Amazon expansion: 4 designs, 37-story towers and a waterway?
by Jeanne Lang Jones on Wednesday, February 29, 2012, 7:05am PST
As seen from the rooftop of the Denny Building, the portion of the Denny Triangle bordered by Sixth Avenue, Blanchard Street and Westlake Avenue would be transformed by Amazon.com's plans to build three office towers. (Anthony Bolante photo)
Early designs for Amazon.com's proposed 3-million-square-foot expansion in Seattle's Denny Triangle show four possible designs, all of them featuring towers as tall as 37 stories.
Amazon is proposing to develop the property, on a wedge-shaped tract north of downtown, in three phases, with each full block providing about one million square feet of office space and about 1,100 underground parking stalls.
The early design packet submitted late Monday by Seneca Real Estate Group Inc. and architecture firm NBBJ includes several potential amenities. One possibility is an "awareness garden" featuring storm-water management waterways flowing alongside the walkways. Another is a neighborhood walking/jogging trail leading to a public square resembling Westlake Plaza; the plaza would be located near the intersection of 7th Avenue and Lenora Street.
These initial draft designs likely will be tweaked before a March 27 public design-review meeting — an early step in the approval process.
The tract, which the Seattle-based online retailer is buying from longtime Seattle landowner Clise Properties, is bordered by Westlake Avenue, Sixth Avenue and Blanchard Street.
The simplest master plan would put two office towers on each of the three blocks. Alleys would remain in place with office buildings on either side. While this design is the easiest of the four to get permits for and the fastest to build, it has some significant drawbacks.
Office windows across the mid-block alleys would face directly into each other. The narrow half-block sites would restrict building design — resulting in six buildings that would be very similar. Also, Amazon would not be able to build a proposed 40,000-square-foot auditorium with seating for 2,000.
Each of the three other master plans would eliminate mid-block alleys, allowing a single T-shaped, L-shaped or Z-shaped building to be constructed on each site. The designs would allow for public open spaces on each of the blocks, with an auditorium located adjacent to Lenora Street between 6th and 7th avenues. Retail spaces on the ground floors would face 7th Avenue and large public open spaces.
The other alternatives propose different alignments for the buildings. In the second alternative, known as the City Street Scheme, the office buildings would be aligned perpendicular to the numbered avenues. In a third alternative known as the Westlake Scheme, two of the buildings would be oriented toward Westlake Avenue while the third building would be turned 45 degrees so that its length would run along a true east/west axis.
The fourth alternative, called Preferred Scheme, would have the two towers between 6th and 7th avenues sitting perpendicular to 7th Avenue with the third tower between 7th and 8th avenues running perpendicular to 7th Avenue.
Compared to the first alternative, the second, third and fourth possible designs afford better views of Puget Sound and Olympic Mountains to the west; the third and fourth alternatives permit more sunshine at street level. The second design alternative provides the most efficient layout for the underground parking – as much as six levels – provided in each building.
Some of the designs would require city planners to allow departures from the city's development standards. For example, several of the proposed small public open spaces would require exemptions from rules for building facades.