Inside Out

J@pan Inc is proud to present a new regular feature that focuses on an investment opportunity beyond the shores of Japan.

From Rags to Riches in Seattle:

Investment opportunities in the South of Downtown area of Seattle.

Being a good student of British history the word “gentrification” conjures up images of seventeenth century farmhouses and Oliver Cromwell championing the rise of parliament. But in real estate, the term is more related to high yield investment opportunities than the beginning of the end of aristocratic power. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines it in the following manner:

The process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces earlier usually poorer residents.

A classic example of gentrification along these lines would be the South of Market Street (SOMA) district of San Francisco where during the 1990s this dilapidated area was turned into a smart and fashionable place to live and work. In short: out goes the trash and in comes the cash.

And gentrification is the phrase that Ray Klein of American Life Incorporated used to refer to the South of Downtown (SODO) area of Seattle in which his company has helped over 600 individuals invest in the last 10 years. Managing over $300millon of investment in this area of just one square mile, Klein explained that the whole face of the area continues to change with some major global companies such as Starbucks choosing to base themselves there. And the area is seemingly still on the up. Starbucks, whose SODO headquarters measure up to 2 million square feet house 3,500 of their staff there according to an article in The Seattle Times. Confirmed by statistics from the Seattle government website, the population has been growing rapidly and is proving a hit with investors seeking a nice climate and a sea view. Somewhat more focused on financial realities, Klein tells me that “a typical investment yields a return of around 6% which tends to keep most investors happy with a nice monthly check! Because his company is debt-free he has been able to attract a number of investors seeking a safe home for their retirement savings. American Life is also popular with a large number of “immigrant investors”, who can apply for a US green card based on their investment. Indeed a growing proportion of investments are coming from abroad more generally, particularly from the UK, Korea, and Japan. The US, like other English speaking countries, has a green card investment program that facilitates green card applications for those prepared to invest in the country and thus facilitate economic growth, as well as providing employment. This is often a major incentive for overseas clients.

Interestingly, the area is also popular with the Japanese. Home to the Mariners (whose owners, Nintendo, are also near Seattle), many Japanese visit SODO in order to go to the ball games and see Ichiro strutting his stuff. In addition, there are a number of Japanese restaurants and there even exists the “Ichiroll” breed of sushi in honor of the man himself. Klein is based out of Tokyo and has a Japanese wife; he told us that Seattle is a popular area for international couples where one partner is Japanese because of its Japanfriendly environment, decent temperatures, baseball and proximity to the ocean. More exciting for Klein however, is a deal his company has just signed to renovate a historic building to be operated as a hotel by Courtyard Marriott, an addition he thinks visitors will be cheered by—given the current dearth of new, reasonably priced accommodation.

But don’t just take our word for it, investors in Seattle are in good company, it being the home of Boeing, Costco and – and with Microsoft just down the road. So, if you have an interest in benefiting from 21st century gentrification, we recommend SODO as an excellent opportunity.


Ray Klein can be contacted at
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