The curvy Rainier Square tower gets a tweak and moves toward approval. Also, Starbucks has regulatory trouble in India, and the state’s tech sector leads the way in pay raises.
Is it a platform shoe? A giant teaspoon? An ice-cream scoop?
Whatever you think of the shape of the new Rainier Square tower, a proposed 58-story complex at 1301 Fifth Ave. in downtown Seattle, a city review board mostly signed off this past week on the structure’s final contours.
Designs for the $600 million project, which would be Seattle’s second-tallest skyscraper, show a tower rising at Union Street and Fourth Avenue to 850 feet, spanning Union from Fourth to Fifth avenues.
In contrast to a standard, blocklike tower, the proposed building would start with a wide base and become slimmer at higher floors. Instead of a flat plane, the tower’s east facade would be scooped and taper upward like “an accordion,” said developer Greg Johnson, president of Wright Runstad & Co.
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Previously the board had criticized the proposed tower’s scooped east facade for blocking views of the white pedestal base of the adjacent Rainier Tower.
On Tuesday evening, the board said that a proposal by Wright Runstad and its architect, NBBJ, to start the scoop at the seventh floor instead of the 10th floor didn’t do enough to make the pedestal next door more visible.
The board recommended the developer start the scoop at the fourth floor instead.
The developer’s revised plan also eliminates a curved indentation on the southeast corner of Rainier Square, according to Wright Runstad’s filing with the city, after the board said it “pales in contrast to the dramatic lift expressed by the Rainier Tower base.”
But the Rainier Square tower design retains a dramatic curved indentation 280 feet in height on the northwest corner that the developer says will be visible from the Space Needle and Elliott Bay. The so-called “carve” is also a modern nod to Rainier Tower’s tapered pedestal.
Now Wright Runstad will revise its permit application, for approval by the director of the Department of Planning and Development. It still expects to break ground late next year and open the tower in late 2018.
The building would offer luxury apartments that would be the highest in the city. The developer said its decision to put residences above 450 feet also means it must pay about $5.3 million to the city’s affordable-housing fund under an incentive zoning program.
In total, Wright Runstad will pay the city about $12.3 million in incentive-zoning fees to develop a tower with greater bulk and height than standard zoning allows.
“It’s a case where the incentive zoning is actually working,” Johnson said.
— Sanjay Bhatt: firstname.lastname@example.org
Starbucks faces challenge in India
Starbucks has run into a bureaucratic challenge in India, its fastest-growing new market, as the government’s food-safety regulator rejected several key imported ingredients used in its products pending more documentation.
The move by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) prompted Tata Starbucks, the local joint venture between the Seattle coffee giant and one of India’s largest industrial groups, to replace those ingredients with approved alternatives starting in mid-June.
The switch means that Starbucks will be able to continue offering most menu items “without disruption,” spokesman Jim Olson said in a statement.
Starbucks was not the only one to see applications for ingredients rejected by the FSSAI: Hundreds of products from food and pharmaceutical companies were listed by the agency on its website as of late April. The list contained 26 Tata Starbucks ingredients, from raspberry black-currant juice to cheese-flavored syrup.
The unexpected hiccup comes in the midst of strong expansion in India, a market where Starbucks executives have said the company got its fastest start ever. The joint venture with Tata began opening cafes in 2012; as of the end of Starbucks’ second fiscal quarter, there were 68 stores there, up from 40 a year before.
It underscores the complexities faced by the company as it focuses more on overseas opportunities, which offer bigger rewards than mature markets such as the U.S.
Tata Starbucks said it is “diligently working” with the regulator to provide the technical information needed to get the applications approved.
It says that all of its ingredients are safe and meet the standards of the 65 countries where Starbucks operates. It added that the ingredients passed product testing and safety authorizations when they were imported into India.
Ángel González: email@example.com
Tech tops list of wage increases
Washington’s average annual wage grew 4.2 percent from $52,619 in 2013 to $54,829 in 2014, according to the state’s Employment Security Department.
That was the largest percentage increase since 2007, representing a rise in average weekly wage from $1,012 to $1,054.
The information sector, which includes software publishing, Web search portals and telecommunications industries, led the wage growth with a 10.3 percent increase in its average weekly wage, the department said this week.
The arts, entertainment and recreation sector’s average weekly pay, meanwhile, grew 6.5 percent, while retail trade’s went up 4.3 percent. The figures include only wages that are covered by unemployment insurance.
The Employment Security Department, which uses the average annual wage to calculate unemployment benefits, said the minimum weekly unemployment benefit — calculated at 15 percent of the average weekly wage — will increase from $151 to $158 for new claims opened on or after July 5.
The maximum weekly benefit — calculated at 63 percent of the average weekly wage — will increase from $637 to $664.
The department, which also uses the average annual wage to compute employers’ unemployment taxes, said that beginning in 2016, employers will pay unemployment taxes on the first $44,000 paid to each employee, up from $42,100 in 2015.
— Janet I. Tu: firstname.lastname@example.org