By Jack Stubbs
Alexandria Real Estate Equities, a developer whose Seattle portfolio includes nearly one million square feet of Class A office and laboratory space primarily clustered in the South Lake Union neighborhood, has another commercial undertaking in the works.
On Wednesday, January 17th, an 11-story development planned for Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood was unanimously approved at an Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting. At the meeting, the applicant, San Francisco-based architecture firm Gensler, presented preliminary project plans on behalf of Alexandria Real Estate Equities.
The board unanimously approved the development to proceed to the next stage of the design review process, pending the applicant team’s integration of various design conditions relating to the building’s overall massing and scale and its integration with the surrounding neighborhood context.
Located at 1150 Eastlake Ave. E., the development calls for the construction of an 11-story office building with ground-level retail and parking for 159 vehicles above grade. The site allows approximately 303,119 square feet of enclosed, above-grade floor area, according to the project plans.
Additionally, the proposed structure includes various conference rooms, fitness center and outdoor amenity areas. The project team also includes two Seattle-based firms, landscape architecture firm Brumbaugh & Associates and structural and civil engineer Magnusson Klemencic Associates (MKA).
Chad Yoshinobu, principal and co-founder of Gensler’s Seattle office, kicked off the presentation, highlighting the primary city design guidelines that the applicant team is aiming to incorporate into the development. The hope is that development will successfully connect with the adjacent streetscape and public realm along Eastlake Avenue; embody an architectural style that conforms with the neighborhood context; and present an appropriate massing for the character of the neighborhood.
According to the submitted plans, the development is part of a transitional area between South Lake Union and the Eastlake neighborhood, which is steadily becoming more office and lab-use oriented. The proposed project site is one block from the Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center. The neighborhood also has ties to Seattle’s industrial and manufacturing roots—the proposed development is across the street from Zymogenetics, a Landmarked historic research, office and laboratory building, and the Hydro House cafe. The project site is also adjacent to I-5, a prominent transit corridor.
Yoshinobu also highlighted one of the unique features of the development, which is the insertion of a “forest-like colonnade,” a feature that will blend the architecture with various landscaping elements. The outdoor space around the amenity area on the sixth floor will be wrapped with landscape inspired by the Pacific Northwest, a natural element that will be visible from Interstate-5.
Many of the board’s clarifying questions focused on how the development would integrate into its surrounding context. Board members Stephen Porter and Christine Harrington asked how the interior of the building would be programmed and how building entrances and parking areas would function. Board member Patreese Martin asked the applicant team why it hadn’t taken more cues from other industrial buildings in the neighborhood.
The rest of the board’s comments centered around the proposed landscaping elements, particularly the designated “forest” feature on the sixth floor. Martin asked the applicant to specify how it had chosen a particular floor for the “forest” element, while board member Brian Walters asked how far the landscaping features would ultimately protrude from the building. Walters inquired how the development’s landscaped floor and overall scale would be perceived from Interstate-5, and board member Homero Nishiwaki asked the applicant team to provide further information about how it planned to activate Eastlake Ave. with pedestrian amenities.
During its deliberation period, the board discussed various design elements including the building’s massing and scale, how the development would encourage pedestrians interaction at street level, and how the building’s design would activate the public realm.
All of the board members expressed concern about the building’s overall scale, suggesting that it might be imposing from the pedestrian perspective along Eastlake Ave. The board recommended that the applicant team work on reducing the overall mass of the building before the next stage of the design process.
Concerning how the development would activate the public realm, the board suggested that the applicant program the proposed retail space to further open up the building to the public at street level. Moving forward, the board also recommended that the applicant team pay special attention to how the building’s architectural design would conform to the historical context of the Eastlake neighborhood.
After articulating these various design conditions for the applicant to consider, the board gave the project the green light to advance to the next stage of the design process. The applicant team will now submit a Master Use Permit for review by the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection as it considers the board’s various design-related recommendations.