Design Tweaked for WA's Rainier Square Tower


Within a few months of topping out, Seattle’s Rainier Square tower project will undergo a small redesign.

The project has reportedly abandoned plans for a 12-story, 150-room hotel, that had been planned to be built adjacent to the skyscraper and share a podium with the tower.

Project History

Although work on the project officially began in October 2017, it wouldn’t be until early January 2018 that designs for the $370 million Rainier Square Tower were released with experts claiming that the Seattle-based tower would prove to be a "game-changer" for seismic and wind resistance in building structures.

Additionally, the composite structural steel frame—which includes a shear-wall core made up of cross-tied steel-plate walls filled with concrete—was expected to take 40% less time than a more traditional design.

The application, developed by structural engineer Ron Klemencic, chairman and CEO of Magnusson Klemencic Associates, is the first of its kind for a building of such height, aiming for an earthquake-resistant core.

When studies surrounding the Coupled Composite Steel Plate Shear Walls system are complete, the American Institute of Steel Construction estimates that the system will be rated with an R Factor of R=8.

By May 2018, a three-person peer-review panel approved the core system design, giving the innovation the green light from a design standpoint.

“This is going to be a watershed in terms of high-rise construction,” said Shannon Testa, senior project manager for general contractor Lease Crutcher Lewis.

Also in May, however, work was halted by Amazon when the council announced it was considering a “head tax”—an employee-hours tax on businesses grossing at least $20 million per year in the city. This would raise an estimated $75 million annually, and the council wanted to use the money for low-income housing and helping its homeless population, which is reportedly among the largest in the nation.

The tax was slated to cost Amazon about $20 million per year for the intended occupancy of 722,000 feet of office space in the Rainier tower, and two other tower projects that were currently employing about 8,000 workers.

Further stalling of the project arose when the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302 hosted a 17-day strike and picket in August.

By February of last year, Amazon announced that it would be withdrawing its occupancy.

In August, Rainier Square Tower officially became Seattle’s second-tallest skyscraper in the city when its height surpassed 772 feet and the structure finally topped out at 850 feet later that month.

The Design

Encompassing 1.7 million square feet, the Rainier Square Tower includes a mix of ground-floor retail, underground parking, office space and 200 of the highest luxury apartments in the city.

Designed by NBBJ, a global architecture firm based in Seattle, the tower reveals an inverse reflection of the curved base of the Rainier Tower next door, having a wide base instead that curves after the fourth floor, creating a narrow angle as it climbs upward.

The exterior of the building is covered in a nonstructural curtain wall that was designed, assembled and installed by Walters & Wolf, in collaboration with 3Diligent. Together, the companies produced 140 3D-printed aluminum nodes of varying dimensions for the tower’s cladding.

As forecasted, the Erection Co. topped out Seattle’s Rainier Square Tower in only 10 months’ time, after installing the last core model on Aug. 9. In reaching the milestone, the tower officially ranks as the seventh-tallest building on the west coast.

What Now

Although the changes won’t be noticed by those passing on the street, the redesign of the structure will accommodate additional office space instead of the previously intended hotel.

“We purposefully have redesigned the building to remain quite consistent with the original design,” Wright Runstad CEO Greg Johnson told Curbed Seattle.

“The street level design is virtually the same—we anticipate a restaurant along Fourth Avenue, as the hotel design had included. The University entrance will look pretty much the same as the hotel design.”

The main difference is in floors: where the hotel had 10, the office will have eight.

The lower floors of the tower will contain 80,000 square feet of retail, including 20,000 square feet for a grocery chain and a gym. The top 18 floors are reserved for the apartments.

In addition to the small changes in design, a change in lease has also recently been unveiled.

Amazon, though it announced that it was withdrawing its occupancy, is still the primary leaseholder of the tower’s office space. The company has reportedly begun subleasing its space, with Bank of America announcing that it will move two of its offices to the tower by the end of the year.

The tower is slated to open in August.


Tagged categories: Commercial Construction; Condominiums/High-Rise Residential; Disasters; Good Technical Practice; NA; North America; Ongoing projects

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