Home AEC Kilroy’s 18-Story Downtown Seattle Project Gets Green Light from Early Design Review

Kilroy’s 18-Story Downtown Seattle Project Gets Green Light from Early Design Review

Kilroy Realty, Seattle, The Miller Hull Partnership 1818 6th Ave
Courtesy of The Miller Hull Partnership

By Vladimir Bosanac

Even as uncertainty lingers across the commercial real estate market in Seattle and broadly throughout the Puget Sound region, one developer understands the benefit of having options and shovel-ready projects when the tide turns. Kilroy Realty is pushing ahead with its plans to reimagine a planned community development in the heart of Seattle and received an early January gift from the Design Review Board, which voted to advance its 18-story, 346,500 square-foot office development at 1818 6th Ave. into the next phase of evaluations.

This proposal combines three parcels to create a new office development in the Central Business District of Seattle. It is part of a state-of-the-art mixed-use project consisting of approximately 900,000 square feet of office that will emerge on two city blocks between 5th and 7th Avenues and Stewart St. and Olive Way. The proposal includes the full restoration of Seattle’s Lloyd Building, located at 601 Stewart St., and approximately 25,000 square feet of new street-level food and beverage retail as well as underground parking. It will also add 575,000 square feet of residential development on the 621 Stewart St. parcel, for which the company is evaluating various options, according to the design documents.

“The site is located where the grids of the city come together. It’s at the nexus of distinctly different zones in the city, and it provides an opportunity to knit together and make important connections in our urban core that are currently under development,” said Scott Wolf, partner at the Seattle-based The Miller Hull Partnership, the design firm working with Kilroy on this office project. “Block 6 is a typical urban site, although it benefits from an atypical presence of a cherished historical landmark.”

This contrast, and Kilroy’s promise to retain the Lloyd Building through a renovation, is what formed the design language of the preferred proposal. The design team looked at ways in providing continuity in the neighborhood by harmonizing the old with the new, yet also closely considered ways through which it would contrast the two. The harmony concept won, and its ultimate goal was to provide a spatial stitch that connected the two structures not just through its facades, but also inside the property. 

“We’re not just keeping the facade of the Lloyd Building, we’re keeping all that superstructure and floor plates and looking at the differences in the floor levels as an opportunity to create open stairs and interesting stitched condition that reveal themselves through that 6th Avenue facade,” said Cory Mattheis, an associate at The Miller Hull Partnership.

In order to accomplish this, the design team did request three departures. One focused on the upper facade modulation, a second one requested changes in the street level use and the third focused loading dock reduction as a result of alleyway utilization.

The public feedback was mostly in support of the project. Written commentary praised the inclusion of the historic building in the redevelopment process. The massing and scale of the property also received approval, as well as the proposed pedestrian experience. The sole dissent highlighted the inadequate size of the alley to support the scale of the building and the future residential tower on the same block. A recommendation was made to the design team by this person to consider adding a 5-foot voluntary offset, which would allow a little extra room in one portion of the alley.

The Board’s deliberation focused on the massing and the Lloyd Building inclusion, the ground-level experience and the departures. Overall, the Board was in support of the preferred concept, but it commented on the rough massing outline, which did not provide sufficient details on the rooftop termination. This was not a huge setback, since in Early Design Guidance, the massing is generally tough and the materials are not defined. But the Board did want to see more definitions of the connection between the buildings. They were especially worried about how the two facades would link up. The Lloyd Building’s brick and the new building’s glass curtain could work, but the question was how transparent would the glass be and if the glazing system would make it too reflective. 

At the ground level, the Board appreciated the small-scale retail opportunities, and it found the preferred option’s connection of lobbies a right way to achieve the connectivity between the two buildings. However, it did want more exploration on the building services and how those would be executed. The Board was encouraged to see a proposal of traffic lane reductions on 6th Ave., which would allow increased landscaping and broadening of the sidewalk, however, this was still under review and negotiations with the Seattle Department of Transportation.

The three members of the Board who attended the meeting all supported the project and approved it to advance to the next phase of review. They supported departures conditionally only because they wanted to see additional studies around street-level use and how the reduction in loading berths would affect the usage of the alley. Since some of those items were still undefined, they did not see a way to make a deterministic decision on those areas, but Kilroy and The Miller Hull Partnership have a green light to keep the project moving along.