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Alexandria Receives Approval From Seattle Design Review Board for 274,668 SQFT Life Science Building

Alexandria, Seattle, NBBJ, South Lake Union, Seattle Center, Lower Queen Anne

By Catherine Sweeney 

Alexandria Real Estate Equities is one step closer to bringing a 274,668 square-foot life science  project in Seattle’s South Lake Union to fruition. During a recommendation hearing with the West Design Review Board on Thursday, the project received full support to move forward in the entitlement process. 

The project, located at 601 Dexter Avenue N., is being designed by global architecture firm NBBJ and will feature 11 stories of lab and research space. The project would also feature three levels of below-grade parkings and various amenities throughout. 

“Situated between the Seattle Center and I-5, our site is central to arts and sciences as well as to the Space Needle in Lake Union. It also plays an important role in distinguishing a transition between downtown massing and the residential field of lower Queen Anne. As a result, we know that the significant role the project plays is an invitation to South Lake Union, announcing this area of Seattle. The board [has been] very supportive of this concept and these ideas have continued to influence the evolution of the project,” Ryan Mullenix of NBBJ said. 

Previously, the design team had met with the review board for an early design guidance meeting in January of 2020. At that time, the board suggested that the project team sharpen the overall focus of the design to reinforce the outdoor space along Mercer Avenue and to upgrade the facade through clearer materiality and massing. 

In further evaluating the massing along Mercer Avenue, the design team has increased the  height of the south facade to create a stronger edge and connection between the proposed amenity terraces at the lower, middle and upper portions of the building. 

The design’s facade has also been upgraded to include a stronger mix of materials. The building would primarily be built with glass to create a feeling of transparency. However, wooden  elements are also implemented throughout the design, paying homage to the long history of the timber industry in South Lake Union. 

“The board requested an outcome that was more than a glass box with fins. We agreed and evolved the EDG massing through thoughtful layering, depth, material and detailing using balconies, structural elements and terraces,” Mullenix said. “Multiple mid-scale elements have been introduced to create strong, visual interest, and wood will be used as a warm, natural accent, evoking the history of the timber industry in South Lake Union. These improvements, we feel, ensure that 601 Dexter is not just a glass box with fins.” 

The exterior of the building would also be enhanced through a variety of outdoor amenity spaces. A shift in the top level of the building provides of a canopy over the lower level terrace while also adding sheltering over the bicycle entry. A relief at the roof level also adds space for a landscaped roof terrace while providing visual interest to Seattle’s skyline. 

In addition, the revised design enhances public engagement at the street level at the corner of Dexter and Mercer by adding a layer of seating and a pedestrian pathway with native landscaping.  

“Overall, our current design maintains the strong corner language while encouraging human interaction throughout the building and landscape refinements ensure an active ground plane circulation around the project has been improved with a new accessible connection between Dexter and Aurora,” Mullenix said. 

At the conclusion of the meeting, the board showed full support in moving the project forward. Particularly, the board showed approval for the design materials, noting the added texture and elegance to the building’s design. The review board also encouraged the use of landscaping and balcony spaces for added texture. However, the board also suggested the development team create a clearer selection of colors for the building in moving forward.