New towers on Puget Sound; Downtown Seattle catches brass ring of a building boom

A decade ago this gateway city to the Northwest was turning off the lights as Boeing's problems mounted and thousands of workers were losing their jobs. Today, by contrast, this city is building to the sky.

Construction of a 75-story office tower, tallest building in the West, is scheduled to begin next fall across from City Hall in downtown Seattle.

Martin Selig, a local developer, is planning the three-sided $120-million tower, which will have 1.5 million square feet of office space when completed in late 1983.

Mr. Selig is no newcomer to the office-development market here. This will be his sixth major building downtown and his largest and first in the heart of the business district.

Among his other successful buildings are the slant-roofed Fourth & Blanchard Building in the Denny Regrade, the joint-ventured Metropolitan Park Building (with Metropolitan Federal Savings & Loan), a 20-story aluminum-and-glass structure just north of the downtown retail district, and the five-story 250,000 -square-foot new Elliott Bay Office Park in the Lower Queen Anne district where Mr. Selig first began erecting office buildings more than a decade ago.

Skilling, Helle, Christiansen & Robertson, a Seattle-based firm which engineered the city's tallest structure up to now, the 50-story Seattle-First National Bank, and others, as well as the 110-story New York World Trade Center twin towers, is studying structural systems for the tower.

Chris Simonds of Chester Lindsey Architects, Seattle, is the architect for this as well as most of Mr. Selig's other recent buildings. Seattle-First National Bank's Seafirst Mortgage Corporation is financing the latest project, as it has Mr. Selig's other recent buildings.

A contractor has not yet been selected, but the Howard S. Wright Company, a local builder, has done the job for the other Selig projects and is a likely candidate for this newest one.

John Skilling says his engineers will have to take wind factors as well as Seattle's earthquake potential into account in planning the new skyscraper. He estimates it would be late February or March before a specific system is decided on although the bulding is to have a steel frame with an aluminum skin.

Environmental approvals still must be granted for the tower but that process has begun and is expected to be completed by spring.

The 75-story tower will be called Columbia Center and will be built around and above the rehabilitated former Columbia Hotel.

The project is to include several retail levels and underground parking for 1 ,400 cars. The site is steep and offers several levels accessible to the street. A sky bridge may also link the building to City Hall.

Several other large office projects are planned for construction starts in downtown Seattle in 1981. Carma Developers, a Calgary, Alberta, developer, is planning a twin- towered project to be called Carma Towers. The 43- and 33 -story office towers are designed by McKinley Architects of Seattle and will be faced in blue glass. The first tower (33 stories) will be started in the fall just south of the rehabilitated historic Pike Place Market.

The McKinley firm also is designing a headquarters tower for the Pacific National Bank of Washington which was announced earlier as a 36-story tower and now has been expanded to 50 stories. Construction is to begin in the spring by the Howard S. Wright Development Company.

Two other towers, the 38-story One Union Square being developed by UNICO, a local organization, and the 42-story Seafirst Fifth Avenue Plaza, a project of the Gerald D. Hines Interests of Houston and Seattle-First National Bank, will be ready for their first occupants next year and are expected to ease the tight office-space situation here.

Mr. Selig's Metropolitan Park and Elliott Bay Office Park and the 1111 Third Avenue Building (35 stories), all completed in 1980, have already begun to take the edge off the shortgage of space.

Another office building to be the headquarters for Western International Hotels, is to open in June with Western occupying about one-third of the 385,000 square feet in the 33-story structure across the street from the firm's Washington Plaza Hotel, which is being expanded with a sec ond tower.

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