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Skanska’s 2+U towers carve out pedestrian and creative space

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The dual towers hope to engage the public

2+U’s shorter tower, viewed from First Avenue with the Diller Hotel to the left.
Courtesy of Skanska USA

What’s currently a construction site downtown at Second and University will eventually become Skanska’s 2+U, a pair of office towers—one 18 stories, the other 38—looking out over Puget Sound and wrapping around the existing Diller Building at First Avenue.

The height difference is a matter of zoning, which changes mid-block—but it also means one tower looks over the other for water views, and a less monolithic addition to the skyline. Still, that won’t matter too much to the person on the ground, looking up and not leasing office space in the tower.

To that end, Skanska USA executive vice president Murphy McCullough told Curbed Seattle, the building was designed to be “very porous, not just for people in building, but neighborhood.”

Skanska is going for a similar pedestrian experience to its 400 Fairview building in South Lake Union, which features an indoor pedestrian promenade—only with that indoor space brought outdoors. A pocket carved out between the two towers provides not just a mid-block crossing to the Seattle Art Museum and gathering space, but entry points and retail. The underside of both towers’ bulk, lifted from the ground with a zig-zag of concrete columns, create an intimate space and provide weather protection.

The entrance to the building’s public space, viewed from the Seattle Art Museum across University Street.

It’s “the blending of public and private” from 400 Fairview, but “on a bigger scale,” Skanska vice president of development Christian Gunter told Curbed Seattle.

The retail on the ground floor and along the mid-block crossing will all be local, said Gunter. And as part of the deal for the alley vacation that created the space, there’s another bonus: a space which will eventually house a rent-free home for a creative pursuit like art, dance, exhibition, or music, with some public-facing element.

2+U viewed from First and Seneca.
Courtesy of Skanska USA

Apart from the dedicated creative space, Skanska is currently working with local arts boosters 4Culture on putting together programming to activate the outdoor space.

For the businesses that actually do operate the tower, there are five separate entry points to the building, including a bike entrance that leads to showers. Floor plates range from 18,000 to 30,000 square feet, with 10-foot ceilings no columns to get in the way of office design or layout. In the larger building, because it’s on the very edge of a zone without height limits, those above the 18th floor get an unobstructed view.

Everyone gets at least a little bit of a view, though: Tenants share a roof deck on top of the shorter tower. The top-floor tenant in the biggest tower gets its own private roof deck, though.

Gunter and McCollough confirmed that Skanska isn’t talking to any full-building users, with the biggest tenant in talks occupying 200,000 to 300,000 square feet.

Courtesy of Skanska USA

The towers will top out later this year, with an estimated completion date of July 2019.

  • 2+U [Skanska USA]

This article has been updated to correct a typo.