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Wright Runstad’s big plan for Rainier Square

By JOURNAL STAFF


A committee of the University of Washington Board of Regents is recommending the UW approve two 80-year ground leases and a pre-development agreement for a 1.1 million-square-foot mixed-use complex on Rainier Square.

The iconic Rainier Tower would remain on the site, which is bounded by Union and University streets, and Fourth and Fifth avenues.

The developer is WRC Fourth Avenue LLC, a Washington limited liability company that is a subsidiary of Wright Runstad & Co.

The new development would include a 50-story tower and a separate but connected 15-story hotel.

Plans call for 750,000 square feet of office space, 182 apartments, 30,000 square feet of street level retail, a 198-room luxury hotel and parking for 1,200 cars.

The UW reacquires full control of most of the 10-acre Metropolitan Tract (excluding the Olympic Hotel and garage sites) when Unico Properties’ ground lease expires Oct. 31, and said it wants to “maximize value at this premier and underutilized city center location.”
 

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I've often dreamed of this block being re-developed (as well as the Post Office/Puget Sound Plaza block and the Olympic Garage, all part of the UW's "Metropolitan Tract")...glad it's not just a fantasy anymore:cheers:
 

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I like it. With this and the rumored supertall, Seattle will be on a roll relative to its size
 

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That is a beautiful skyscraper, NYC's Pyramid well apllied to a taller and narrower tower!
 

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May 14, 2014 at 6:32 AM
50-story tower will be exuberant addition to downtown Seattle
Posted by Erik Smith
New 50-story tower will be second-tallest in Seattle. (University of Washington)

The new 50-story office tower planned for the site of Rainier Square in downtown Seattle has all the makings of an instant icon – maybe the only office tower ever built to look like a Nancy Sinatra go-go boot.

It is a wild design for one of the most prominent sites in downtown, a building that makes the exuberant public library look downright tame. At a construction cost of a half-billion dollars or more, it will be a demonstration of the city’s economic vigor. But one of the best things about it is that it shows architecture can correct past mistakes. The new building will wipe out the shopping arcade at the base of the Rainier Tower — something that has been a long time coming.

Few today probably remember the building that once stood on the site, the White-Henry-Stuart, or the public controversy that attended its demolition 40 years ago. I personally remember seeing the building only a few times, craning my neck out the car window as my parents took the family on our annual pilgrimage from Spokane to the Space Needle. But the building lives on in photos, and what a majestic thing it was.

It stood 10 or 11 stories, depending on street elevation — actually three office buildings joined by a unified brick and terra-cotta façade running the length of Fourth Avenue between Union and University. Designed to the highest standard of 1908, the ornate White-Henry-Stuart was a signature building for a booming time in the city — part of a grand, never-finished scheme for a harmonious set of commercial buildings on the 11-acre downtown tract owned by the University of Washington. We can get an idea of what it looked like from the near-mirror-image Cobb Building, still standing across the street at Fourth and University. The Cobb and its twin seemingly formed a gateway on Fourth Avenue to the center of town – and it certainly made an impression on this kid every visit to the city.

The entire block was leveled starting in 1974, after a year-long battle between university regents and arts-and-culture organizations – sensitivity toward historic preservation was something new. To be fair, the Rainier Tower that went up at the southeast corner of the block is one of the most memorable Seattle buildings of the period, because of the tapered brandy-snifter base that seems to pop up out of its plaza.

It was as if the rest of the block, where the striking White-Henry-Stuart once stood, was designed to make Rainier Tower seem more interesting by being so deliberately nondescript. The low-rise Rainier Square ranks among the dullest, blandest, least-imaginative urban shopping arcades ever built. On the inside it is a rather quiet three-story galleria — stroll the corridors at midday and beat the crowds. Several stores sit vacant. Seattle traded the White-Henry-Stuart for this?

Rainier Tower will survive the redesign while Rainier Square will go the way of an obsolete strip mall. The new 50-story tower that will take its place may strike some as outré, the same way the Rainier Tower startled Seattle in the ‘70s. The building that will rise next door is even more irregular, with a convex curve toward Fifth Avenue that suggests a foot, a divot at the corner of Fourth and University that suggests a heel, and subtle sculpting of the glass walls that suggest this boot was made for walking.

