Developer Martin Selig now proposes just an extra eight stories of office space, after previously envisioning construction of 44 new floors on top of the four-story landmark.
The saga of the old Federal Reserve Building in downtown Seattle has taken another turn, this time downward.
Developer Martin Selig has significantly scaled back plans to build an office and residential high-rise on top of the 1950 Art Deco structure on Second Avenue between Spring and Madison streets.
He now plans to add just eight floors of office space to the historic four-story structure, after an earlier proposal to build an addition about four times as tall was criticized by city officials as being too large for a protected, landmark building.
Selig bought the property for $16 million in a government auction in February 2015, and by August he had unveiled plans for a 31-story office addition to the former bank. He then grew even more ambitious, saying in December that he would add apartments to the proposal, bringing the building to 48 stories.
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At initial city meetings in recent months, however, those plans were met with criticism that the tower would overwhelm the historic structure. Now, the latest proposal calls for the finished building to stand about a dozen stories high.
“We designed a building that we thought was pretty nice, but it did not (pass) muster with what was needed through the design-review process,” Selig said Monday. “Sure, I would have loved to have done it, but it was not approved. I can’t dwell on anything in the past.”
Selig — who built the city’s tallest building, the 71-story Columbia Center — had been confident he could build a larger project on the Reserve Building. But critics wondered about the feasibility of doing so much work to a structure that’s designated a federal landmark and must be at least partially preserved.
The renovation cost has been pegged at up to $50 million — a big reason why just eight firms submitted bids for the property last year, and why Seattle Public Schools in 2014 abandoned a plan to take over the building to build a school.
The drab building has been vacant since 2008, when the bank moved to a new office in Renton. It stands out as a rare empty spot in a prime downtown neighborhood that continues to undergo a building boom.
Selig said his team already has cleaned up the “filthy” building and hopes to receive final approval “as soon as possible” to start on the addition, which would bring the structure to about 225,000 square feet.
He plans to go back to the architectural review committee at the city’s Landmarks Preservation Board in as little as three weeks. His latest plan would also need approval through the Seattle design-review program and must pass a state-federal historical review.
Selig said his firm already has lined up the financing for construction.
“We’ve done a huge amount of preservation on it already,” Selig said.
But not everyone thinks the new design goes far enough to preserve the historic site.
“The new addition would be a nice building if it were on a different site, not on top of and behind a Seattle Landmark- and National Register-listed building,” said Eugenia Woo, director of preservation services for Historic Seattle.
Selig says he hopes to lease all the office space to one business, and is in talks with three potential companies he declined to name.
Plans also include a ground-floor cafe, which would utilize the building’s old bank vault and spill out into a plaza.