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March 5, 2018

Design of 44-story tower reflects a recent deal by its future neighbor

  • Gensler is designing both complexes for two different developers.
    Journal Staff Reporter

    Renderings by Gensler [enlarge]
    Miami-based developer Crescent Heights has proposed two 40-story towers with an eight-story podium at 1901 Minor. The developer is buying more land on the block, allowing more space between the towers — and improving the views at 1916 Boren.

    Chinese developer Onelin Investment is planning this 44-story hotel/apartment tower at 1916 Boren.

    Two big high-rise projects are planned for the Denny Triangle block bounded by Virginia and Stewart streets and Boren and Minor avenues.

    They have separate developers but the same architect, Gensler, making it easier to coordinate their projects.

    On the east side of the block, at 1901 Minor, Miami-based developer Crescent Heights successfully went through design review in 2015 and 2016. Its apartment plan has two 40-story towers with an eight-story podium. About 941 units are planned, plus retail and underground parking.

    The project has been delayed, because the site hadn't been fully assembled. But after lengthy deliberation, the city of Seattle agreed late last month to sell a surplus former fire station on the northeast corner of the block, usually called “the Comm Shop,” to Crescent Heights for $13 million.

    The Comm Shop turns out to be the linchpin for both projects.

    1916 Boren

    On the west side of the block, at 1916 Boren, Chinese developer Onelin Investment has its first design review Tuesday for its 44-story apartment tower and hotel. That meeting is set for 7 p.m. at City Hall, 600 Fifth Ave., Room L2-80.

    MZA Architecture submitted early plans for 1916 Boren, but has now been replaced by Gensler.

    The owner is GZI Boren LLC, an entity of GZI, a Hong Kong-based REIT. Onelin is a GZI affiliate. GZI recently paid $30 million to assemble the 27,969-square-foot site.

    The basic program is for 524 apartments: 490 of them in the taller north tower and 34 loft units in the podium. Average unit size would be 651 square feet.

    A separate “sidecar” hotel tower to the south would rise eight stories above the podium. The hotel would have a total of 270 rooms within the tower and podium.

    Gensler's preferred “Carve 2” design has the main tower gradually expanding it floorplates to overhang slightly above the hotel and podium.

    The inspiration, says Gensler, comes from “the historical context of the site and its proximity to the Denny Regrade. Specifically, the image of the ‘Spite Mound' drove the concept of the project. The architectural expression of carving and excavating away at the base of the project to reveal the main tower forms the basis of our massing concept.”

    The eight-story podium would have residential and guest amenity spaces, and about 6,000 square feet of retail. It would also contain the hotel lobby, with an atrium extending up to the podium roof, plus back-of-house and loading areas.

    Photo by Brian Miller [enlarge]
    The city recently agreed to sell this site on the northeast corner of the block to Crescent Heights for $13 million.

    A circular drop-off area for vehicles is planned within the alley, inset into the podium. On top of the podium would be more amenity areas and terraces.

    Gensler and Onelin submitted their plan before the city voted to sell the Comm Shop to Crescent Heights. That sale, which has been in the works for at least three years, hasn't closed yet.

    But Gensler writes, “Once the Crescent Heights decision is known, and if it is to develop the larger site, we will explore ways to … increase our overall developable tower area.”

    That additional floor area is reflected in the Carve 2 design, which gains units on the east side of the residential tower, facing the alley and 1901 Minor. If 1901 Minor had a smaller site and closer towers, Carve 1 would have yielded 510 units. Carve 2 has 524.

    Gensler also says it seeks to align the podium amenity levels and outdoor space with the project at 1901 Minor.

    In essence, by gaining the full separation of about 142 feet between 1901 Minor's two towers, that gap aligns nicely with the residential tower at 1916 Boren. The 1916 Boren tower's profile is about 120 feet wide at its narrowest, just above the podium, but gradually expands on the upper floors to about 150 feet.

    At the same time, the upper floors of 1916 Boren would gradually twist. Gensler says the residential tower floorplates go from 10,560 square feet on the lower floors, up to 11,500 square feet on floors 42 and 43, then back down to 9,000 square feet at the top.

    Seven levels of underground parking would have about 367 stalls. Total project size, including the parking, is about 692,000 square feet.

    Berger Partnership is the landscape architect

    1901 Minor

    Over at 1901 Minor, Crescent Heights had always wanted to buy the Department of Information Technology Communications Shop at 1933 Minor. Fire Station No. 15 was there from 1903 to 1972. The small one-story 1951 building sits on a 14,400-square-foot site. The pending sale will be worth about $903 per square foot.

    In 2014, Crescent Heights paid $18.5 million to acquire the south end of the half block, at $660 per square foot. Once the Comm Shop sale closes, it will have the entire 42,417 square feet east of the alley.

    Six and one-half levels of underground parking will be accessed from the alley, with 661 stalls, and about 14,400 square feet of ground floor retail and commercial space are planned. The towers and podium will have landscaped roof decks and amenity areas. Distinctive inset notches in both tower facades will provide more terraces and amenity areas.

    Total project size, including the parking, is about 1.2 million square feet.

    The 1901 Minor team also includes MKA, structural and civil engineer; CP Engineering, MEP engineer; and Site Workshop, landscape architect.

    Crescent Heights' land cost of $31.5 million isn't its largest investment in Seattle. In 2015, it paid $49 million for a half-block at 704 Fourth Ave., where it has proposed a 101-story mixed-use tower that would go directly west of Columbia Center.

    Crescent Heights Inspirational Living is privately held. It has built or redeveloped hotels, offices, condominiums and apartments in New York, Los Angeles, Hawaii and San Francisco — in addition to its home base in Florida.

    Comm Shop sale

    Meanwhile, the city hopes to use most of the proceeds from the Comm Shop sale to acquire property for a new South Lake Union Fire Station. It wants a waterfront location where a fire boat could be berthed. The Comm Shop will be relocated to another city building.

    The sale agreement says that $2 million of the $13 million price will be counted toward the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) fee for the 1901 Minor project.

    Mayor Jenny Durkan announced her support of the Comm Shop sale in January. The council passed the bill to authorize the sale on Friday, Feb. 23, when the mayor also signed it.