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Monday, March 10, 2008

The I.D. Building

posted by on March 10 at 15:13 PM

There is a void on Fourth Avenue, between the southern edge of downtown’s business district and the northern border of Chinatown. Despite the proximity to two thriving urban centers, nearby blocks are mostly parking lots, single-level businesses, and the erstwhile club Aristocrats.



Fourth Avenue and Washington Street (above), and Fourth Avenue and Main Street (below)

In this bridge between the two neighborhoods, the challenge for architects is designing buildings that meet standards for the historic International District, yet mesh with the glass and steel of downtown. In one example, an almost-completed fire station at 4th and Washington combines angular shapes and industrial materials with panels painted the color of red associated with luck, gold, and dragons. Across the street, however, developers are proposing a fresher approach to Asian design—the I.D. Building.



Pb Elemental

“The design is taking cues from current trends in modern Asian architecture,” says Chris Pardo, principal of Pb Elemental, a local development and architecture firm behind this proposal and the proposed Trophy Building. Pardo says that the designs, still preliminary, are geared to attract “a premier modern boutique hotel for Seattle.” The 24-story building would contain 110 hotel and 120 condo units, and would be crowned with a rooftop bar. (Don’t worry, dear Cloud Room, we’ll always remember you.)

If the Fourth and Blanchard Building (or some say the Columbia Center) can be dubbed the Darth Vader Building, then the I.D. Building could become Vader’s mini me. Far more square, though, the design is unlike anything else downtown or in the International District—like a cut block of black quartz. But this is not wayward, this is forward. It is the sort of statement the I.D. needs. As a modern Pacific Rim city, Seattle’s new I.D. construction must occasionally deviate from the predictable Asiana gestures of jades, reds, and yellows.

But it’s uncertain if the board tasked with reviewing construction proposals will approve this stark design. “There is some preference to earthen materials and muted colors within the district,” says Rebecca Frestedt, Board Coordinator of the International Special Review District. The timing could also play a role in the design; the review board is currently revising guidelines for new construction in the area. “We are hoping to adopt that set of guidelines this summer,” she says. Either way, Frestedt continues, “It will likely undergo many revisions before the design is approved.”

On building over the bus tunnel and a temporary new lounge after the jump.

The building’s greatest challenge may not be on the surface, however, but underneath. Located directly above the bus tunnel’s International District station, developers are allowed to dig only 15’ below grade. Thus, the parking garage is contained above ground, generally discouraged in downtown zones, in a lower quadrant of the building, in a semi-transparent shroud.


Pardo says the slope of the hill provides access to the parking garage from the alley, thus opening the sidewalk to pedestrian activity. “This allows for full retail on Fourth, Main and Washington,” he says. Pardo expects it will take two to three years to acquire the permit.

In the meantime, Pb Elemental plans to convert the Aritocrats space into a lounge called Silver. “Currently, we are discussing the space with Josh Henderson of Skillet and plan to have the lounge/tapas bar open in May,” he says. (Awesome!) “The spot would be opened until we break ground on the new development.”

Pardo plans to submit his proposal to the International Special Review Board soon and expects the Department of Planning and Development to assign a project number later this week.

RSS icon Comments


Sigh. Too short.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 10, 2008 3:18 PM

That second-to-last picture: nice swastika design.

Posted by JC | March 10, 2008 3:21 PM

The link to the trophy bldg post is broken.

Posted by Andrew | March 10, 2008 3:28 PM

The link to the trophy bldg post is broken.

Posted by Andrew | March 10, 2008 3:29 PM

I like it a lot, but... *another* upscale condo/hotel project? Are developers not learning anything?

I'm reminded of that quote, "insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result."

Posted by happy renter | March 10, 2008 3:30 PM

it looks interesting, at least. though it is nothing spectacular, it is better than average.

@2 considering the asian swastikas are older than the nazi ones, that might actually be appropriate. it is shaped close to the hindu form, but definitely not angled like the nazi one.

Posted by infrequent | March 10, 2008 3:35 PM

I thought the darth vader building was 4th and Blanchard?

Posted by scharrera | March 10, 2008 3:38 PM

Hmmm, like the first pic. The second? Not so much.

