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Review Board Finds Few Faults in Updated Plans for New, 195,000 SQFT Office Building in Seattle

Gensler, 222 5th Ave. N., Da Li Properties, Seattle, Thomas Street, SDOT
Courtesy of Gensler

By Meghan Hall

A savvy new office and life sciences-ready building will get to make its mark on downtown Seattle. At a Recommendation Meeting on Wednesday night, Da Li Properties and architecture firm Gensler presented updated designs for 222 5th Ave. N. The modern design and attention to detail impressed the West Design Review Board, who had little to critique by the end of the night.

“We’re really excited to share our nine-story, 200,000 square foot office and lab-ready building located right adjacent to Seattle Center,” explained Gensler’s Chad Yoshinobu. “What is really fascinating about this particular site is that it is a gateway site, and it is in a district that is super eclectic, from really iconic [landmarks] to office buildings to apartment buildings, with many different styles.”

The almost final designs of 222 5th Ave. N.  have been heavily influenced by not just the surrounding neighborhood context, but previous Board feedback. Gensler emphasized that activity along 5th Ave. as well as Thomas Street’s designation as a “Green Street,” were also significant factors in the design of the project.

From the project’s first Early Design Guidance meeting, Gensler and Da Li Properties worked to clarify the rationale regarding the architectural concept, and how the northeast corner and East facade would impact the building’s presence. 

The massing presents a variety of shifting volumes with a clear base, middle and top. Along Thomas, building forms shift and rotate as potential amenities will be stacked vertically. The corner of Thomas and 5th Ave. N will be angled with beveled edges, and the ground floor will make way for a future SDOT Development with landscaped gathering space. A bold colored feature stair will activate the corner, acting as a beacon for pedestrians arriving from South Lake Union.

“We have these sculptural elements that stack up and down the building, and they really activate Thomas Street, and they activate oru response to the skate park,” said Yoshinobu. “We have created an interconnecting stair that zippers up and down the building that then ties back to all of the activity on Thomas. It becomes this highly sculptural element…”

Retail space along the entire street edge will also work to activate the ground plane and will be highly visible via large glass windows. Gensler hopes that the warmth and activity will spill out onto the streets, drawing additional foot traffic.

“The visual connectivity withall the glass allows you to see right into all the lounge and the building lobby, etc., and even though we did not have to put retail, we put retail along Thomas to activate that edge,” said Yoshinobu.

On levels three and eight, decks will allow tenants to step outside and interact with the street. Other exterior balconies will help to scale down the facade, and small scale storefronts on the ground will add to the neighborhood’s street life. A roof terrace with loop seating and built in benches will be provided. The roof deck will be shielded by a steel trellis as an accent. Curvatures along the building created by the terraces are meant to reflect the designs of a neighborhood skate park currently in the works.

Massing and design features facing the alley will be much more muted, with the patterning reflecting a similar sense of movement presented by the adjacent Monorail. 

The building will be clad in a mix of recessed metal panels, vision glass and spandrel glass. The metal panels will be staggered from floor to floor to create movement and variation, and recessed lovers will provide vertical separation between programmatic volumes. Canopies will also define retail entries that line the facade.

Overall, the Board was rather impressed with the design of the project, and appreciated the steps that the development team had taken to clarify and refine its design. The Board did discuss the alley facade, which was more blank in nature. The Board debated whether to give guidance to the applicant to add visual interest. However, the Board also acknowledged that the alley facade would not be frequently viewed, and often only from a distance, and that as part of the entire building design, it “worked.” Given this context, the Board decided not to condition any improvements to the alleyway facade, leaving it up to the discretion of the project team.

The Board supported the rest of the project as designed, rendered and described in the presentation packet, and noted that the packet would stand as a document of record moving forward. The Board noted that it appreciated the retail on Thomas Ave., as well as the accentuated stairs and curved glass accents. The Board noted that many of the design decisions were the result of “good design, good guidance and good execution.” 

With little else to comment on, the Board unanimously recommended the project move beyond the design review phase, allowing it to finalize entitlements.