by Kirby Lindsay, posted 16 November 2011
On November 21st at 6:30p at University Heights Center, the City of Seattle Department of Planning & Development (DPD) will hold an Early Design Guidance public meeting for 3400 Stone.
This development, by Skanska, for a property on Stone Way between N 34th & N 35th Streets, will provide retail, restaurant and office space. The development also creates a large plaza that Lisa Picard, a developer with Skanska, has planned as a gathering place for Fremonsters, Wallingfordians, and fitness enthusiasts of every stripe.
Picard sees this development as an opportunity to create a landmark, a destination, with the positive influence and input of the entire neighborhood at the upcoming meeting. As she recently said, “Let’s shape this into a community asset.”
A Chance to Innovate
Picard has attended Fremont Neighborhood Council, Fremont Chamber of Commerce, and a public meeting (as well as meeting with specific stakeholder groups,) to explain this complicated project. The November 21st meeting offers another look, and another hearing, of the actual proposal – and will hopefully dispel some of the rumors, misunderstandings and half-truths swirling about.
The building will be the first development by Skanska Seattle, although Picard and her development partner, Murphy McCullough, bring many decades of experience to the project. Skanska, which has a solid history of construction and contracting in Seattle, has chosen to self-finance this development, placing it in an enviable position.
“Lenders only like to do what they’ve seen before,” Picard stated bluntly, by avoiding a bank loan, “we can do things that they’ve never seen before.” Picard wants – with the community – to create a model for future construction that places less impact on resources. “This is where innovation happens,” she explained, as Skanska attempts something tried only once so far – to build under the Living Building pilot program.
Build To Better Standards
DPD launched Living Building three years ago to encourage construction of structures that require less electricity (75%,) less water (75%,) and meet sustainability goals. To achieve these high standards, DPD has offered departures, and site-specific modifications, from standard building codes; standard building codes that can actually encourage the waste of resources.
For instance, Picard has worked with the building designers to, “try to push the windows as high to the ceiling as possible.” Floor to ceiling glass can waste energy, but higher ceilings – and windows with high sills – avoids loss of energy and allows entry of more natural light and decreases dependence on artificial illumination.
“Higher floor to floor ratio of the building provides more light,” Picard allowed, “but it makes the building taller.” Beyond environmental reasons, she offered, “we want more light because it’s healthier. If we don’t have healthy people in healthy buildings,” she said, “they’re going to turn on light bulbs because they’re sick in the head.”
“We’re using new technologies, new techniques, to build smarter,” Picard explained. Current building codes support the use of forced air for heating and air conditioning, but forced air wastes energy, according to Picard. Based in Sweden, Skanska also builds in Europe where they’ve developed a hydronic (water) system. Picard explained that the system, “naturally, passively, cools the air,” using water pipes in the ceilings, and returning heating systems to the walls, and beneath windows, where radiators were once located. “We’re going back to the old ways, when we knew how to heat and cool,” she said.
Drive The Design
A few neighbors of the development have complaints about the proposed height of 3400 Stone, and other departures offered by the Living Building program.
At its highest point, 3400 Stone will reach 65’ with some mechanical perched atop that although as squashed down and spread out as Picard can get it. Yet, from Stone, the height will be the 9,000 square foot plaza and a ground floor layer of retail and restaurant surrounding it. By “peeling back,” the design, Picard explained, the building slopes up from the sidewalk to reach maximum height only when it backs up against the neighboring North Seattle Transfer Station. The gradual height build up avoids ending with a 45’ box-like building planted along Stone.
Picard admitted to, “driving the design team that the ground floor drives the building.” Although it primarily serves as an office building – 75% already taken by Brooks Sports – Picard has focused on creating a plaza and retail spaces that invite in tenants and customers – along with those who want to meet for a bike ride along the nearby Burke-Gilman Trail or launch a 5K. She envisioned, “retail spaces that have an outdoor/indoor feel.”
Consider The Community
This focus fits Brooks, the athletic wear company that plans to relocate its headquarters to 3400 Stone in Fall of 2013, when the building opens for occupancy. They will take a majority of the office space – but not all – and 4,000 square feet (about a quarter) of the retail. “They have a young, vibrant, mobile workforce,” Picard described.
Brooks employees will be encouraged to commute to work using alternative methods – walk, bike, bus and, perhaps, the water. Some of the current 180 employees that currently work at the Bothell headquarters live south of there – including a few in Wallingford – and of the 120 to be hired, many may come from within the area, or relocate here.
On November 21st, Fremonsters have a chance to hear about what these new neighbors will encounter – and to influence how they will be welcomed. Picard wants to innovate at 3400 Stone, a location she has described as a crossroads, to create space where Brooks, and other businesses, can play. Fremonsters (and Wallingfordians) also face a crossroads, where communication and cooperation can create a community asset. Go give your input!
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©2011 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.