Designs for the $600 million project show a tapered tower rising at Union Street and Fourth Avenue to 850 feet.

Share story

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 5th Ave. in downtown Seattle, a city review board mostly signed off Tuesday on the structure’s final contours.

Designs for the $600 million project 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, block-like 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.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks

Previously the board had criticized the proposed tower’s scooped east facade for blocking views of the tapering 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 7th 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 4th 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 Plannning and Development. It still expects to break ground late next year and open the tower in late 2018.

Aside from the design changes, Seattle’s second-tallest skyscraper 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.