By Meghan Hall
What can Seattle’s Design Review Board give a developer for his birthday? A unanimous approval of a major project he’s trying to develop in the city without any conditions and mostly praise for his efforts. That is precisely what Greg Smith received on Tuesday night, on his birthday, as the city’s Downtown Design Review Board considered Urban Vision’s 850,000 square foot office project located at 801 3rd Ave.
It is no secret that some of the world’s largest technology firms are looking for space to grow in Seattle’s downtown core, and developers throughout the city are proposing projects with the intent to specifically attract tech tenants. For Urban Visions, the plan is no different as it presented its design for a 36-story office tower it calls “The Net” on Tuesday night. Together with NBBJ Architects, the firm showcased its vision for a modern office building that would offer the most integrated “smart” technology infrastructure and provide one of the healthiest tenant experiences in the entire city.
“This building is based on the concept of human health, which encompasses not only being green but also focusing on how do we design a building that really focuses on occupant health, making occupants want to move, [and experience] natural light,” said Smith, the founder and CEO of Seattle-based Urban Visions. “There’s no building that is a highrise that has done what we’re proposing to do downtown.”
Located along half a city block on 3rd Ave., between Marion and Columbia streets, the development will also include a tiered roof deck and ground level retail, as well as bike storage and six levels of underground parking. The project’s design is guided not just by the tenant it hopes to attract but also but a striking design that showcases an internal exoskeleton that will be visible through the skin of the building. The building facades will also be modulated through the use of sculpted vertical fins that will provide texture and enhanced solar control.
Corners of the structure will be lifted to explore the interior of the lower floors and an elevator system encased in glass that will provide views of an active structure within. “There was a lot of focus on street experience and access, what that began to feel like, in particular how the tower came down at the base,” said Ryan Mullenix, a partner at Seattle-based NBBJ and a co-lead of the firm’s corporate design practice, who presented the vision of the project to the board.
The representation of the vision included an elegant space on the roof consisting of three terraces that appear to push down the structure, while at the same time at the base the building is pushed up with the dramatic ground floor reveal.
A deep folded notch in the center of the building reinforces massing folds and breaks up the size and scale of the building, but it reinforces the surrounding mid- and high-rise developments, according to project documents.
The core of the structure is shifted to the side, allowing broader floor exposure and clear views across the floor plates, a feature that is mostly desired in contemporary office design. The structure will reveal a staircase along the entire height of the building, allowing views of workers moving throughout the complex.
The project site is located just north of Pioneer Square, where Urban Visions has been actively reshaping the city’s oldest neighborhood. The development is also within easy walking distance of Colman Dock, Seattle’s Exchange Building and Safeco Plaza. Situation in one of the busiest parts of town, the building is easily accessible via Interstate 5 and is surrounded with local coffee shops and eateries, including Slate Coffee Roasters, Biscuit Bitch and Top Pot Doughnuts. It’s central location and proximity to other major employers downtown means the site is appealing for growing companies looking for space.
The board really appreciated the structure and its design. In brief comments, one board member after another primarily supported the vision of the structure and congratulated the designer and developer on their offering. The members referred to the project as cohesive, beautifully designed and in line with the recommendations given to the design team in two previous meetings. With their unanimous approval, Greg Smith got his birthday wish.
Once completed, the building will bring to market a rare opportunity for any firm to call one of the most remarkable structures in the city its home, and not a minute too soon, either. According to Broderick Group’s first quarter Seattle market overview, vacancy rates for Class A office space near Pioneer Square hovered around 3.3 percent at the end of the first quarter of 2019, making the submarket one of the tightest in the City behind Lake Union and Denny Triangle. At that level, the report stated, it is also one of the tightest markets in the country. The report called on companies such as Apple, which is looking space ranging between 400,000 and 600,000 square feet of space, and Oracle, which hopes to find between 150,000 to 200,000 square feet. In addition, Broderick Group also stated that Facebook and Convoy are looking for space in Seattle, and Amazon’s ever-growing presence in the city will continue to drive strong leasing fundamentals.