A long-planned development on the site of the historic former home of the Seattle Times has switched gears. While Onni Group originally planned to build residential towers, over the summer the developer filed plans to build office towers instead. The project is being designed by architecture firm Perkins + Will.
Onni has owned the South Lake Union property, on the block bounded by Denny Way, Thomas Street, Boren Avenue, and Fairview Avenue, since 2013. It was largely demolished in 2017, save for the south and east façades.
As with the residential development, Onni plans to keep those façades around. Filings with the city point to the Troy Block as inspiration for how the historic materials can influence the interior. The Art Deco building, designed by Robert Reamer, was commissioned by the Times in the early 1930s to replace its former headquarters in the flatiron-style Times Square building. It was declared a city landmark in 1996.
The original plans, filed in 2014, detailed a massive residential development—nearly 2,000 units across four towers over a mixed-use podium. For its office structures, Onni hopes to build two long towers, one 16-story and the other 18-story, curving away from one another to create a vaguely hourglass-shaped central walkway. Onni’s filings with the city say the company plans for 53,884 square feet of retail and 940,160 square feet of commercial office space, plus 1,200 parking stalls below.
“With the continued strong demand for office space in South Lake Union, we felt this was a good opportunity,” said an Onni spokesperson over email. “We continue to work on our application with the city, and anticipate construction to begin late in 2019, with an aim to deliver the project in 2021.”
While Onni did not confirm whether downtown vacancy rates factored into the decision, the revised plans were filed a month after a June 2018 Seattle Times report noting that in South Lake Union, around 14 percent of apartments are sitting empty.
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