By Jack Stubbs
Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood has experienced a vast transformation over the last several years, as it has increasingly become recognized as a hub for some of the nation’s most prominent technology companies like Amazon and Facebook.
New developments coming online show no signs of slowing in the neighborhood, either, as another Class A office project was approved at an Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting earlier this week.
On March 24th, San Francisco-based Shorenstein Properties and architect Weber Thompson saw their proposed development—a 7-story, 120,000 square foot project pursuing LEED Gold Certification—approved by the West Design Review Board to advance to the Recommendation phase of Seattle’s multi-step Design Review process.
Named 9 North, the 95-foot project, located at 235 9th Ave N., will incorporate abundant natural light to encourage next generation of surrounding office space, and will also support bicycle commuting—ultimately with the goal of embodying a development that will successfully integrate into the quickly-evolving character of South Lake Union.
John Stout, associate at Weber Thompson, emphasized how the design team extensively considered how 9 North would fit into the evolving neighborhood around it. “Stepping back and looking at the transformation of the neighborhood over the last 20 years…it’s really gone from a 1999 surface parking lots and single-story warehouses to a tech hub that really fosters technology and innovation, with a network of greenspaces and a new network of transportation options,” Stout said. “There’s a diverse set of uses in the neighborhood, residential and hospitality and some religious/research buildings near the site.”
Indeed, the proposed development occupies a prominent location in the heart of South Lake Union, sitting within blocks of Facebook’s Arbor Blocks project and tech behemoth Amazon’s corporate headquarters. 9 North is also within half a mile of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Space Needle, and just north of Denny Park.
The design team also emphasized how its project would fit into a neighborhood containing several other in-the-works projects. These include Pillar Properties and Reel Management’s 278-unit residential project located at 820 John St., and the under-construction, Weber Thompson-designed Waverly located at 210 8th Ave N. Upon completion in 2021, The Waverly, developed by Greystar, will 28-story development will ultimately include 374 residential units.
John Stout and Rachael Meyer presented their three proposed massing options, the third of which—the applicant’s preferred option—was approved by the board. “This concept, ‘Erosion,’ was really about finding a language that could apply to the different scales [in the neighborhood] and wrap the façade…which allowed us to make more cohesive moves with more glazing and transparency,” Stout said. The design team also emphasized how the project’s various landscaping options and exterior massing would allow it to most effectively integrate with the neighborhood and adjacent streetscapes along 9th Ave. and Thomas Street.
The West Design Review Board asked several clarifying questions, which primarily focused on the massing and scale of the building and how it would blend into the existing neighborhood fabric of South Lake Union in relation to nearby office developments.
Public comments during the meeting encouraged the design team to give future consideration to pedestrian circulation around the project, and how to most effectively design and activate the adjacent streetscapes
The board ultimately agreed unanimously to advance Shorenstein’s project to the next phase of the design review process—the Recommendation phase—provided that the design team adequately addressed various conditions. The board encouraged the design team to provide further studies about how to activate the building frontages along Thomas St. with landscaping elements, and also encouraged the project members to further consider how to effectively break down the scale and massing of the project through creative modulation and exterior façade elements.