Our 800 Columbia Neighborhood Open Space is why we love providing landscape architecture services. It was a triple win – for the project’s developers, the First Hill Neighborhood and Seattle’s Parks Department. Bringing all three together to facilitate a successful design solution that will be a cherished community-gathering place was incredibly rewarding for us.
Employing the High Rise Zone’s incentive zoning program, the developers gained increased height for the Weber Thompson designed residential tower in return for providing a publicly accessible open space. The site was located on three parcels, one of which Seattle Parks had hoped would someday be a park in an underserved area. This effort allowed Parks to save their resources for other neighborhood facilities.
Working with a Neighborhood Working Group, Weber Thompson facilitated three design charrettes to gather input from residents, business owners, community members, and Seattle Parks. The result was a democratic process that strengthened the final design – which garnered applause at the working sessions’ conclusion and an outpouring of support during the Design Review meeting.
There were challenges: providing easily walkable areas on a steeply sloping site; distilling down the many desired elements to the salient ones that fit the 9000 sf site; making it feel public while surrounded by a residential structure, balancing sunny areas with the desired big tree canopy and keeping safety a high priority.
The resulting design concept is a space within an urban grove of birch trees. A large plaza with plenty of seating terminates in a water wall that trickles down from an upper lawn and rose garden terrace. The lower plaza area is surrounded by the seasonally colorful ground plane plantings with terraces cascading down from Columbia St.
For a neighborhood in need of parks, the 800 Columbia Open Space will be a welcome urban respite, not just for the tower and its residents, but also for the entire First Hill neighborhood.
Residents of 800 Columbia, however, will have access to several amenity spaces exclusively for their use. A private dog run is a convenient space for pet lovers who don't have time for a full-fledged walk around the neighborhood. The rooftop terrace includes ample space for grilling burgers, soaking up some of Seattle's precious, mid-summer rays, or just enjoying some quiet time with a fabulous view of the city.
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