Posted by Fitz | March 10, 2008 3:39 PM

I dig it. I also appreciate that Pb is paying attention to having full sidewalk retail.

And yeah, that link is broken.

Posted by Ben Schiendelman | March 10, 2008 3:40 PM

Two obervations;
If it isn't in the ID or in Pioneer Square, shouldn't it be taller?
Being that it is dark here 7+ months out of the year, wouldn't something that isn't black or charcoal be a better choice?

Posted by kyle [TCBITR] | March 10, 2008 3:40 PM

Yeah, we have enough black here already.

Geesh, if it is ID, why not Red or something more cheery?

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 10, 2008 3:42 PM

@ 3, 4) Thanks, the link should be fixed now.

@ 7) We have several ominous black buildings that could qualify, I guess.

Posted by Dominic Holden | March 10, 2008 3:43 PM

@6, but how many average people know about the Hindu uses of the swastika? This won't be Vader's Mini Me building; it'll be nicknamed the Hitler building.

Posted by JC | March 10, 2008 3:49 PM
Posted by scharrera | March 10, 2008 3:55 PM

OMG! Secret nazi forest!

Posted by nbc | March 10, 2008 3:55 PM

The fourth and Blachard Building most certainly wins the official title of the DVB. However, the Columbia Center, designed by the same architect, I believe, gets the same moniker from some.

Posted by Dominic Holden | March 10, 2008 3:59 PM
Posted by scharrera | March 10, 2008 4:01 PM

It is the same architect, he liked black glazed buildings.

Posted by scharrera | March 10, 2008 4:07 PM

@18 - and hates Seattle citizenry.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 10, 2008 4:19 PM

Kudos again for a very interesting review of some potential construction in the city. I really appreciate this reporting by the SLOG.

Posted by good stuff | March 10, 2008 4:33 PM

I somewhat like the design.

It's too fat and squat for a modern city centre, especially for an area in which it would be surrounded by parking lots, not charming heritage buildings, and it's just too dark for a gloomy city, as people have noted.

However, the design is admirably striking and modern, which is exactly what the staid Seattle architecture scene needs.

I'd definitely like to see more buildings in this style in Seattle, but taller and skinnier, and of lighter shade.

Posted by Rogue Linguist | March 10, 2008 4:48 PM

@21. i agree. i, too, would like this building if it were different.

Posted by infrequent | March 10, 2008 4:50 PM

Okay--after some reflection, I really like the design a lot, but the rest holds.

Posted by Rogue Linguist | March 10, 2008 4:55 PM


Posted by infrequent | March 10, 2008 4:56 PM

How many architects these days are using Google SketchUp for their concept designs? All of them, or just most?

Posted by Greg | March 10, 2008 5:14 PM

This building is ugly.

Posted by joykiller | March 10, 2008 5:23 PM

I think the building will be a nice addition compared to what is there now. Also I think these images are subject to change, however, I also like the is new and clean. I don't think it should be compared to anything built by Martin Selig. Also I think the views from the western face of the building will be amazing.....

Posted by hollaback | March 10, 2008 5:31 PM

I think it looks great. Definantly in the direction Seattle needs to be moving. A really modern hotel like the Standard or Mondrian is what we need.

Posted by Dell | March 10, 2008 5:33 PM

I think that the hotel / condo combo...if done right, can be very successful. I think where it fails is when developers design crappy buildings with national hotel chains as partners...then I think it becomes more about the needs of the hotel operator than the desires of the potential condo owner. Doing something on a smaller scale and bringing a really cool design to a good location like this I think could be attractive to a lot of people. Plus we need a really cool swamky hotel in Seattle...the "W", Hotel Max and Andra just fall way short in my opinion. Keep it up PB...I like your ideas. Seattle needs more of you pushing forward away from all the old guys out there building outdated crap.

Posted by everyoneinseattle | March 10, 2008 5:46 PM

@29: that shoud be "swanky" not "swamky"...sorry sloggers...

Posted by everyoneinseattle | March 10, 2008 5:48 PM

I wish the building was taller too...however this area of seattle really needs something to happen. Right now it is a crazy mix of business people trying to aviod crack heads who have stumbled out of Pioneer Square. I think the development will bring the block back to life...but good luck trying to run that club, that place sucks.

