Quietly Awesome

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Billy Pettit, Senior Vice President of Pillar Properties, Seattle, won’t build boring projects. He wants the company’s multifamily communities to relate to their location, to add value to both their neighborhood and their city, with designs that connect with potential residents and speak their language—without shouting.

It All Started with the King Dome

The Stadium Place story began more than a decade ago, with the lackluster performance of the King Dome in downtown Seattle that resulted in its north parking lot—a brownfield site—being put on the market. The city had clustered a number of public transportation options in that area, so the site, which sat between the Pioneer Square historic district and the Stadium District, had a lot going for it. Pettit described it as “the largest undeveloped piece of land in downtown Seattle.”

“Anyone in the real estate business would have wanted this opportunity,” Pettit says, in spite of its complexity and risk.

A local firm, Daniels Real Estate, bought the property and looked for a partner to help them develop it. They found one…just before the real estate bust, which forced that developer to step aside. Daniels then invited Pillar Properties to partner with them on the project. Pettit agreed, knowing full well that the project was the “single largest investment our company had ever made.”

A Design That Tells a Story

The partners saw an opportunity to create something distinctive, something that would define the south end of the city. “We didn’t want two identical towers,” said Pettit. The team, including architects from Seattle’s ZGF Architects, decided to tell a story through the design. One building would speak to the city’s early industrial era in Pioneer Square, and the other that would express a more modern, forward-looking feeling—something more fresh and lively than anything that had yet been built downtown.

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Not only were the buildings going to be different, the floor plans would be distinctively different as well. The units in Nolo (from North Lot) would be loft-like, with high ceilings and lots of concrete. The scale–11 stories–and the exterior would blend in with the nearby historic industrial buildings. The views look north, to the Space Needle and the hills surrounding Seattle. Nolo was built first, and opened in September, 2013.

Around the corner, the Wave, a 26-story community, overlooks both the new Century Link Stadium (Seahawks) and Safeco Field (Mariners) to the south, as well as Elliott Bay to the west. The Wave has a clean, crisp design, resembling stacked bento boxes. The units are bright, with lots of windows and great views. Each level shifts orientation slightly from those above and below. The Wave was ready to welcome residents nine months after Nolo, in June, 2014.

Come Together

The two buildings are a bridge between Seattle’s history and its future. They share more than a footprint, as the fifth floor has a shared courtyard, fitness center and large common room that hosts community events. Each building also has its own rooftop deck. Nolo’s roof space includes a wine bar, while the Wave’s roof deck includes an area where residents can watch the football games and, of course, a sports bar.

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During the planning process, the neighborhood–which had a less than savory reputation–began to show signs of revitalization, with a few new restaurants and shops generating interest among Seattle’s young urbanites. While Nolo and the Wave would inject residents into the mix for added vibrancy and energy, that would also create a need for additional shops and services. So, except for the buildings’ two lobbies and a parking garage, the rest of Stadium Place’s ground floor–a little over 16,000 square feet of space–houses retail and restaurants, which helped the neighborhood become an amenity for the residents.

The nearby public transportation is extensive, including light rail, street car lines, buses, the Sounder commuter train, the Elliott Bay bike trail, as well as water taxis and a ferry across Elliott Bay. With all that in mind, the design and development team planned to allocate 19 percent of the development’s square footage to parking–somewhat less than might ordinarily be needed for a project the size of Stadium Place. But Pettit was surprised to find few residents were ready to go car-free. Since Zip cars were also part of the mix, the variety of transportation options is proving sufficient to the needs of the residents.

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The full article, written by Ann Marie Moriarty, was published in the Spring 2016 issue of Best in American Living.

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