Home AEC 11-Story Office Building in Seattle’s University District Earns Design Board Approval

11-Story Office Building in Seattle’s University District Earns Design Board Approval

Seattle, University District, 4530 12th Ave. NE, CollinsWoerman, Touchstone, Portman Holdings, Portman Architects, GGLO
Courtesy of CollinsWoerman

By Meghan Hall

A new office building pitched for Seattle’s University District has received design approval, allowing it to formally move forward with entitlements. At a second Design Review Meeting in at the beginning of March, Touchstone, a subsidiary of URG, and its architecture team led by CollinsWoerman, presented updated and more final designs for 4530 12th Ave. NE, a 240,000 square foot office development. 

In addition to its office space, 4530 12th Ave. will also have just under 5,000 square feet of neighborhood open space, 8,000 square feet of retail on levels one and two, and 194 parking stalls. The building is part of a two-part project, which also will include a second development at 4536 Brooklyn Ave. that is concurrently undergoing entitlements.

However, the latest design review meeting focused on 4530 12th Ave. and its specific design progress. The goal of the development is to “create a refined workspace by cultivating community and stimulating innovation,” according to project documents, and the development team made a number of changes to align the development’s designs with previous Board guidance.

“These development goals are about answering to the urban fabric of the neighborhood, creating ample opportunities for pedestrian connections, integrating an adjacent pocket park with a larger public plan…[and] connecting university research with academic and local innovative uses such as office,” noted Tim Bissmeyer, principal at CollinsWoerman, at the project’s early design guidance meeting in December of 2019. “We’re really excited to bring office to this neighborhood to complement the existing character.”

The project’s design team also includes Portman Architects and GGLO, who are acting as the design architect and the landscape architect, respectively.

[Main massing design] The overall design is indicative of a “connect, cut, facet and void,” scheme, in which two distinct massing forms help to break the overall scale of the building down. The facades of the building are further carved to reduce scale, while a larger cut allows for the creation of a mid-block connection.

To better incorporate the building into the neighborhood and in an effort to add dimension and depth, the design team made a number of changes. The curtain wall expressions at the top levels of the high-rise and midrise volumes were removed and the massing parti was reinforced, allowing the mid-block curtain wall expression to be completely unique with its light and glassy appearance. Vertical mullions were incorporated to give a further appearance of lightness throughout the building.

The punched window expressions as the mid- and high-rise portions were also reinforced to better differentiate the two volumes, and a two-story retail expression along 12th Ave. was created to provide more design separation between the pedestrian realm and upper levels of the development. A large, recessed portal on the North façade was added to the high-rise, adding visual interest, and the level two connector into the mid-block portal was altered to increase its depth.

Also within the mid-block connection, a balcony has been incorporated into level two directly above the mid-block, allowing for further visual and physical connection to the retail activity placed along themed-block. Lobby doors are completely operable, and the lobby of the building will also be amenitized, adding to the life of the building.

The Northeast Design Review Board was fully supportive of the updates made to the project’s design, noting that the strengthening of the distinction between massing volumes and façade articulation served the project well. Records of the meeting released by the City state, “The Board commented that the project has been refined not only to fit successfully within the fabric of its immediate context but provide an elegant backdrop across from the planned open space.”

The Board did encourage the project team to study carrying a two-story expression at the uppermost levels entirely around the building, for future project iterations, but was generally  supportive of other changes during the facades’ evolution. The Board also supported the proposed materials palette, a mix of brick accent banding, tonal brick, metal panel, curtain wall, and glass canopies.

At the end of the meeting, the five Design Review Board members recommended the project’s approval, subject to two, smaller conditions: that bench seating in the front, operable lobby be replaced with plantings, and add art along the alleyway, as well as signage for the building’s entrance. With these suggestions in hand, Touchstone and the rest of the project team will finalize 4530 12th Ave. NE’s design and wrap up the entitlements process in the coming months.