By Meghan Hall
Seattle’s Design Review Process usually occurs over a period of a year, maybe two, as project applicants present their plans to city officials and receive edits. However, sometimes the entitlements process can take years, with design review meetings occurring years apart. This has been the case for the development teams in charge of a massive mixed-use project in the Denny Triangle, who in the spring of 2015 began participating in the design review process for a mixed-use project that will include two, thirty-story towers over an eleven-story podium. After several rounds of review occurring over the course of several years, Onni Group and Graphite Design Group received unanimous approval from the Downtown Design Review Board to move forward with the project.
Vancouver, Canada-based Onni Group purchased the site in the fall of 2018 for $78.75 million from Seattle-based developer Clise Properties. The two parcels Onni purchased are developed with a 6,500 square foot garage and service building constructed in 1936, and a 25,900 square foot parking lot. Clise Properties originally submitted the preliminary plans for the development, which Onni maintained. According to public documents, the project is entitled “Block V.”
The final meeting for the development, which is slated to rise at 2301 7th Ave., occurred at the beginning of February. Upon completion, the 42-story project will include 1,361,641 square feet of total construction. The project is mixed-use and will be broken down into about 315,000 square feet of office, 9,500 square feet for retail uses and 661 residential units, according to design documents.
In the latest design meeting, Onni and Graphite presented schemes that showed the breakdown of the scale of the podium and tower into differently expressed elements whose goal was to build a better relationship between the podium and tower. To do this, the development team presented a podium with recognizable cubic elements in the upper and lower podium, increased the terracotta detail at the lower podium to wrap around the building, and added darker glass in the recessed portion of the podium. Vertical scoring was also added to the upper levels of the podium to add further fenestration and differentiation. At ground level, the facades will angle back at the building corners to provide pedestrian plazas.
The towers’ massing builds upon the precedent set by the podium and will be composed of varying-sized blocks that comprise each façade. The project will also incorporate several types of materials, including stone, metal panels, metal bio-retention containers, and a window wall system for a sleek and modern look.
Overall, the Board approved of the updates to the design and liked the vertical scoring added to the façade, stating that it added appropriate scale to the building, as well as the additional detailing provided by the terracotta panels. The Board also approved of additional fenestration provided by new balconies and a slight change in the cladding system utilized on the tower portion of the development as well. The Board unanimously approved the project’s design, but added one condition, asking that the development team retain the texture terracotta material denoted in project documents, given its importance in unifying the design of the development.
Since The Great Recession, the Denny Triangle had been slower to develop, until recently, states the team in project documents. The project is just one of several large-scale projects currently in the works for downtown. Within the immediate vicinity of Onni’s site, there are numerous large-scale projects in the works. Among them is Block 18, currently under construction, and Amazon Block 21 at 2200 7th Ave., also in the construction Pipeline. Insignia Towers, located at 588 Bell Street, are also adjacent to the property. In September of 2019, Holland Partner Group broke ground on its own 44-story tower designed by Seattle-based Weber Thompson in partnership with Cornish College. Also in the fall, Nipo Downtown Hotel, Inc. proposed a 179-key hotel, located at 1121 Stewart Street.
With these new developments in the works, the Denny Triangle’s warehouse developments, low-rise lodging and surface parking lots are features of the past. High-rise tower, mixed-use programs and an important residential presence has been brought to the neighborhood, a factor of which Onni’s project will contribute significantly to in the coming years as its own high-density project is brought to market.