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November 7, 2014

Skanska plans office tower at Second and University

Image courtesy of Skanska USA [enlarge]
2&U will be a 725,000-square-foot office tower on the southwest corner of Second Avenue and University Street. The view here is from First Avenue and Seneca Street.

Skanska USA Commercial Development said it has reached agreement with the Samis Foundation to lease and develop all of its property on a downtown Seattle block bounded by First Avenue, University Street, Second Avenue and Seneca Street.

The development will be called 2&U.

Plans call for a 725,000-square-foot office building with street-level retail, restaurants and public spaces. Parking will probably be included, but the details need to be worked out.

The project is scheduled to finish in 2019.

No anchor tenants have been announced.

Skanska said it approached Samis more than three years ago with a vision for the properties. The idea was to create “a true Pacific Northwest building that could position Seattle and its downtown for continued success,” according to a news release.

A long-term ground lease was signed on Nov. 1. Jim Reinhardsen of Heartland real estate advisors helped with the deal.

Skanska's team for 2&U includes Packard Chilton architects, who were selected from a design “hack-a-thon” process that started with seven internationally recognized design firms, according to Skanska.

The New Haven, Conn.-based firm is expected to have a local design partner. The partner has not been selected.

Pickard Chilton's design submission makes a strong connection between the building's form and the Northwest's character, according to Skanska.

The preliminary design creates a network of pedestrian passages crossing the block through a forest-like base, while the tower above provides weather protection similar to a tree canopy.

Skanska said it will work with the downtown community during the design and development process by organizing a series of roundtables and other forums to discuss how 2&U's design could connect tenants, visitors and neighbors to civic and cultural attractions such as the waterfront, Seattle Art Museum and transit tunnel.

A spokeswoman for Skanska said although the existing buildings on the site do not qualify for historic landmark status, some of the structures may be preserved.

She said the company will begin zoning discussions with the city to work out height limits and floor-area ratios.

Skanska didn't say how tall it wants to build.

Dennis Meier, a strategic advisor for the city, said there is no height limit for non-residential uses on the Second Avenue side of the block, and a 240-foot limit for non-residential uses on the First Avenue side.

The site is on the block that sits south of Seattle Art Museum. The Hotel Diller property at First and University is not owned by Samis and will not be part of the development.

2&U is Skanska's fourth development in the Puget Sound area since beginning development operations in Seattle in 2011.

Its first project, Stone34 in Wallingford, was completed in June. Its other projects are 400 Fairview, a 14-story office building in South Lake Union, and Alley 111, 12-story apartment building in Bellevue.

The spokeswoman for Skanska said 2&U will be Skanska's largest local development and will present an opportunity to give Seattle “a real standout building, not like something you would see in New York or Chicago.”

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