UPDATE 7/23/2015: The board has asked developers to come back with a new proposal and requiring a third early design guidance session. The meeting for the next review has not yet been scheduled.
Original report: With Capitol Hill community groups saying the massive project needs to do more to help connect the neighborhood with downtown, developers and architects working on the 1.2 million square-foot expansion of the Washington State Convention Center just across I-5 from Pike/Pine return to the design review board Tuesday night with a fleshed-out plan for the project that includes designs for a “9th Avenue Mixing Zone,” a “Pine Street Gallery,” and a “Boren Beacon” as well as the start of planning for “codevelopment” to create a 30-story apartment tower and a 16-story office building near the site.
“The Expansion of the Washington State Convention Center represents a transformative opportunity to define the next evolution of this building type,” the design packet for Tuesday’s review reads. “By creating an open, welcoming facility, scaled to respond to a variety of neighborhoods, with spaces that are c activated and encourage engagement between the event and the city, this project can reimagine the ‘Seattle Experience’ to create a meaningful, authentic and lasting impression for delegates and visitors.”
1600 9th Ave
Design Review Early Design Guidance application proposing a 5 level exhibition and meeting room facility, with retail at grade, 800 parking spaces and associated loading docks within the structure. (Washington State Convention Center Expansion). Includes associated MUP 3020177, 1711 Boren Ave — View Design Proposal (49 MB)
CONVENTION CENTER PROGRAM
5 stories above grade
2 stories below grade
- 250,000 SF of Exhibition Space*
- 120,000 SF of Meeting Space *
- 70,000 SF of Ballroom Space*
- 280,000 SF of Lobby & Circulation*
- 510,000 SF of Support Spaces*
- 500-800 Parking Stalls*
- 200,000 SF of Loading Area*
- Street-Level Retail & Restaurants
Following the project’s first pass through the design review process in May, CHS reported on efforts by Capitol Hill community groups to shape the project by pushing for a better connection between Pike/Pine and downtown. The Seattle Design Commission also weighed in with street by street criticisms of where the project’s initial design proposal fell short. The Department of Planning and Development has also received more than a dozen letters about the project, many calling for a better pedestrian experience.
The planned development with a price tag that has swelled to $1.4 billion will be built on land along the north side of Pine just across I-5 from Capitol Hill where King County Metro’s soon to be defunct Convention Place Station is located today. The WSCC has already acquired $56.5 million worth of land between 9th and Boren, and Howell and Olive Way that had been home to a car dealership. The expansion will be a massive project adding thousands of square feet of exhibition space, facilities, and new retail as well as parking for around 800 vehicles.
“The proposed concept for Olive Way and Howell Street to reinforced the pattern of the city fabric, providing an interesting pedestrian thoroughfare, while also recognizing their necessary role as a vehicular connection to I-5 and Capitol Hill,” the architects write. “Both Olive Way and Howell Street are the primary routes of truck egress from the convention center loading dock. Regular street-scape rhythm and planting areas serve to reinforce connections to the surrounding neighborhood and provide the pedestrians comfort from the busy street.” Retail in this section is envisioned as a mercantile shop that would provide service to he Denny Triangle neighborhood the north.
As part of the design reviews, WSCC developers are also planning to complete a “codevelopment” process to design “a 30-story building with 428 housing units and a 16-story building with 595,000 square feet of office space” just north of the project as part of the expansion:
The third and preferred option internalizes and expresses the urban grid shift distinctly through a collection of interlocking vertical and horizontal forms. The commercial tower is further slenderized through the use of additional carving and elongation. The residential podium pulls back to create more open space along 9th Avenue. The language of interlocking volumes unifies the residential and commercial program to create a cohesive gateway shifted to orient the public to the primary entry of the convention center. The resultant massing integrates both towers and podiums into one collective gesture.
WSCC plans to sell the codevelopment properties to help fund the convention center expansion.
“9th Avenue is envisioned as the grand mixing zone for the project, where the city and the building program overlap, blurring the edges of the site,” the write. “9th Avenue also has the opportunity to become an urban promenade and significant new public space linking existing and new WSCC facilities.”
Retail in the section of the development is described as a market hall with spaces for small, flexible shops “to reinforce the connection between Melrose Market on Capitol Hill and Pike Place Market at the waterfront.” There is also a commercial component being planned as a “maker space” type facility.
The developers are pitching the Pine Street Gallery portion of the project as a continuation of Pike/Pine’s small retail and food and drink environment. “The new WSCC Addition will play a key role in connecting Capitol Hill and Downtown,” they write. “The street experience along the project will maximize variation and relief, navigating the topography for a rich and compelling pedestrian experience offering a smaller scale texture of planting, seating, and access to walk-up retail spaces layered with lobby spaces and terraces above. This character will maximize the feeling of being within a city street, while minimizing the edge of the freeway.”
One area of the retail component is being planned as a possible distillery or roastery-type facility similar to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery on Melrose.
The proposal does not address what will happen with the public art elements currently part of the Metro facility along Pine.
The review packet describes the future corner of Boren and Pine as “a beacon retail space” creating “an additional anchor and waypoint visible from across the freeway in Capitol Hill.”
The updated proposal doesn’t directly address public comments at the May review and letters supporting a more aggressive approach to lidding the “I-5 ditch” but the project would, the developers say, form a “short but iconic bridge experience over Interstate-5.” Matt Griffin of the Pine Street Group told CHS following the project’s May review that while there are no plans for a lid, the developers are working with WSDOT to build to the edge of the freeway to fill in as much of the gap as possible.
While they don’t plan to lid I-5, the project’s developers believe the new convention center wing will help bring the neighborhoods closer together.
“There has always been a discussion about how to connect Capitol Hill to downtown — the great news is it’s starting to happen,” Griffin said.
UPDATE 2:20 PM: The Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council community group has weighed in on the latest proposal and is calling for more design work to be done before the plan is approved by the review board.
“Aside from a series of vainglorious gestures along 9th Avenue, this is a large box with perfunctory spaces scattered along its perimeter that fall far short in fostering the kind of active civic life essential for this development; its current form, massing, and programmatic arrangement will make it challenging for this building to be the civic icon it should be,” the group’s chair and frequent CHS contributor John Feit writes. PPUNC is calling on the board to require another round of design review for the expansion and for the Seattle Design Commission to be brought into the process.
The full PPUNC letter is below.