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From 12 Schemes to One: Review Board Approves Holland Partner Group’s Design for 45-Story Tower in Seattle’s Denny Triangle

Holland Partner Group, Weber Thompson, Seattle, Denny Triangle, Bellwether Housing, Cornish College of the Arts
Rendering Courtesy of Weber Thompson

By Meghan Hall

Designing a high-rise in Seattle’s urban climate is no easy task, as architects, engineers and project teams must constantly evaluate how the new development will relate to both the current and future context of the city’s evolving neighborhoods. For Vancouver, Wash.-based Holland Partner Group and Seattle-based Weber Thompson, what began as nearly 12 different project designs has now been refined into one. At a Design Review Meeting at the beginning of July, the project team received support from the Downtown Design Review Board for its almost-final iterations for its 430-unit development known as 1000 Virginia. 

Located at the corner of Virginia St. and Terry Ave., the project site is adjacent to the southern edge of the Cornish College of the Arts’ urban campus, as well as the Eastern edge of Terry Ave.’s green street, which will eventually be expanded from Pine to Denny. To the North is another development site, belonging to Bellwether Housing, and whose Graham-Terry affordable housing project will revitalize a 1900s, four-story brick building that will be combined with a new, mid-rise apartment structure rising six stories.

On a wider scale, the Denny Triangle as a neighborhood is part of a fairly recent evolution with the term first appearing in the 1990s. Historically, the neighborhood has been a conglomerate of diverse development that includes residential, hospitality, institutional architecture, green streets and various other commercial spaces.

With these fundamentals in mind, Holland and Weber Thompson set out to create a tower that responded to the neighborhood context, beginning with adjusting the scale and positioning of the project to complement the Bellwether development adjacent to the site. According to design documents submitted to the City of Seattle, the development team began by adjusting the podium massing to step in relation to the mid-rise building along both Terry Ave. and East-West along the northern property line. The podium itself will step in at the ground level and will provide a mix of semi-public and semi-private spaces through outdoor retail and residential porches, as well as a public plaza sidewalk treatment. 

The tower will rise from the podium in several tiers and will terminate in a rooftop amenity and mechanical screen. “Slipping forms” will slide past one another on each tier of the tower, emphasizing the individual tiers’ orientations. Dark metal and reflective glass materials will be used and reveal an inner core, and the tower’s uppermost tier will appear further eroded. A four-story art installation will also be added, contrasting with the curtainwall façade on the upper levels of the tower.

Overall, the Board was particularly supportive of the project’s evolution since a previous early design guidance meeting in the fall of 2018, states a City report released after the meeting. The preferred option is a culmination of months of work, and according to a previous interview The Registry conducted with Weber Thompson after the first early design guidance meeting, the preferred scheme is one of the final design iterations, whittled down from almost a dozen schemes evaluated in the early days of the project’s conceptualization.

The Board applauded the podium expression, stating that it presented improved visual and physical connection via the porches, plaza and retail entry, as well as minimized the impacts of a blank wall along Terry Ave. The art wall, the Board felt, also minimized the possibility of a blank wall and responded well to the nearby Cornish campus. The Board also felt that the scale and grouping of the tower massing, particularly one of this size, was successful, and noted they created legibility, depth and variety. 

At the end of the meeting, the Board recommended approval of the project, with several conditions. The Board asked that the Holland and Weber Thompson maintain the expression and spirit of the tower massing and tiering moving forward, as well as maintain the art expressions included in the design meeting, as well as the landscaping and hardscapes that were presented. The Board also asked the design team to revise a two-story slot—meant to provide additional fenestration and visual interest—to adhere more closely with the same design language used for the balconies on the east and south facades. 

With these guidelines in mind, Holland Partner Group and Weber Thompson will continue to refine 1000 Virginia’s design as the project works through the remaining phases of the entitlement process.