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Washington State Convention Center Addition Receives Design Approval For Residential and Commercial Tower Elements

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By Kristin Bentley

After a setback in March, when the Washington State Convention Center (WSCC) Addition team announced that it was discontinuing its relationship with joint venture developer Skanska-Hunt, the $1.4 billion project is moving forward after unanimous approval from Seattle’s downtown design board on Tuesday for two of the three sites. The third site, which will feature the new 1,400,000 square foot convention center, will go before the board on July 19.

The board requested that the design team make a few changes to the approved sites, one being an enhancement to the residential entrance that would give it a grander presence. Another is a provision that the entire ground floor must be fully accessible to the public, which may require a relocation of the fitness center.

The overall project, designed by LMN Architects, consists of three blocks bound by Howell Street to the north, Pine Street to the south, 9th Avenue to the west and Boren Avenue and Interstate 5 to the east.

One of the sites approved is located at 920 Olive Way, where plans call for a 29-story apartment tower with 438 units. The second approved site is at 1711 Boren Avenue, which will provide a 16-story commercial tower that will offer 500,000 square feet of office space and over 11,000 square feet of retail space. It will also feature a loading dock with 20 bays.

The overall project, designed by LMN Architects, consists of three blocks bound by Howell Street to the north, Pine Street to the south, 9th Avenue to the west and Boren Avenue and Interstate 5 to the east. Both Terry Avenue and Olive Way, a green street, divide the site on the interior. It will provide approximately 1.2 million square feet of space, in addition to the new convention center. Along with the residential and commercial towers there will be 250,000 square feet of new exhibition space, 120,000 square feet of meeting space, a 60,000-square-foot ballroom and a parking garage for 800 vehicles. According to John Chau, the principal from Seattle-based LMN Architects, construction is expected to begin in 2018 and finish in 2020.

Matt Griffin, the managing partner for Pine Street Group, shared with the Washington Chapter of NAIOP, a commercial real estate development association, on Wednesday the economic benefits the convention center addition will provide to the city of Seattle. In addition to the 6,000 workers that will be employed during construction, Griffin predicted the project will create 2,300 new permanent jobs and an additional 1,600 jobs through the increased convention business.

The WSCC receives an estimated $200 million per year in revenue from visitors and another $35 million from local residents. Annually, the convention center pays $17 million to the city through taxes. “We’re a non-profit, so basically the community and its workers need this kind of revenue,” said Griffin. “People are realizing the opportunity that comes with this land.”

According to LMN, the project occupies the intersection between several distinct and evolving neighborhoods, which include Capitol Hill’s Pike and Pine corridor, the Denny Triangle, South Lake Union, First Hill and the downtown’s central business district. Capitol Hill’s traditional low-rise commercial development is supplemented with new mid-rise mixed-use buildings. The Denny Triangle and First Hill, connected by Boren Avenue, flank the project site to the north and south. Both neighborhoods contain high density, taller residential and commercial developments. Downtown is the densest and tallest adjacent neighborhood containing a rich mix of office, housing, hospitality, retail and cultural areas.

LMN also believes that the site’s proximity to Pike and Pine streets link it to the waterfront through Pike Place Market and Westlake Center, as well as to the existing convention center on 9th Avenue. Other nearby landmarks include the historic Paramount Theatre and WorldMark Seattle at the Camlin, which is across Pine Street and 9th Avenue. Due to the open space established by the presence of Interstate 5, there will be views to the site on the south and east. Views from the west will also provide a glimpse into the heart of the city.