This August, the amazing old church that grew up to be First Hill’s Town Hall Seattle isn’t doing much but getting older as it reaches the 100th anniversary of its construction. Next August, the landmark building — and its block at 8th and Seneca — will begin a massive process of overhaul and change that will rebuild the old Town Hall and functionally rotate the structure’s presence to create what the nonprofit hopes is a new presence for the structure as a connector between downtown and a rapidly growing First Hill neighborhood. Along with the new orientation, more than 500 new neighbors are also coming to the block in a set of apartment towers planned to join the 100-year-old building.
Capital campaign director for Kevin Malgesini said that the corner of Town Hall closest to the I-5 lid Freeway Park is a focal point of the renovation project. “We’re looking at the way this corner links the two neighborhoods,” he said. “What it is is really visually connecting Freeway Park and First Hill, rather than First Hill turning its back on the city.”
Malgesini said the nondescript and closed-off nature of the building’s current west facade makes it unapproachable from downtown Seattle. “I think there are many people who see the building and don’t know what it is.”
Historic event space Town Hall, said to be the only major four-sided masonry building in the city, will receive a restoration and full seismic overhaul during its 2017-18 season. In 2014, CHS reported that the renovation would include space for internal queueing, an accessibility upgrade for the building, better event spaces and concessions areas, and new bathrooms and ticketing facilities.
Malgesini said that in addition to those improvements, the renovation will create a stronger connection between Town Hall and downtown by opening up the structure to I-5 lid Freeway Park. Malgesini said the plans called for the creation of a front entrance on Town Hall’s west side, and a pedestrian-friendly plaza to link the new west side entrance to Freeway Park.
In addition to creating a stronger connection to downtown, Town Hall will also be in the middle of a small population boom at 8th and Seneca. Developer Lennar is planning a pair of 32-story mixed use towers for the block. The plans call for 550 residential units, some retail space, and 410 underground parking spaces across the project. Architect Perkins + Will is scheduled to present its first designs for the project at an early design guidance meeting in October.
Lennar has said that it, too, hopes to create a strong connection to Freeway Park with the development through a park north of the towers. The current design shows the park as planned for the corner of Seneca and 7th Ave, connecting it to Town Hall’s planned plaza and west entrance. Lennar has said the park would coordinate with events at Town Hall. Malgesini said that Town Hall was still in discussions with Lennar about what kind of access Town Hall would have to the development’s parking garage.
As for the new Town Hall, it is still to early to share any images of the plans as Town Hall is still in the concept-design phase and the final cost of the renovation hasn’t yet been determined. So far, the capital campaign that was started quietly in 2014 has raised around $15 million. Town Hall plans to go out with a wider fundraising campaign in early 2017.
Town Hall events will continue to take place in the current building for the September 2016 to June 2017 season and will be out of its building and conducting its programming from other venues in the city for the September 2017 to June 2018 season.
To learn more about Town Hall Seattle, visit townhallseattle.org.