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Urban Villages to Redevelop Three Historic Pioneer Square Buildings

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RailSpur
RailSpur project | Rendering: Urban Villages

By Brittan Jenkins

The latest project to revitalize Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square will incorporate a mix of new retail, office and residential space with plans to renovate three 100-year-old buildings. Urban Villages, along with its capital partner Manchester Capital Management, will turn these buildings into a pedestrian-friendly development while maintaining its historic character.

The project, unique to Pioneer Square, will redevelop a full square city block to include retail, restaurants, office and residential uses. Located in the heart of Pioneer Square, the project, RailSpur, named after the old rails that lay in the alleyway, is just steps from the waterfront and from Seattle’s CenturyLink and Safeco Field stadiums.

“Pioneer Square is vibrant, energetic and artistic, and our goal with this project is to enhance and leverage those qualities to create a true destination”

The project plans to retrofit and revitalize three marquee buildings in the neighborhood including the Manufacturers Building at 419 Occidental Ave., the Westland Building at 100 S. King St., and the former Schoenfeld Furniture building at 115 S. Jackson St. Urban Villages will first work on the Manufacturers Building at 419 Occidental Ave.

“Pioneer Square is vibrant, energetic and artistic, and our goal with this project is to enhance and leverage those qualities to create a true destination,” said Angi Davis, Urban Villages’ project manager for the Pioneer Square revitalization project. “We’re committed to the historic aspect of the area while also creating a new and compelling destination for locals and tourists alike,” she continued.

“From unique dining choices to boutique retail to farmers’ markets and festivals, the alley corridor between the buildings will capitalize on the growing energy in Pioneer Square to be more than a thoroughfare, but a true destination,” said Jon Buerge, Vice President of Urban Villages. “These buildings, streets and alleys were originally built decades ago to facilitate the transportation of goods, but today we can reactivate them to convene people, ideas and energy while maintaining their historic appeal.”

Originally built in 1906 and designed by architects Charles Willard Saunders and George Lawton, the six-story historic building has been known by a number of different names over the years. First known as the Manufacturers Building, then in 1912 as the Manufacturers Exchange Building, it is now referred to as the F.X. McRory’s building, named for the restaurant that had been operating out of the ground floor for decades. It was only recently, when Urban Villages proposed an upgrade to the building, that F.X. McRory’s celebrated its last day in their home.

The Manufacturers Building will be upgraded to Class A office space with seismic retrofits, refurbished interiors, upgraded mechanical systems and more functional interior spaces. But one of the project’s key features will include updating the alleyways between the buildings.

The project seeks to build upon what Urban Villages describes as an international trend of alley activation by utilizing former utilitarian spaces and turning them into retail and dining hubs. The goal is to activate underused city spaces and repurpose them for a more pedestrian-friendly atmosphere.

RailSpur, Urban Villages, Seattle, Pioneer Square
RailSpur project | Rendering: Urban Villages

“Working with historic buildings is always a challenge, but Urban Villages’ core strength and experience is in historic renovation and adaptive reuse so we are confident in our vision for this area. What’s more, the alley activation will continue to put Seattle in the leadership position for this growing, interesting use of space that drives positive community engagement” Davis said.

According to a website for the project, there will be an exterior stair tower for 419 Occidental, a main entrance foyer to the alley, a piazza in the alleyway for flexible restaurant and gathering space, micro retail, exterior stairs that will overlook the alley, residential alley lofts that will overlook the alleyway, speakeasy entrances to lower floors and front porch sidewalk extension for restaurant seating.

“From unique dining choices to boutique retail to farmers’ markets and festivals, the alley corridor between the buildings will capitalize on the growing energy in Pioneer Square to be more than a thoroughfare, but a true destination,” said Jon Buerge, vice president of Urban Villages in a release. “These buildings, streets and alleys were originally built decades ago to facilitate the transportation of goods, but today we can reactivate them to convene people, ideas and energy while maintaining their historic appeal.”

Urban Villages, Sellen Construction, Pioneer Square, Seattle
419 Occidental June 13, 2004 | Photo: City of Seattle

“This transformative project is one step in the evolution of Seattle’s waterfront,” continued Buerge. “This development’s proximity to existing and planned transportation corridors, innovative business hubs like Galvanize, popular dining locales and CenturyLink Field, make it perfect for new businesses, retail and creative arts. We are excited to collaborate with the neighborhood and help reawaken these historic buildings to ensure that they thrive for the next 100 years while forging a new sense of place in Pioneer Square.”

The team on the revitalization project includes SHED Architecture + Design, as the architect, MIG|SvR as the landscape architect and Chinn Construction will act as the general contractor. Construction is set to begin later this year with an expected completion date of 2019. Exact plans for the other two buildings haven’t been released yet, but early plans call for retail and merchant space, food and dining, health and fitness, coworking space, bike hub entrance and an art gallery.