Boom Designs So Nice, They’re Building Them Twice
posted by February 14 at 15:22 PMon
You know what would look perfect across the street from the two matching Westin towers on 5th and Virginia? Two more matching towers. And up on 2nd and Virginia? More twin towers. And over on 6th and Bell… twin towers, and just down the block on Sixth and Lenora, still more. And over on Denny and Stewart, yup, you guessed it. Twin towers are the new black monoliths. They are all nice, tall buildings—we need the density—but considering that new zoning regulations are conducive to parallel high rises, they could get monotonous.
At 550 feet, these boys are the tallest twins expected in the maternity ward. Hummingbird Advisors is proposing 45 stories of condos, hotel rooms, and retail on 5th and Virginia. But, similar as the buildings by Ismael Leyva Architects may appear, they’re not exactly identical.
“They are not twins—we call them brothers,” says Steven Gestetner of Hummingbird Advisors. “When you look at them from any point you will not see them as being the same. They are from the same parents, so to speak. But you’ll never see them as being twins. They are the opposite of being twins.”
Uh… twins or not, they’re replacing an icon: the Icon Grill. Located on 5th and Virginia and conspicuously surrounded by fluorescent green land-use-action signs, when I went in last week, none of the employees knew the building is fated for demolition. Today when I called, the receptionist said she hadn’t heard anything about a development. (Yes, but haven’t you seen all the signs?) A manger got on the horn. “We have lease that expands for quite while,” said Icon manger Nick Musser, who noted that the city takes a long time to approve development proposals. “Until we have a timeline, it’s business as usual for us.” Which, for the Icon, is the equivalent of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic as it continues an unbroken track record of serving up its underwhelming menu.
Why so many twin towers proposed recently?
Recent zoning changes promote them. “In our case,” says Gestetner, “the twinness is sort of encouraged in a certain way by the combination of zoning and economics.” A couple years ago the city changed zoning regulations, allowing developers to construct taller buildings downtown, but also limiting the floor area in high-rises to 12,700 square feet. “The city wants to preserve view corridors,” he says.
70 percent of the base floors must be designated for retail and other commercial uses, according to zoning rules, but Gestetner says buildings must accommodate parking ramps and other logistical needs, too. “If you’re going to have lobby, it will eat up the entire ground level,” he says. “You end up having to purchase additional property to build a lobby… and when you’re done, you have room for two towers.”
The block that used to home to Teatro ZinZanni, on 6th Avenue between Battery and Bell, is currently fenced and bleak. Any day now, Vancouver B.C. based Embassy Development expects to receive a permit to break ground for a project designed by Perkins and Company Architects. Embassy will construct two 40-story buildings—with an eight-story podium for mixed use, topped by 32 floors, containing 640 condos. “They are going to be relative mirror image of one another,” says Embassy’s Mark Oord, who seemed genuinely bubbly about the residential transformation of Seattle’s downtown. “From what I’ve always heard, the unofficial mandate from city hall is that it is trying to emulate [Vancouver].”
Second and Virginia Towers
Located across the street from one another on the west side of 2nd, these 400-foot twins will have their umbilical cord cut by Virginia. To the north will be a 40-story, 240 unit residential tower with 7,500 sq. ft. of retail at ground level and parking for 360 vehicles below grade. The building on the south will be 39 stories and contain 186 residential units, 139 hotel rooms, and 294 underground parking spaces.
More after the jump.
These two gals are going in on the site of the old UA 150. God, I loved that theater. So many memories. So many Red Vines.
The proposal is for a six-story podium with 18-story towers on top, containing 644 residential units in all. No renderings, sorry.
These buildings are all nice… on their own. But the great thing about twin towers is that they stand out as peaceful symmetry in the chaotic bio-pool of the skyline. But six sets of twin towers (including the Westin) suggests, not a break from the norm, but a dearth of creativity, as if to say the designs were so banal on their own that to magnify their presence we simply built identical ones right next to each one. Don’t get me wrong, density is good and sprawl is bad and meow, meow, meow. I getcha. It’s just that considering our zoning promotes building more of these single developments with two high rises, the downtown design-review board should place a moratorium on approving buildings that are so matchy-matchy. Six is enough. The board should instead work with developers to encourage future developments that are complimentary, like Bert and Ernie, rather than identical, like the Olsen girls. “Can the design review board make those sort of requirement?” I asked DPD planner Bruce Ripps.
“Certainly they could say that,” he says.