By Meghan Hall
Seattle’s iconic waterfront is in the midst of a renaissance with several major infrastructure and development projects, including the Colman Dock renovation, making their way through the development pipeline. A new proposal, submitted by Seattle-based Martin Selig Real Estate and Perkins + Will, would add to the changing waterfront landscape with the construction of a 15-story, 504,000 square foot tower with seven levels of commercial office space and 106 residential units at 75 Marion Way in downtown Seattle, right near the Puget Sound. The project, presented Tuesday night to the Downtown Seattle Design Review Board, received backing from the City and has been permitted to move onto the Master Use Permit stage.
“The goal is to create something that is iconic and is a gateway site that is part of an active waterfront,” explained Erik Mott, a design principal at Perkins + Will working on the project. “As the Viaduct comes down, the Columbia onramp also comes down. That’s the first step in a grand vision for the waterfront for Seattle, which has been an incredible, decades-long effort. We feel fortunate to be working on a site that’s on the foreground.”
The development team intends the project to serve as a gateway and a landmark for those arriving to Seattle by ferry, given the site’s close proximity to the water. Three of the seven floors of commercial office space will have around 34,000 square foot gross floor area per floor, while the remaining four levels will have 25,000 square feet of gross floor area per floor. A 7,000 square foot exterior terrace on the fifth level for office and residential tenants, along with 278 below-grade parking stalls, are also part of the project plans. One floor of residential would be located on the fifth floor, separated from the six remaining floors by office space directly above it, to accommodate larger, three bedroom apartments.
The tower will include 20,000 square feet of street level retail space, which the development team intends to be similar to a market hall. The hall, said Mott, will have plenty of light and 18 foot ceilings, nearly two stories in height.
“Our goal is to have as much retail as possible fronting the site,” explained Mott, who said the design and layout was largely in response to the City’s waterfront plan. “The idea here is to really respond to the future condition of the waterfront and to design active, but not blank, façades.”
The massing of the building presents a cleaved podium to respond to the neighborhood context and heights of the buildings adjacent to the site. Shifting balconies will create a multi-story exterior for residents and will provide double height exterior space to the residents. According to design documents, the massing is meant to be more restrained at the base before becoming more dynamic on the upper floors in an effort to differentiate the building from others in the vicinity. The building will also be broken up into two volumes via a multistory interior passageway which will be flanked by retail and the office lobby.
“One of the big themes of the design exploration was how do we create balconies for every apartment…in the residential portion of the stack, but how to do that in a way that we have a unified building,” said Mott.
In order to proceed with its preferred option, the development team requested three departures. The first departure would set back the modulated portions of the façade 10 feet as opposed to 15 along Alaskan Way in an effort to fulfill City design guidelines that require the creation of a unique façade. The second departure would allow for the unmodulated length of the façade along Columbia Street to exceed 125 feet to create more visual interest, while the third departure requests to do away with weather protection under the Marion Street Pedestrian Bridge, citing it as redundant. During its review, the Board expressed its inclination to grant the requested departures.
The Board approved the project 3-2. In its deliberations, two members of the Board expressed concern that the proposed design was not proper for the development’s setting, preferring the simplified, less modulated facades of the other two design options presented by the development team. However, the majority prevailed, and the project moved forward.
Now approved, the development team will need to complete the MUP process before its anticipated ground-breaking at the beginning of 2020. 75 Marion’s construction will coincide with numerous other waterfront projects in Seattle, including new East/West Connections and a waterfront park. The anticipated delivery for the development will be at the beginning of 2022, at which point it will be connected to a nearby pedestrian overpass, which has been approved by the City and already partially funded.
“It’s not quite centered on the waterfront, but it’s a very central, A-grade location with proximity to Pioneer Square and the Central Business Core and attractions along the waterfront,” said Mott. “It’s obviously a jumping off point for the Peninsula and the Islands.”