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Vulcan Receives Support from Seattle Design Review Board on Nearly 362,000 SQFT Life Science Development

Vulcan, Hewitt, Perkins + Will, Seattle, West Design Review Board, South Lake Union

By Catherine Sweeney 

Vulcan is one step closer to making its planned 361,797 square foot life science development in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood a reality following a hearing for the project on Wednesday. During its second recommendation hearing, the project received unanimous approval from Seattle’s West Design Review Board. 

Located at 535 8th Ave. N, the project proposes a new building comprising 11 stories of lab and research space along with four levels of below-grade parking. Designs for the project come from Perkins + Will with Hewitt serving as the landscape architect.

Previously, the project team had met with the West Design Review Board for its first recommendation meeting in March of this year. At that time, the board asked the project to return for a second meeting due to several concerns. Primarily, the board felt that the project needed in some way to mark its gateway location to the South Lake Union neighborhood. The board also requested that the team break up the massing of the building through added design, texture, color or even structural changes. 

“We appreciate the opportunity to present our design proposal in response to the board’s guidance from recommendation meeting number one. We’ve taken care over the past few months to develop a richer and more impactful design in response to the board’s and community input. We’re excited about the design and we hope that the board will share our enthusiasm,” said Erik Mott, principal and design director at Perkins + Will. 

In response, the project’s new designs aim to bring more color, transparency and texture to the building. According to the design proposal, the project team would do this through incorporating further facade articulation, secondary architectural features and variations in materials. Materials included in the project would be metal paneling, vision glass and more. 

In regard to the massing, the design along 8th has been revised to better integrate accessible approaches. The design team’s preferred option includes widening the path on 8th Avenue, simplifying and widening the pathway on Mercer and expanding the main entry stair. 

At the ground floor level, the building’s design aims to appeal to pedestrians, according to the proposal. The sidewalk from the south gradually widens under a canopy for passersby. The project also provides spaces for bicycle parking. 

Adding to the street level, the design team aims to bring a landscape design that complements the surrounding area while still serving as a gateway between the site and the greater neighborhood, project plans show. The landscape design uses various drought-tolerant plants that add color and complement the existing green street to the east of the site. 

“The board directed us to further study the overall ground plane design to ensure that right of way and landscape elements appear integrated with the architecture and enhance the overall pedestrian realm at this gateway corner… The northwest corner has been revised to improve the pedestrian experience, and to better respond to the gateway corner,” Mott said.

Overall, the board gave full recommendation for the project to continue on. However, in doing so, several suggestions were given to the design team to consider. The board suggested glazing at the ground level of the northwest corner of the building, noting that they also appreciate the architectural detailing at this corner. At the ground level, the board also noted its appreciation toward the added accessibility as well as the overall improvement to the building’s upper massing.