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Proposed 226-Unit Tower Next to Seattle’s Trinity Church Green-lighted After Second Design Review Meeting

Seattle, First Hill, Trinity Parish, Caydon U.S.A., Trinity Tower, East Design Review Board, Memorial Garden, Art Gallery
Rendering Courtesy of Solomon Cordwell Buenz

By Meghan Hall

Seattle’s historic Trinity Parish was formed in 1865, and the congregation’s church, built in 1892, continues to serve as the epicenter of the First Hill neighborhood. But in 2014, the Trinity Parish determined that three of its buildings located next to the church were no longer of use due to their outdated facilities. It embarked on an effort to assess its goals for the future redevelopment of a half-block site at the corner of 8th and Cherry Street, and it ultimately selected Caydon U.S.A. as its development partner. Together, the Trinity Parish and Caydon are working through a proposal to develop a 27-story mixed-use tower that will not only bring much-needed housing to the area, but also provide the Parish with new and updated program space.

“Trinity has been an iconic presence on First Hill for 117 years,” explained Trinity Church’s Reverend Jeffrey Gill. “Trinity recognized that the redevelopment of this site…was the doorway to the next 117 years of Trinity’s mission on First Hill…The design fulfills Trinity’s exercise and continuation of its First Hill mission, our distinguished worship, our community service, our presence as a place of beauty and the peaceful refuge we provide in the midst of this very busy city.”

The Parish’s three existing buildings that are slated for demolition totaled 24,705 square feet of space. The new mixed-use Trinity Tower will provide 31,330 gross square feet for the church, of which 10,724 square feet will be designated as tenant space for specific use by Trinity Church’s mission-related tenants. Another 3,280 square feet will be used for outreach programs. The Parish will own its portion of the space in the podium of the new tower as a condominium, while Caydon will own the 226 residential units within the tower of the project as well as the below-grade garage. Trinity will retain ownership of the underlying ground.

The project documents indicate that the tower will be a single, composed mass, and the goal of the project is to create a dynamic addition to the City skyline while creating a podium that is sensitive to the Parish Building to the north and the Memorial Garden that is situated in between them. The proposed preferred option is described in design documents as an “optimized single tower,” which will strive to build upon the strong identity that already exists at the ground plane due to the historic Church and Memorial Garden.

Rendering Courtesy of Solomon Cordwell Buenz

For the design team and the Church, the preservation of the Memorial Garden, which was originally slated to be publicly available to the community, was paramount. 

“The Memorial Garden is not now going to be a circulation route,” explained Clint Pearson, the project architect. “It has been. You had to walk  through the garden to get to the front door; that’s no longer going to be the case. We want the garden, rather than being a circulation route to be passed through, to be a peaceful, outdoor room. A humble, quiet, retreat.”

Based on guidance from the previous two design meetings, the mass of the shower is shifted to the north of the site, and the tower will be articulated into four slimmer vertical forms to pare down the visual bulk of the building. In addition, the façade was refined to reduce the overhang of the cantilevered volume above the street and, while a two-story tower rhythm better relates to the adjacent Parish spaces. An enlarged glass box will connect the tower to the Church, increasing visibility. A new coffee shop and community Art Gallery will be located along 8th Ave. to provide active uses on the street. The shop and gallery will spill out onto an ambulatory connecting to the Memorial Garden, providing additional flexible space for Parish use.

In an effort to maximize the square footage of the new tower and the breathing room between the Church and new development, the project team plans to request several departures from the setback and separation controls at both 8th and Cherry Streets.

The proposed project will feature sandstone that will complement and match the color of the original Trinity Church, but the stone will also be articulated to present a more modern finish. Rectilinear slabs with a honed finish will be placed in the adjacent Memorial Garden and in the high-rise podium. Black and gold accent features will work to warm the sandstone and will include black-finished steel and aluminum metal work, wood sunscreens and interior woodwork in a gold/honey-colored finish.

Much of the Board’s feedback and commentary revolved around the setbacks requested and project team’s decision to transfer the development potential from the Church portion of the lot to the tower site. The decision resulted in the requested departures; however, the Board questioned the design team’s statement that the Memorial Garden will be utilized as a public asset, due to the addition of a fence around the garden and limited operating hours. The Board, however, did commend the project team on improvements to the podium’s articulation, which it said was more well-defined, and the tower’s overall design, which the Board described as elegant. 

The Board recommended approval of the project, but with several conditions, including providing the City Planner with transparent fencing options for the garden, a study on the use of stone throughout the podium, simplification of building materials and making the entries to the ambulatory identical, to produce a more consistent design.

More than a year after its initial design review, the Trinity Tower project has secured approval from the East Design Review Board, and Trinity Church and Caydon can proceed with finalizing plans for a development that will usher in the next chapter of the Trinity Parish’s history in Seattle.