AKA: WaMu Center, Downtown, Seattle, WA; Russell Investments Center, Downtown, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - office buildings

Designers: Magnusson Klemencic Associates (MKA) Structural + Civil Engineers (firm); Naramore, Bain, Brady, and Johanson, (NBBJ) (firm); Sellen Construction Company, Incorporated (firm); William James Bain Jr. (architect); Clifton J. Brady (architect); Perry Bertil Johanson (architect); Ronald Klemencic (structural engineer); Jon Magnusson (structural engineer); Floyd Archibald Naramore (architect); John Henry Sellen Sr. (building contractor/civil engineer); John Bower Skilling (structural engineer)

Dates: constructed 2004-2006

42 stories

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1301 2nd Avenue
Downtown, Seattle, WA 98101

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Building History

The large Seattle architectural firm, NBBJ, designed this $300 million, 42-story building as the headquarters for the rapidly growing Washington Mutual Bank, in 2005, the sixth largest bank in the US. The tower was to contain 890,000 square-feet and accommodate 4,000 bank employees. (Other figures set the square footage at 940,000 square feet.) Seattle City Council passed zoning regulations for the WaMu Center on 11/12/2002. The Seattle Museum of Art would occupy a 12-story portion of the block facing First Avenue.

During the 1990s and 2000s, Washington Mutual pursued a very aggressive growth policy, taking over a number of other banks in WA, OR, ID, and particularly California. In rapid succession, Washington Mutual took over American Savings Bank of Irvine, CA, in 07/1996, Chatsworth, CA-based Great Western Financial in 02/1997 and H.F. Ahmanson and Company in 03/1998. In large part because of the rapidity of its expansion in CA, WaMu placed itself in a precarious position. Not only did the Ahmanson and Great Western takeovers give it a glut of bank locations, it took on a lot of questionable debt in various cities across the state. Real estate instability built progressively during the 2000s, and housing values began to dip in some parts of CA. Additionally, it is zeal for breakneck growth, WaMu (and its takeover targets) issued too many mortgages to borrowers unable to pay them back, further undermining real estate prices. This is what began to occur increasingly by the early-2000s, culminating in the Subprime Mortgage Crisis of 2007-2010. Chains of bad mortgage debts and the increased popularity of various asset-backed securities, including mortgage-backed securities (MBS, collateralized debt obligations (CDO), collateralized loan obligations (CLO) and collateralized bond obligations (CBO) and other highly risky, opaque financial instruments, combined to undermine investor confidence, triggering the failure of the venerable brokerage Lehman Brothers and almost sinking the insurance giant, American International Group (AIG), leading to the worst economic crash since 1929.

A press release from the Federal Deposit Insurance Company (FDIC) said on 09/25/2008: "JPMorgan Chase acquired the banking operations of Washington Mutual Bank in a transaction facilitated by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. All depositors are fully protected and there will be no cost to the Deposit Insurance Fund." (See FDIC.gov, "JPMorgan Chase Acquires Banking Operatins of Washington Mutual," published 09/25/2008, accessed 10/21/2021.) After the collapse of Washington Mutual Bank and its acquistion of its banking operations, JPMorgan Chase cut its tower-based work force, paring from approximately 4,000 employees (in 2006) to fewer than 500 on 09/10/2009.

On 09/09/2009, Russell Investments, a firm that produces stock indexes and invests institutional pension funds, announced that it would leave its Tacoma, WA, headquarters to purchase the largely vacant WaMu Tower. The company would transfer its 900 employees into about 300,000 square feet of the Seattle tower by the end of 2010. Russell Investments was founded in Tacoma in 1936 and sold to the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company of Milwaukee, WI, in 1999. After 2009, JPMorgan Chase would continue to lease 3 floors of the building from Russell.

Building Notes

A building construction accident injured three steelworkers on 05/11/2005.

On an interim basis (between 09/26/2008-09/2009), the former WaMu Center was renamed the "Chase Center."

The Russell Investments Center had a green-roof garden at the 17th floor level.

PCAD id: 5366