term ground lease” but would consider a sale. “The value differential that we saw was really, really large between what was being offered on the lease relative to the cash up front,” city budget director Ben Noble says.

Alexandria’s initial proposal estimated the net present value of a ground lease—that is, the amount those annual payments would be worth in 2019 dollars by the end of the lease term—at $69 million, for a total value along with the initial payment of $100 million. This was a bit more than Alexandria’s initial proposal to buy the land outright for about $98 million. Since Alexandria’s offer to buy increased nearly 40 percent, however, it seems likely that their best and final offer for a ground lease would have increased, too, raising the total value of the bid to a level similar to what the city will get from the sale. It’s unclear whether Alexandria’s best and final offer included a ground lease option; I’ve requested a copy of this offer from the city.

Alexandria’s unredacted proposal, which is being published here for the first time, includes a number of details that have not been previously known about the real-estate firm’s plans for the three megablock properties.

The document Alexandria originally provided to the city included extensive redactions that concealed all of the information about the ground lease proposal. The company also blacked out details about what will go in the planned commercial space (including a business incubator and conference center), the address of a project in San Francisco that the company is currently building (88 Bluxome), the amount of open space that’s included in an Alexandria project in Cambridge (2.2 acres), and the height of each floor in its proposed life sciences buildings (13 feet).

My request for the documents, filed on August 7, led to a considerable amount of back-and-forth with the mayor’s office, which responded to my questions selectively and incompletely. (I still have several unanswered questions, for example, about the way the mayor’s office handled both Alexandria’s “proposed redactions” and my request.) Initially, the city informed me that if I wanted the unredacted documents, the mayor’s office would exercise their discretionary option to inform Alexandria so that the company could seek an injunction to keep them secret, exposing me to the potential for “lengthy litigation.”

The project will include 730 parking spaces—more parking than most of the other proposals, except for one (from Touchstone) which called for a massive underground parking lot for 1,000 cars. Tishman Speyer’s proposal included just 50 parking spots.

The city did not respond to followup questions. Instead, more than two weeks after I made my initial request, the budget office informed me that an email from me that included the phrase, “I am interested in seeing the materials redacted in Alexandria’s proposal,” followed by a list of questions asking what the implications would be if I did make a formal request for the redacted information, constituted a formal request that would trigger the third-party notice to Alexandria. Continue reading “Unredacted Documents Reveal Initial Megablock Proposal Was for Ground Lease, Not Sale”

Here’s a Look at All the Megablock Proposals (Including a Redacted Plan from the Winning Bidder to Keep the Land in Public Hands)

Alexandria Real Estate’s proposed development at 800 Mercer

Here are the six proposals for the Mercer Megablock, including the one that the city chose, by Alexandria Real Estate. Alexandria’s proposal, like several of the proposals that were not chosen, includes an option for a ground lease, which would have allowed the land to remain in public hands. Ground leases are typically for about 99 years, include a rent escalation factor so that rent goes up each year, and can sometimes be renegotiated at different points during the lease term.

Alexandria Real Estate 



BioMed Realty

Tishman Speyer


Bidders that included a ground lease option included Kilroy (which did not provide details); Touchstone (which proposed an initial annual rent of $7.7 million if the project didn’t include affordable housing, and $4.675 million if it did, escalating 10 percent every five years); Tishman Speyer (which proposed a $70 million downpayment and initial rent of $4 million without affordable housing, and an initial payment of $40 million with affordable housing and initial rent of $2.75 million, both escalating annually at 2 percent) and Alexandria.

Here, in stark contrast, are the details Alexandria provided about its ground lease proposal:

The city budget office told me that I had the right to request an unredacted version of the proposal—which, to be clear, was redacted by Alexandria, not the city. However, they cautioned me that they would exercise their right under RCW 42.56.540 to inform Alexandria that I had asked for this information, at which point Alexandria could seek a court injunction to withhold the redacted records from public view.  “If they chose to pursue an injunction, you will likely be named as a necessary party to the lawsuit and lengthy litigation may ensue,” a city public disclosure officer warned.

I believe these records are of interest to the public, as many advocates argued that the land should remain in public, rather than private, hands. I have asked the city for a more detailed explanation of the process for finding out what’s behind all those black bars.