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Meriwether Partners’ A&D Project: the Importance of Preserving a Historic Building Along Seattle’s Evolving Waterfront

Seattle, Meriwether Partners, Weinstein A+U, Waterfront Seattle, Olympic Sculpture Park, adaptive reuse, Ainsworth & Dunn building
Rendering courtesy of Meriwether Partners

By Jack Stubbs

The waterfront along Elliott Bay in Seattle has been in a state of transition since early December 2017 when Waterfront Seattle announced the start of construction on the Pier 62 Rebuild project —a step that marked the beginning of the larger Waterfront Seattle program, a $688 million revitalization effort that spans from Pioneer Square to Belltown.

And as the waterfront continues to take shape over the coming months, new projects coming online will continue to impact the future trajectory of the surrounding area.

Meriwether Partners is looking to transform a building on Seattle’s waterfront that for the last 45 years has been known as the Old Spaghetti Factory, which closed its doors in December 2017. The developer’s project, called A&D/10 Clay, will look to revitalize the old Ainsworth & Dunn warehouse that was was originally built in 1902 by the salmon packing company.

“In my mind, this was historically a very under-utilized block…some might have argued that the highest and best use was the Old Spaghetti [building], but hopefully we’re improving that part of the neighborhood by bringing more activity and housing down to the waterfront and revitalizing a building that was over 100 years old,” said Brian Oseran, principal at Seattle-based investment and development company Meriwether Partners.

Seattle, Meriwether Partners, Weinstein A+U, Waterfront Seattle, Olympic Sculpture Park, adaptive reuse, Ainsworth & Dunn building
Rendering courtesy of Weinstein A+U

When complete in first quarter 2019, the $60 million mixed-use redevelopment project located at 2815 Elliott Ave.—which occupies a full city block—will ultimately comprise 32,200 square feet of commercial office space and 60 parking stalls. On the adjacent surface parking lot, Meriwether is also building a 6-story 62-unit market-rate apartment project with approximately 7,400 square feet of ground-level commercial space and a rooftop deck. The two buildings will be connected via a glazed pedestrian walkway at the ground level.

The old A&D building was designated landmark status in 2014. And as with any adaptive reuse project, one of the primary challenges throughout the design process—which is being led by Weinstein A+U—was to successfully preserve the existing features of the historic structure, according to Oseran. “The main challenges were pretty similar to any kind of historic rehab; [which requires] balancing the goals of what’s required with the [existing] landmarked building,” he said. “Generally, we were trying to find a design that was not fighting with the original look of the building, but complimenting it…we did a lighter, glassier structure on the top of the building so that there was some contrast.”

The adaptive reuse project—on which Meriwether broke ground in August 2017—includes a comprehensive renovation of the existing two-story historic landmark building and the addition of a new penthouse on the upper story. Throughout the revitalization process, the programmatic elements of the existing historic structure entailed certain design-related challenges, according to Oseran. “We took off the upper floor of the building and sleeve a new steel structure onto an old heavy timber structure. Of course, the existing building isn’t straight or square or flat, so we’re constantly fighting against all these small variations like wall thickness or floor level. It took a lot of extra design work and coordination with our structural engineer,” he said.

The design team on the project looked to preserve significant portions of the existing building and will look to add give various seismic upgrades to the exterior brick and heavy timber structures on the lower levels of the building. “It wasn’t just [about] preserving a brick facade—where a building is basically taken apart and a facade propped up and a new building built inside of it,” Oseran said. “So there a lot of places where we’re tying systems and structures together between the existing building and the new apartment building.”

Rendering courtesy of Weinstein A+U

In terms of the residential portion of the project, Meriwether will look to provide units—ranging from studios to two-bedrooms between 465 and 1,100 square feet—that provide an appealing alternative to those offered in other surrounding neighborhoods. “We think this will be a great place to live with the proximity to South Lake Union and downtown and the waterfront; there’s a lot of other apartments around Belltown. This site is not a high-rise zone; it’s a small boutique apartment building, but we hope that based on its location it can compete with some of the newer high-rises in Belltown or South Lake Union,” he said.

Meriwether does not have any concrete plans In terms of potential tenants for the office portion of the in-the-works project, although the developer’s preference is for a single-building tenant to be able to take advantage of the relatively small footprint of the space. “We’re pretty far down the road with a full-building office user and our strong preference all along with leasing the building has been with a single tenant,” Oseran said. “It’s not a huge building, and on that new third floor with the deck we wanted the tenant to be able to make use of that,” he said.

The hope is that the project’s location adjacent to the Olympic Sculpture Park—and towards the northern end of Waterfront Seattle’s waterfront revitalization efforts—will provide a new focal point for people who live in the surrounding vicinity, according to Oseran. “We’re kind of at the north terminus of the commercial waterfront area…hopefully we improve the micro-neighborhood there for the people who live around it. In the near future, there’s a lot less improvement going on at the north end compared to six blocks south,” he said. “We want to get more people to live down on the waterfront to be able to make use of the hundreds of millions of dollars that are going on just south of us.”

Seattle, Meriwether Partners, Weinstein A+U, Waterfront Seattle, Olympic Sculpture Park, adaptive reuse, Ainsworth & Dunn building
Rendering courtesy of Weinstein A+U

Spanning from Pioneer Square to Belltown, the waterfront Seattle redevelopment program led by Waterfront Seattle will look to capitalize on the removal of the Alaskan Way Viaduct in late 2019. The multi-stage project has a potential completion date of 2023 and includes 20 acres of new and improved public open space, improved pedestrian connections between central neighborhoods and Elliott Bay and new utility infrastructure.

Some of the projects include the rebuild of Pier 62 and the Marion Street Bridge; the construction of Overlook Walk, a public pathway connecting the waterfront to Pike Place market; the Pike/Pine Renaissance Project, a revamping of the prominent Pike/Pine corridor in downtown Seattle; the restoration and reinstallation of the historic Washington Street Boat Landing (WSBL) Pergola; and the Seawall Project, a replacement and renovation of the aging seawall along the waterfront.

In the wider context of the the waterfront and the city of Seattle and the evolution that has been occurring over the last few years, Oseran thinks that greater attention should be given to preserving the historic structures that do still exist. “Unfortunately, there are probably a number of quality buildings that were torn down in the past cycle that we’d love to still have today; but the pendulum has swung a bit the other way. It’s great to have these buildings and I think they provides a lot of character to these neighborhoods,” he said.

As certain areas of the city continue to grow and densify with new developments coming online, Oseran thinks that it will continue to be about identifying the highest and best use for existing properties and potential redevelopment opportunities. “Part of me really appreciates the new construction and all the development that has happened with higher-and better uses for the parking lots or single-story properties,” he said. “But at the same time, a lot of it is brand new construction. You could argue whether it’s a better or worse character; but it’s a different character than what it was.”