By Meghan Hall
The neighborhood surrounding the eastern edge of the Seattle Center and Space Needle has remained largely untouched by large-scale redevelopment projects when compared to the surrounding neighborhoods such as the Denny Triangle and South Lake Union. And, despite being home to perhaps the city’s most iconic structure, surrounding development is a mix of long-established residential, mid-rise hotels and aging office buildings. However, just across the street from the Seattle Center is a proposal looking to shake up the neighborhood’s aesthetic. Proposed by Da Li Properties and designed by Gensler, the development team’s planned project is an eight-story office building called “Triple 2,” and, at an early design guidance meeting Wednesday night, received the board’s full approval to move forward with the design process.
“It is a super fascinating site this is considered a gateway area,” emphasized Gensler’s Design Director and Principal Chad Yoshinobu. “…Thomas Street will be a green street; this is going to be a major pedestrian corridor that will bring so much activity to the Seattle Center and this district. “
Located at 225 5th Ave. N., Triple 2 will total 176,000 square feet and will contain ground floor retail with seven levels of office above. 99 below-grade parking spaces will also be included. The project has several goals, according to design documents, including expanding the availability of commercial office space in the neighborhood and varying amenities and further activating the streetscape with retail for residents and local vendors. Both goals, the development team hopes, will be accomplished by drawing on the eclectic architectural nature of the neighborhood as well as significant buildings within the Seattle Center.
“The Seattle Center is a collection of amenities that benefit all of us here,” said Yoshinobu. “We took this idea of amenities and will bring it back to the building and share that with you.”
Yoshinobu continued, “We have an opportunity to…add retail to this district because everything to the other side of Seattle center has great amenities, has great restaurants, has great bars. But on this side, not so much. This will be a benefit to all of the folks in this area and hopefully it will be a lure to activate people from SLU to come up here for food or beverage or the retail.”
The development team’s preferred option, whose massing and design is called “Vertical Village,” shows a dynamic form responding to the variety of buildings in the property’s immediate vicinity. An articulated ground floor will provide a more refined scale and visual interest for pedestrians, while the upper levels will shift in a vertical manner as the building rises. Rooftop amenities will provide visual connection to the Space Needle and local landmarks. Amenities will be connected by a “ribbon of circulation,” a unique, see-through staircase that is designed to “untether” tenants from their floors and provide a sense of serendipity. The feature stair will also provide a unique interface for a future residential building located next to the property.
The fluidity of the monorail, convergence of streets and an adjacent skate park all influenced the proposed modulation and façade design, noted Yoshinobu, and prompted the development team to pursue curved, stacked floor levels to reflect this neighborhood context.
“As you can see, [the neighborhood] is a super eclectic mix,” explained Yoshinobu. “We have iconic buildings like the Space Needle…then we have MoPop, then we have the Hyatt and apartment buildings and then we have other office buildings. There’s no particular style here, and according to the Uptown Design Guidelines, that is a positive thing.”
Overall, the Board was pleased with the preferred option, although it noted it felt like the only fleshed about design scheme when compared with the other two options presented. However, in its deliberations, the Board stated that the massing and design goals were clear and that the preferred concept related well to nearby buildings such as the Museum of Pop (MoPop) with its architectural movements and modulation. The board did ask several questions of the development team, and was curious about material usage, and also brought up the possibility of a public amenity. The board also questioned the balance of modulation between Thomas Avenue and 5th Street. However, because Thomas is an anticipated Green Street—a term for an extensive pedestrian walkway pursued by the Department of Transportation—city officials instructed the development team to keep the Thomas Street façade simple.
At the end of the meeting, the board unanimously approved the project to move forward, excited to see how the design of Triple 2—including its feature staircase and materiality—will continue to evolve.