By Meghan Hall
The Cornish College of the Arts has been a staple in Seattle’s downtown cultural and arts scene for more than 100 years since its establishment in 1914 with its location in the Denny Triangle, just north of downtown and the Central Business District. Now, the non-profit has sold off 28,800 square feet worth of classrooms known as the university’s “Centennial Lab.” Bought by Vancouver, Wash.-based Holland Residential for $22 million at the beginning of April, the classrooms will be demolished to make way for a 46-story, 435-unit residential tower.
The sale of the property comes about six months after Holland Partners and Seattle-based Weber Thompson presented their plans for the development of 1000 Virginia Ave., where the parcel is located. The project received unanimous approval at the Early Design Guidance meeting from Seattle’s Downtown Design Review Board in September 2018.
“Development has been very robust on the hospitality side for hotels, and also on the commercial office side, but Seattle needs housing,” explained Blaine Weber, the founding partner of Weber Thompson, at the time of the EDG meeting. Weber is also the principal in charge of the project and the director of the firm’s high-rise design studio. “We’re seeing a new wave of housing, particularly high-rise housing, in the Denny Triangle and in South Lake Union, so that contributes to a vibrant live-work-play community.”
The approved design, called “Jenga,” utilizes rotational shifting forms to break down the mass of the tower. A wood-like metal slat façade would wrap around the ground level to create a soffit, while large street setbacks would enhance the pedestrian realm and provide ample space for seating and landscaping. Construction of the project, once it breaks ground, is anticipated to take about 30 months. At the time of the EDG meeting, Weber Thompson was not at liberty to disclose the cost of the project.
Currently, the project site is developed with Cornish’s Centennial Lab classrooms that were originally built in 1992. The classrooms are on the same main campus block as Raisbeck Hall and the Annex, and contains Art Department facilities, including senior studios, and a smaller student-curated gallery. In addition to the vibrancy and activity created by the Cornish College of the Arts, Amazon’s main campus is located at the western edge of the neighborhood, while Seattle Children’s and the Washington State Convention Center are also nearby. The site is easily accessible via Interstate 5 and several bus stations.
Holland Residential, founded in 2000, focuses on creating and managing luxury apartments in top markets around the United States, according to its website. Its proposed development at 1000 Virginia Ave. is not its first project in Seattle, nor is it its first collaboration with Weber Thompson. Together, the two firms produced Premiere on Pine, a 39-floor, 386-unit tower at 1525 9th Ave., and Kiara Tower, a 40-story, 461-unit luxury apartment tower located at 111 Terry Ave. N.
“Every project is unique,” said Weber when asked how the 1000 Virginia Avenue project compared to Weber Thompson’s previous projects back in September. “Generally speaking, the design of every tower is in response to the site and the client’s vision. We let those major drivers allow the design to evolve as we study many different options.”