Nat Bosa baffles Washington state real estate analysts with downtown Seattle condo project

41-storey twin tower Insignia development in wake of market crash raises eyebrows

Insignia, a two-tower condo development, is under construction in downtown Seattle two blocks from where Amazon.com plans to build three office towers

Real estate observers in Seattle have been scratching their heads over the decision by Burnaby-based developer Nat Bosa to start building a 41-storey condo project in the city's downtown Denny Triangle.

The question since late last spring, when construction started on the first phase of the 700-unit Insignia project, has been: What is the Canadian developer thinking to be building such a big project so soon after the real estate bust wreaked havoc on the downtown Seattle condo market?

During a November 7 commercial real estate forum in Seattle, Bosa answered the doubters. Speaking during a panel discussion, he said, "I don't consider it a gamble."

"You have to have guts in this game," said Bosa, a longtime developer who leads Burnaby's Bosa Development.

The company has built "tens of thousands" of residences across North America, according to the company's website.

"You have to have the right instinct," Bosa said. "You have to be ahead of the curve."

He likes to go into markets "just before sunrise."

This was the tack he took several years ago when he started the 329-unit Madrone condo project in San Francisco. People thought he was overreaching when he started the project, and as recently as 15 months ago, "the thumbs were still down," Bosa said.

As the market improved, he said raised prices several times, and today only 11 units are left unsold.

Bosa said this gave him the equity to start Insignia.

"By the time this is ready to sell, [Seattle] is going to be every bit as good of a market as San Francisco."

Insignia is a full-block project between Fifth and Sixth avenues and Bell and Battery streets. That's two blocks from where Amazon.com (Nasdaq:AMZN) is planning a 3.3-million-square-foot office project.

When he started building the two-tower project, Bosa said he would begin construction of the southern tower but dig the foundation and do all the other underground work for both.

After the panel discussion, Bosa could not be reached to see if this is still his plan.

But he did say during the forum that condos at Insignia won't be priced until his company gets closer to marketing the units next summer or fall. •

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