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Proposed NHL Ice Rink with New 90,000 SQFT Office Tower at Northgate Takes Shape

Seattle, NHL Seattle Ice Centre, Northgate Mall, Generator Studio, Pacific Northwest, GGLO, Design Review Board, National Hockey League
Rendering Courtesy of GGLO

By Meghan Hall

As the 2018-2019 hockey season comes to a close, Seattle’s residents are eagerly looking ahead as plans for the NHL Seattle Ice Centre continue to take shape. The facility, which will sit in the center of the master planned Northgate Mall redevelopment, underwent its second design review meeting Monday night, and it culminated with the community and the city’s Design Review Board backing the updated schemes. Once complete, the redeveloped Ice Centre will become home to a new professional hockey team, which is expected to begin playing as a member of the National Hockey League’s Western Conference Pacific Division in 2021, and will function as a place where the love for the game will be enhanced through civic engagement and hockey-related events.

The site for the Ice Centre is located at the east side of the north/south pedestrian corridor of the current Northgate Mall. The existing Macy’s story and various retail tenants just to the north and south of the department store will be demolished in order to accommodate the ice facility, which will total 172,000 square feet. The building will include a 20,000 square foot NHL Seattle training center, a 20,000 square foot NHL Seattle corporate office, a mid-block east/west public hallway and food hall, as well as a 10,000 square foot retail, office or restaurant opportunity. The NHL offices will be located above the training rinks and will also include corporate event space.

In addition, the development team also provided a preview for a new, not previously revealed, 90,000 square foot office tower adjacent to the Ice Centre. It was the development team’s long-term perspective on what this location may ultimately come to be.

“We look at this project as transformational on three different fronts,” said Lance Lopes of NHL Seattle and Director of OVG Seattle during Monday’s meeting. “First of course, it’s transformational to Northgate and the entire north end community. We have launched this project in the hopes to create this catalyst effect across all the development on that site. Second, it’s transformational from the standpoint of hockey. This will be the center for hockey in the 5-state region. Finally, it’s transformational in terms of what we’re going to do for the community. This will serve as a facility where we can do well by doing good.”

This was perhaps the most important aspect of the presentation by the development team, which for the first time revealed design elements and gave the board and the public a glimpse into the vision behind the structure.

Tom Proebstle, founder and design director at Kansas City, Mo.-based Generator Studio presented that vision to the board. “The NHL Seattle and the community Ice Centre is in the core of this redevelopment, and we’re very excited about that. This forward-facing development is the heart and soul of the rebranding and the rebirth of Northgate,” he stated.

The primary design principles were put to the test Monday night as the Northeast Design Review Board took a closer look at the finer details of the Ice Centre’s design. The project plans indicated a building composed of offset massing forms to highlight the three rinks and office space within the facility, as well as sliding elements at the entries of the pedestrian pass-through. The sliding elements are meant to make the entry points to the building easily identifiable and provide additional modulation.

The plans include an outdoor promenade at the south end of the Ice Centre and a private parking space for the hockey team staff and players on the north. Design documents provided an outline of the building that will be linear in nature in order to break up the scale of the development with different massing forms. Yet, even though it will be relatively large, the structure is not meant to be imposing. Because the rinks cannot have direct access to sunlight, the project team designed the building to include program elements that present pedestrian-scaled massing along the sidewalks. Glazing and solar shading, as well as other modern architectural materials, will give what the design team described as a “Pacific Northwest sensibility.”

GGLO, Generator and Simon also presented a tiered roof, the design of which evolved since the previous review meeting. Flat roofs will be constructed with a white single-ply roof membrane. Screening on the roof will hide any rooftop equipment required by the rink’s facilities. This may have been a welcome change to the design team, but the review board had some concerns that the roof would be reflective and provide a visually unappealing side of the building to its residential and office neighbors.

More transparency was also incorporated into the building’s south façade, as opposed to the blank wall previously presented. However, the design team still requested a departure to allow for reduced transparency to prevent operational issues affecting the quality of the ice. Sun-shading, composed of wood-like blades, was added not only to protect the ice, but to break down the scale of the south façade as well. The primary entry and lobby sequence was updated as well, and no longer includes open space but occupied lobby space. Portions of the open space at the 4th Ave. entry have been moved to the south end of the Ice Centre, creating a better transition between the development and the Northgate Center’s future Central Park.

One of the board members, Dan Rusler, made his extreme optimism about the facility and the sport of hockey well known. “To me this is the most comprehensive, well put together, well designed project I’ve seen on this board to date,” he said. His board colleagues agreed that the project wes civic, approachable and sophisticated, and they welcomed the design team’s responsiveness. However, a few design guidelines were suggested, as well.

First, the Design Review Board asked the team to explore a glare analysis of the roof. They also commented on the approachability of the entrance and suggested an alternative way to open up the facade make the entryway more welcoming. There was some discussion about the transparency of the structure’s facade — the design team wanted less of it, and the Board wanted more of it — and the effect of sunlight that may come into the building and melt the ice sheets. Also, the Board felt the south facade, the one facing the park and the promenade, felt more like an edge of the building and urged that design to be a little more dramatic.

Perhaps the biggest issue the Board had with the design was that it seemed a little inconsistent with the nature of this structure. The Ice Centre will be a landmark building in the development, and it will feature beautifully designed wooden beams that will hold the structure together, as wood is at the core of the building. Yet, stated the Board, the facade around the project featured a series of wooden planks that seemed like they were tacked on, and the design team was asked to revise the beams and consider how to showcase some of the structural elements from inside on the exterior of the building.

The Board asked the design team to come back for a second meeting and review the study of the roof and the facade to determine if more transparency would inhibit the performance of the ice sheets. They also wanted to see a revised a design language for the south facade and a study of the proposed office structure, and how it would work with the Ice Centre as the main feature of the Northgate redevelopment.