Despite the recession, there are some promising construction projects in Seattle, including renovation of Pike Place Market, an infill project in the Rainier Valley and new digs for

The huge headquarters projects for in the South Lake Union area and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation near Seattle Center hold about the only tower cranes on the skyline, which was crowded with them two years ago.

Phase one of the $500-million Gates Foundation includes two six-story buildings totalling 900,000 sq ft, being constructed by Seattle-based Sellen Construction. The Seattle office of NBBJ designed the expected LEED gold first phase, which opens spring 2011.

Amazon Phase IV

The Seattle internet giant moved its employees into the first phase of its headquarters in April, developed by Seattle-based Vulcan Real Estate and Schnitzer West.

Vulcan, which has developed subsequent phases solo, won’t disclose costs, but industry estimates peg the entire 11-building, 1.7-million-sq-ft campus at $700 million once complete in 2012. Most structures on the six-block development are being targeted for LEED gold.

Phase four broke ground last spring with Bellevue general contractor GLY Construction Inc. adding 11- and 12-story buildings. The project has proceeded rapidly, and during one 50-day period, crews installed 8 million lbs of structural steel.

The city of Seattle allowed a variance for the height of the 12-story building and two others planned in the final phase because Vulcan agreed to donate up to $6.4 million to affordable housing.

The two mid-rise buildings in phase four include office space, street-level retail and below-grade concrete garage structure with 783 parking spaces. Also included in this phase is the renovation of the two-story, brick, 1912 Terry Avenue Building, which is sandwiched between the two towers. The renovation will create retail space on both floors that connect to the site’s outdoor public plaza. Seattle-based Callison designed all three buildings.

The contractor created a 3D model for all tie-back systems so existing underground utilities are left untouched, according to GLY project engineer Garrick Hughes. Some of the utilities date back to the late 19th Century.

Up and coming for Vulcan Real Estate are the third phase of the University of Washington’s biotechnical complex, which is expected to break ground next year along with Amazon Phase V.

“We have a challenging market right now,” says Lori Mason-Curran, Vulcan research specialist. “Part of the correction in the credit markets was a good thing.”

She points to the trend in Seattle that shows an increase in the number of square footage being leased over the past three quarters as a sign of slow but sure recovery.