Real-Estate Developer Basil Vyzis Dies -- Entrepreneur Co-Owned F&N, Created Office, Retail Projects

Vassily "Basil" Demetrios Vyzis, 50, one of the area's major real-estate developers and once a co-owner of the Frederick & Nelson department-store chain, died Sunday night in Overlake Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue after a rupture in a blood vessel in his head.

He was best known as a pioneering developer of office and retail space in the Factoria-Eastgate area, which has grown to rival downtown Bellevue as a source of jobs.

One of his best-known undertakings was ownership of Frederick & Nelson, with partners Herman Sarkowsky, G. Arthur Henkins and George Lobisser, from 1986 to 1989, when it was sold to David Sabey.

More recently, he was a partner with Hammond Pacific Corp. and the South Sea Development Co. of Hong Kong in One Pacific Towers, a 27-story, 75-unit condominium development that opened last year at First Avenue and Virginia Street near the Pike Place Market. He had long wanted to break into the downtown Seattle real-estate market and was proud of the project.

There was speculation in the real-estate industry yesterday over what would become of the Vyzis empire. Neither the family nor company officials would provide any details about his death. He is survived by his wife, Darlene; daughter, Mia; a son, Demetry; his mother, Efthemia, of Loutraki, Greece; and brother, Perry, of Redmond.

Born in Loutraki on Nov. 9, 1945, Mr. Vyzis came to Washington in the 1960s to study engineering at Gonzaga University in Spokane. After graduating in 1969 with an electrical-engineering degree, he held jobs at Puget Sound Power & Light Co. and Weisfield Jewelers.

He later decided to pursue a real-estate career, beginning at the Seattle office of Grubb & Ellis in 1975, then striking out on his own in 1980 with The Vyzis Co. in Bellevue, which he headed until his death.

Early in his career, Mr. Vyzis helped to develop shopping centers from Parkwood Plaza on Aurora Avenue North to the Lakewood Mall in Tacoma. He was known in Spokane for the University Mall and developed Loehmann's Plaza and office buildings at Factoria when it was just a waypoint on Interstate 90. He also had projects in Issaquah.

Others in the industry described him as an energetic, aggressive man who had a vision to see the potential of properties and who was determined to achieve whatever he set out to do.

"Did you ever see the movie `The Terminator'?" Robert Knowles, president of a Seattle printing business, once asked a reporter. "Basil is like that. He is relentless. He doesn't let anything stop him."

"You can't be around him and screw up," Perry Vyzis, Basil's younger brother and his former partner, once was quoted as saying. "He doesn't fire people; the pace is just so fast, you will go by yourself."

Stuart Sloan, chairman of Quality Food Centers, whose company did a lot of business with Mr. Vyzis, said: "He just busted his rear and was real creative and energetic and built a phenomenal business."

Ron Sher, owner of Terranomics, a company that develops and manages shopping centers, said he was shocked by the death of Mr. Vyzis, with whom he was to have dinner at an industry convention in Las Vegas tonight.

"He was such a vital force, such an incredible energy and was in such good physical condition," Sher said.

"There are not many people who in such changing and difficult times could have built the kind of empire Basil did," Sher said. "He was incredibly adaptive and swift to react."

Sarkowsky, contacted by phone in South Carolina, said Mr. Vyzis was fun to work with because he was "one of the most exciting and imaginative people I ever met. Every day was an adventure."

Mr. Vyzis served on the board of directors of Drug Emporium and the Eaton School in Bellevue and was a member of the Bellevue Athletic Club and St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church. He was chairman of the Greater Seattle Premier Soccer League and sponsor and coach of the Marathon soccer team.

Funeral services are set for 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Demetrios Church, 2100 Boyer Ave. E.

Seattle Times East bureau reporter Keith Ervin contributed to this report.