By Meghan Hall
After several years of consistent growth, Seattle is considered one of the top tech headquarters markets in the United States, and local developers and landlords, such as Unico, and are trying to keep up with demand for space as companies expand and grow into the Puget Sound market. In a follow up recommendation meeting with Seattle’s Design Review Board, Unico and designer Perkins + Will received a green light to advance the 200,000 square foot, nine story office project in the city’s Cascade Neighborhood, just next to Interstate 5.
This was the third design review meeting for the project, located at 330 Yale Avenue N. At the development’s previous meeting, an early design guidance meeting (EDG), held in January 2018, the West Design Review board evaluated three massing options and while appreciative of the design team’s efforts, asked that the massing be further refined to better respond to the neighborhood context and streetscape. In response, the team has altered the bulk and scale of the building’s podium by breaking it down into two major volumes. The team has also added new modulation of massing along Harrison St. which has created a pedestrian eddy that connects to an adjacent alley.
At the project’s second EDG meeting in March 2018, the board gave unanimous approval to move to the next step in the design phase after asking for more detail project plans about the development’s street level uses and impact on the streetscape. The board also asked that the project team differentiate the base from the upper massing to reduce the amount of perceived bulk. The resulting building, presented at the latest design review meeting, was clad in a high-gloss white metal panel flush with adjacent white glazing is meant to pick up on the coloring of the surrounding buildings, such as St. Spiridon Church, located just across the street. A matte-finish out-pound metal panel has been proposed for the east podium of the tower. The mid-block eddy will contain flagstone paving, seat-height boulders and the design team has worked to maximize the café frontage along Harrison. Painted graphic artwork will provide an accent alt the development’s parking garage entry.
“We’re quite proud of the building,” said Ryan Bussard, design principal at Perkins + Will who, along with Andrew Clinch, associate principal, presented the final vision to the board. “We think it will be a beautiful addition to the neighborhood.”
Overall, the board agreed and was receptive to the designs presented by Unico and Perkins + Will. The members were impressed by the elegant solutions the architect presented and found the project to be a meaningful piece of architecture for the neighborhood.
The discussion points between the board members focused primarily on the review of the proposed façade, the articulation of the materiality of the upper box of the structure, as well as the contrast between the two boxes and the east façade facing Interstate 5. The project designers asked for eight departures, as well, which were all unanimously approved.
Additional deliberation was centered on the rooftop mechanical suite. In the design, that part of the structure is quite prominent and visible from the east hillside of the development. The board heard some suggestions from the design team on how they plan to mitigate that, and it was pleased with the direction the design team chose.
If the board had any reservations, it was toward the east façade of the building, which they felt was not as thoroughly defined as the rest of the building was. The board had some suggestions, and the design team was amenable to them.
The Cascade neighborhood where the project will be located, is right next to South Lake Union and is up-and-coming as more companies seek to enter Seattle’s hot tech market. According to CBRE’s 2018 Tech 30 Report, South Lake Union is one of the top submarkets in the country for tech-related office absorption, which represents 17.7 percent of total building stock. Vacancy rates for tech office space in South Lake Union hover around 3.6 percent, and rents in the neighborhood come in at $41.53 per square foot. Although project delivery is likely years away, the development approval will help relieve increasing constraints on office space in the area.