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December 5, 2016

Vulcan's Arbor Blocks will be new offices for Facebook — with a woonerf in between

  • The woonerf's designer, Hewitt, says Seattle could be getting more of these pedestrian friendly projects.
    Journal staff reporter

    Image by Studio216 for Vulcan Real Estate [enlarge]
    Construction starts soon on Arbor Blocks: two six-story buildings on opposite sides of Eighth, which will become a curbless street called a woonerf.

    Vulcan Real Estate announced Facebook has pre-leased the office space in the Arbor Blocks project in South Lake Union.

    The two six-story buildings are slated to begin construction later this month on opposite sides of Eighth Avenue North, between Harrison and Thomas streets.

    Arbor West will be at 333 Eighth Ave. N. and Arbor East will be at 300 Eighth Ave. N.

    They are scheduled for completion in 2018, with about 384,000 square feet of office space and 4,100 square feet of street-level retail.

    The company estimates the overall project will cost $246 million.

    The block on Eighth Avenue will be transformed with a pedestrian friendly woonerf. Some existing trees on the site will be preserved and the team will aim for LEED gold and Salmon-Safe certification.

    In a statement, Vulcan's Ada Healey said, “We're excited to work with Facebook to help them expand their footprint in South Lake Union. We designed the Arbor Blocks with technology tenants in mind and Facebook is an ideal tenant to kick-off the project.”

    Vulcan paid about $8.9 million for the two 42,480-square-foot sites. The bulk of the property was acquired from the King County Library System in 2000, with a second small purchase in 2002.

    The Seattle City Council approved the Arbor Blocks woonerf last year. It will have bike racks, seating, public art, landscaping to filter contaminants and special patterned pavement. Thomas and Harrison streets will receive similar improvements and wider sidewalks.

    Hewitt is designing the woonerf and doing the landscape architecture for Arbor Blocks. The firm's Kris Snider said this will be Hewitt's third woonerf — after Bell Street Park in Belltown and James Court Park at Seattle University.

    The Arbor Blocks project already had a Green Streets master plan, he said.

    When Vulcan approached Hewitt, “We knew the basic idea [to] make it a special place.” Widening sidewalks and narrowing the street is meant to encourage people “to spill out and hang out,” he said.

    SDOT has approved preliminary plans for a zig-zagging, curbless street that will flow onto the wide, landscaped sidewalks. Hewitt's attitude, said Snider, was “let's see how aggressive we can be with the right-of-way… always trying to push pedestrian amenity as far as we can.”

    It helps that Eighth is a comparatively narrow, short street between Denny Park and Mercer Street, not an arterial.

    “If you're in a car, you might not wanna take Eighth,” said Snider.

    The zig-zagging street and traffic-calming elements of the woonerf will create “a visual interruption” that complements the facades of Arbor Blocks.

    Looking ahead, Snider expects to see more woonerfs in Seattle. Over the last five or 10 years, he said, “SDOT has really opened up to these ideas. We'll see how far SDOT is willing to take this.”

    There will still be vehicle loading zones in the woonerf. “We didn't delete all the parking,” said Snider. SDOT will ultimately determine what if any metered parking is permitted on the street.

    Together, the Arbor Blocks buildings will have about 930 underground parking spaces.

    Facebook currently has about 1,000 employees in Dexter Station, at 1101 Dexter Ave. N. It moved into four floors of that building in May, after signing what The Seattle Times reported to be a 10-year lease. Facebook will eventually expand to take all 335,000 rentable square feet on 10 floors of Dexter Station, to accommodate about 2,000 employees.

    Arbor Blocks will have floorplates of 32,000 to 37,000 square feet. Based on how many people it plans to have in Dexter Station, Facebook could fit about 2,300 employees into Arbor Blocks — continuing its rapid growth in the city.

    A Facebook representative confirmed the lease, but declined to comment further.

    Here are the other firms on Vulcan's project team for Arbor Blocks: architect Graphite Design Group, general contractor Lease Crutcher Lewis, civil engineer CPL structural engineers CPL (Arbor East) and Lund Opsahl (Arbor West).


    Brian Miller can be reached by email at brian.miller@djc.com or by phone at (206) 219-6517.

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