By Jack Stubbs
The Denny Triangle area in South Lake Union has been a hotbed of development activity in recent months, and the neighborhood has a new project on the way.
On Wednesday, May 23rd, a two-tower development slated for Denny Triangle, which will include approximately 940,000 square feet of commercial office space, was unanimously approved at an Early Design Guidance meeting. At the meeting, applicant Perkins+Will presented preliminary project plans to the west review board on behalf of developer Onni Group.
Located at 1120 John St., the two-tower project includes one 16-story structure and one 17-story structure, which will be connected by a sky bridge. The development includes 940,160 square feet of commercial office space, almost 54,000 square feet of retail space, 22,120 square feet of open space, and 1,200 below-grade parking stalls. The project is also adjacent to the former Seattle Times office and printing buildings, which are both designated as landmark structures. The applicant plans to preserve the facade of the Seattle Times building.
Beginning the applicant team’s presentation, Andrew Clinch of Perkins+Will discussed the neighborhood context around the site and the primary objectives of the project. Some of these include connecting the central courtyard area with the Seattle Times Park; emphasizing multiple pedestrian entrances along Thomas Street; and respecting the existing height, scale and materiality of the Seattle Times building. Clinch also discussed how the project plans would be impacted by the building’s proximity to the Boren Investment Building, the Amazon-leased Terry and Troy Block buildings and the Seattle Times Building.
Perkins+Will discussed the applicant’s three different massing options, as well as how the different schemes would relate to the adjacent Seattle Times building. The applicant how the proposed courtyard area in the middle of the development would serve as an east-west through-block connection between Fairview Ave. and Terry Ave. and also increase sunlight into the open spaces. Additionally, the applicant discussed how the street-level podium would serve as a transition between the towers and the adjacent streetscape, and would also create an appropriate scale for the project in relation to the Seattle Times building.
Most of the board’s clarifying questions focused on how the applicant planned to program various elements of the project. Board member John Morefield asked for more information about the building’s exterior materiality, also requesting that the applicant clarify the design of the through-block connection and how the two towers would relate to the adjacent streetscape. Board member Homero Nishiwaki asked the applicant how it would successfully program the ground-level retail space. Board member Patreese Martin requested more detailed information about the distance and relationship between the two towers, also asking how the applicant planned to successfully break down the massing of the buildings along Fairview Ave. Martin also expressed concern about whether a grocery store along Fairview Ave. (the applicant’s proposed tenant for the retail space) would successfully activate the streetscape.
There were several public comments expressed during the meeting. Two members from the nearby Mirabella Seattle Retirement home emphasized their support of preserving Seattle Times Park and the importance of incorporating a grocery store into the street-level retail space. Another neighborhood resident requested that the applicant team continue to work on creating a project that respected the nearby landmarked buildings, and provide more information about how the design of the courtyard/plaza area would attract pedestrians from John St. A member from the South Lake Union Community Council expressed his approval of various design elements of the project, also requesting more information about the exterior materiality of the two office towers.
During its deliberation period, the board agreed that the applicant team would need to work on reducing the overall scale and massing of the two-tower development; refine the design of the exterior facades; and provide more studies about how the project would relate to the streetscape along Boren Ave. The board also expressed its overall approval of how the two towers related to each other in relation to the interior courtyard area, and recommended that the applicant strive to preserve the nearby Seattle Times Park. Finally, the board emphasized how the team would need to work on encouraging more activity and porosity at the ground-plane by further developing the open space elements of the project.