Developer Wright Runstad and architectural firm NBBJ say they designed the building that way to protect the view of the Rainier Tower from Fifth Avenue. Good as far as it goes, though a new 15-story hotel planned at Fourth and University will rise so high that it will spoil the view from Fourth Avenue. UW regents approved the development deal last week; groundbreaking may occur within three years.

The new tower will be a signature building for the skyline, just as the White-Henry-Stuart was in its day, a building that makes a bold statement about the Seattle of the present. Forty years after a most unfortunate demolition, Seattle will finally get something worthy of the site.
 

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I didn't go into the office on Friday so I missed this article from the DJC.

From Fridays DJC.

http://www.djc.com/news/re/12065415.html

May 9, 2014

Wright Runstad's $500M plan for Rainier Square

By NAT LEVY
Journal Staff Reporter

The University of Washington Board of Regents approved two 80-year ground leases and a pre-development agreement for Wright Runstad & Co. to develop a 1.15 million-square-foot mixed-use complex on Rainier Square.

The iconic Rainier Tower would remain on the site, which is bounded by Union and University streets, and Fourth and Fifth avenues.

The new development would include a 50-story tower and a separate but connected 15-story hotel. Wright Runstad President Greg Johnson said the cost will be more than $500 million.

Plans call for 750,000 square feet of office space, 182 apartments, 30,000 square feet of street-level retail, a 198-room luxury hotel and parking for 1,200 cars. The apartments will be on the top floors, giving residents unmatched views, Johnson said.

According to project documents, the plan is to start in 2017 and finish in 2020. The latest the project could start is 2021, with completion in 2024.

But Wright Runstad wants to move faster than that. Johnson said he wants to get a master-use permit later this year and start construction in 2015. Then the building could open late 2017.

“We see a market now,” Johnson said. “There is competition out there that we want to beat. So we are going to get on it.”

Johnson said construction won't begin until Wright Runstad gets an office tenant.

NBBJ is designing the project and Magnusson Klemencic Associates is the structural engineer. Wright Runstad is interviewing several finalists for a general contractor.

Johnson said the site is the “preeminent location in Seattle.” The new buildings should bring employees, residents and hotel guests who will energize the area.

The new complex will be close to transit, walkable and near retail and restaurants, exactly the kinds of amenities residents and office workers want, Johnson said. And for hotel guests, Rainier Square is near the Washington State Convention Center and many top tourist destinations.

“If you think of the threads of energy that crisscross this city, almost every single one goes through that block or right near it,” Johnson said.

The current design shows a wide base that tapers as it rises. This was done, Johnson said, as an homage to Rainier Square's curved, thin base that widens as it rises. Lower level floorplates will be 33,000 square feet, and up high they will be 15,000 square feet.

Wright Runstad has a 60-day due diligence period, then it has two years to go through design and permitting.

Wright Runstad is putting down a $2.5 million deposit. If Wright Runstad gets its master-use permit in three years, it can get the deposit back.

According to project documents, if Wright Runstad does not submit design drawings within three years then the agreement is off.

Johnson said the deadlines and conditions of the ground leases are worth it to build a project on the prime site.

“The university wants to generate more income from the property and control its risk; we understand that,” Johnson said. “They're not going to give away this opportunity, and we have to put up some cash and meet some thresholds to keep our opportunity alive.”

Wright Runstad will pay a base rent of 8 percent of adjusted gross income on the office tower and 3 percent to 4 percent on the hotel.

Wright Runstad is no stranger to downtown high rises. It built 1111 Third Ave., Wells Fargo Center, 1201 Third Ave., 1800 Ninth Ave. and Second and Seneca, among others.

The UW reacquires full control of most of the 10-acre Metropolitan Tract (excluding the Olympic Hotel and garage sites) when Unico Properties' ground lease expires Oct. 31, and said it wants to “maximize value at this premier and underutilized city center location.”

The UW prefers the ground lease option because it protects the university from the risks of construction, financing and leasing.

Several regents said a new building would be beneficial for the block and the university. Right now UW gets $1.5 million per year from Rainier Square, and that is expected to increase to $4 million a year once the new tower is built and leased.

“I think (the new building) is going to bring density and a lot of energy to what has become a little tired part of downtown,” said Todd Timberlake, chief real estate officer at UW.
Fingers crossed! With any luck this, 5th and Columbia and the Urban Visions supertall could all break ground and transform the skyline in the next couple years!
 
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