Home AEC Alexandria’s Nearly 340,000 SQFT Life Science Building Planned for Seattle Approved by...

Alexandria’s Nearly 340,000 SQFT Life Science Building Planned for Seattle Approved by Design Review Board

Alexandria Real Estate Equities, NBBJ, Seattle, West Design Review Board, South Lake Union

By Catherine Sweeney 

A 339,673 square foot life sciences project planned for South Lake Union is one step closer to becoming a reality after it was met with approval from Seattle’s West Design Review Board during a recommendation hearing Wednesday evening. The project, located at 601 Dexter Ave. N, is proposed by Alexandria Real Estate Equities with designs from NBBJ.

The project site is situated between Dexter Avenue and Aurora Avenue and would consist of a 10-story building with three-levels of below-grade parking. According to the design proposal, the building aims to anchor the prominent gateway corner of the South Lake Union neighborhood through strong pedestrian experiences, activated edges and visual interest while providing critical life science space. 

The project would also provide tenants with various amenities, including a ground floor working lounge, terraces, storage for bicycles, balconies and more. 

The design team previously met with the review board in May of 2022, at which point they shared plans to further elevate the massing of the building through increasing the height of the south facade to create a stronger edge and connection between the proposed amenity terraces at the lower, middle and upper portions of the building. The design team also shared plans to upgrade the space through a strong mix of materials, including glass and various wooden elements. At that time, the board was overall supportive of the designs but also recommended the addition of added colors, landscaping and balconies for added texture. 

Prior to that, the project was brought to the board as an office project, which has since been changed to meet the growing demand for life science users in South Lake Union. 

“When we came to the board in 2022, we had recently converted what was an office building at EDG to a life science building. At that time, there were elements of the design that were more office focused,” said Christian Gunter, senior vice president of development for Alexandria Real Estate Equities. “But changing market conditions and tenant preferences, we had to critically review 601 Dexter to ensure it was truly purposely designed for life science.”

While the board was overall pleased with the project in May, several suggestions were made to enhance the building’s appearance during the most recent meeting. For instance, the design team shared plans to rotate the building’s facade to improve the balcony and terrace expression with better views and access. 

Massing shifts to the northeast also create a stronger presence along Mercer while better enabling the stairs and lab activities to be more visible from the street.

The height of the ground floor – which will include lab meeting programs, a mezzanine and a cycling lounge – was also increased to create more transparency throughout. 

Other improvements include an enhanced entryway, a reduction in height to reduce shadow on the courtyard during the day and a narrowing of the facade along Aurora to better fit in with the scale of surrounding structures. 

“Building on this input, we return to our [recommendation] meeting with further enhancements. The gateway corner was activated with balconies on every floor. Terraces were developed to reinforce the different scales of Dexter and Mercer. Relief was offered along the ground floor and a notch stressing the uniqueness of the structural system incorporated meaningful scale,” Ryan Mullenix, design partner at NBBJ, said. 

Overall, the board approved the project in a unanimous vote, noting their appreciation for the various upgrades and responses from the previous meeting. The board ultimately supported the project’s current state and left any future changes to the design team’s discretion.