Home AEC 42-Story Mixed-Use Project in Seattle Passes Design Review Despite Programming Challenges

42-Story Mixed-Use Project in Seattle Passes Design Review Despite Programming Challenges

Kengo Kuma & Associates, Berger Partnership, Ankrom Moisan Architects, Seattle, 2nd & Virginia

By Meghan Hall

A project with a long history is finally making progress and has cleared the latest round of design review, even as several important details regarding building logistics and programming have yet to be finalized. In a Design Review Meeting Tuesday night, the Downtown Seattle Design Review Board gave its blessing to the project team of 2nd and Virginia, a 42-story mixed-use project slated to rise at the site of Seattle’s Historic Terminal Sales Annex.

The annex is located at 1931 2nd Ave. and was originally constructed in 1916. The five-story building, designed in the Collegiate Gothic Revival Style by Bebb & Gould, is a designated historic landmark. The new development, which will incorporate the existing building, will include 487,100 square feet of development. Four levels of co-working space, 6,700 square feet of retail, a 240-key hotel and 200 condominium units are designated in the project’s plans. Separate lobbies for hotel and residential uses, as well as five levels of below-grade parking and two loading spaces are planned.

The project’s design is inspired by several guiding principles: that the tower expression should draw from the annex building–the tower should be set back from the annex–and the landmark itself should retain its original features and entries.

“We have had a series of conversations with the Landmarks Preservation Board, in which we have re-established the importance of this building and also its primary role in setting out some of the key architectural moves, including massing, alignments, etc.,” explained Balazs Bognar, who represented the project team Tuesday night. “The [Annex] has a significant effect in the way in which we set up the volume, the proportions [and] the elegance of the tower.”

In response to previous guidance, the project team–composed of Kengo Kuma & Associates, Ankrom Moisan Architects and Berger Partnership–made several important changes to the proposal. The project team refined the tower’s terminus, simplifying its massing by raising the facade to cover the core overrun and enclosing mechanical equipment into a singular expression. The west facade of the terminus has also been broken down into a lighter treatment, where the goal is to create a better transition between the top of the building and the skyline.

The project has also proposed an outdoor roof terrace at the southeast corner on level five, along with a five-foot landscape buffer. The concept for these outdoor spaces, which also are designed to occur on levels six and 42, will be flexible and provide breathing room between buildings. 

Additionally, the project team provided clarification how the tower’s telescoping form would relate to the various uses within the building. Angled facade panels will reference the pilasters part of the original annex building below. At the alley, the tower’s articulation comes all the way down to the ground plane, and the loading dock doors will be high-cycle, vertical stacking sectional doors.

Overall, the Board appreciated how far the project had come since its previous early design guidance meeting. During community comments and the Board’s deliberation, however, there was one topic that threatened to stall the project: the design of the loading berths. Questions were raised–by both the Board and the community–if the berths could adequately accommodate loading and unloading. In addition, the project team had requested a departure–originally supported at the previous meeting–to reduce the height of one of the three berths to just nine feet.

Because the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) had yet to give its verdict on the berths, the Downtown Design Review Board debated how best to proceed. If the Board moved the project forward, but SDOT did not approve the plans and the design of the project needed to be altered significantly, then the project would still need to return for a second review. If City officials greenlit the current schemes, however, no extra design review would be required. In the end, the Board approved the project, supporting its design and the current scheme to move forward without SDOT’s full recommendation. One Board member noted that the project has had “a long history,” and in reaching the final design stage, it has passed a critical step in the entitlements process.