Posted by 2timer | March 10, 2008 5:53 PM

Now it's been pointed out as pretty damn obvious, I doubt the giant swastika is going to make the final cut.

Is this a Martin Selig building?

Posted by NapoleonXIV | March 10, 2008 9:29 PM

5: Well-off people are NOT ALLOWED to live in central Seattle. These people just didn't get the memo.

Posted by Alex-jon | March 10, 2008 9:44 PM

33: try some positive juice, this development and future ones are a step in the direction that the CD needs - this project could act as the beginning of progressive growth in the area, finally, damn.

Posted by temporarilypostive | March 10, 2008 10:13 PM

I like the building as it is, and sorry -- I'm not seeing the "swastika" element of the design. Evidently some people can't keep their minds off of references to Mr. Hitler.

I actually think it would look superb and distinguished in black and gray. The Columbia Tower's black exterior has stood up well over time. I'd hate to see the design review board force them to choose more garish colors in a misguided effort to match decaying Chinatown.

I fear, however, that as much as I love the idea of all of these buildings being constructed, economic conditions may force this boom to come to an end.

Posted by Mike in Pioneer Square | March 10, 2008 10:26 PM

I live in the ID and love this building. I am sick and tired of people assuming we (asians) are just simple people who like koi fish and dragons. Have you ever seen the architecture in Shanghai, it's far more modern than anything in Seattle! Also I never thought this area was the ID though? Isn't it just part of downtown?

Posted by chinatown | March 11, 2008 7:30 AM

Thank you @ 36. I think the ID needs a breath of fresh design, too. I also hadn't thought of this as part of the ID. But according to this nifty map of the historic district, the zone reaches all the way up to Yesler.

Posted by Dominic Holden | March 11, 2008 7:41 AM

It would make the Sounder stairway at least.

Posted by Brian | March 11, 2008 7:50 AM

Who will speak up in favor of ground level parking lots and not creating more urban canyons?

I will.

I know that I'm just pissing in the wind...and I'm not going to attempt to argue that the retail on this block is in any way valuable...

But, please, Seattle...this isn't Monopoly (tm)--you don't need to drop a hotel on every block.

Posted by pgreyy | March 11, 2008 9:16 AM

good to hear a few voices in favor. i think the building looks great and a rooftop bar is most needed. more excellent documentation of our potentially waning boom, mr. holden.

Posted by dpa | March 11, 2008 11:13 AM

I live on 5th and Washington and that building will destroy my view. Crap. Any idea on when it could take root?

Posted by million-dollar view | March 11, 2008 3:17 PM

Hear hear @36 and @37. Anyone disparaging this design (which of course will change) is not looking at the urban blight that is currently resident on that block.

They're also not looking at the construction nearby in south downtown just above and below Yesler. This will be an appropriate connection between them, and an interesting entryway from the north into the ID.

I work down there, and my biggest concern is timing. Amazon employees currently make up (I think) the majority of the space in Paul Allen's Union Station towers nearby. They'll be moving up to SLU in a few years, right around when this will be in development or just opened. Will this be a drain on that community? Will Vulcan be able to get tenants for its towers? What about the condos going up behind the King Street Station?

Seems like a lot all at once; is there a clear method to this madness? Will the ID suffer before it benefits?

Posted by JoeG | March 11, 2008 9:20 PM

surprised only 1 nimby has commented on this building. anyone who would prefer surface parking to a tower that benefits hundreds of people is clearly from a suburb. you can park somewhere else. or as crazy as it sounds you can take transit. i live downtown i have a car but i only drive if where i'm going is more then 5 miles away and if it is more then 5 miles away will still take bus if it's easy. no i'm not rich i make $40,000 a year. surface parking is about the worst thing for downtown.

Posted by jwp206 | March 12, 2008 3:28 AM

surprised only 1 nimby has commented on this building. anyone who would prefer surface parking to a tower that benefits hundreds of people is clearly from a suburb. you can park somewhere else. or as crazy as it sounds you can take transit. i live downtown i have a car but i only drive if where i'm going is more then 5 miles away and if it is more then 5 miles away will still take bus if it's easy. no i'm not rich i make $40,000 a year. surface parking is about the worst thing for downtown.

Posted by jwp206 | March 12, 2008 3:29 AM

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