Bikes meet bioswales at new mass timber building in Seattle | Puget Sound Business Journal

The content for this article was originally published in the Puget Sound Business Journal on April 8, 2024.

Ten years ago, Seattle real estate developers Mark Grey and Mike Hess saw a video of dying salmon fry in polluted, black coffee-colored runoff from the Highway 520 bridge. Lazerous like, the fish revived when they were put in the same water that had been filtered through soil and came out resembling weak herbal tea.

The experience led Hess Callahan Grey Group to incorporate green storm infrastructure like bioswales into three glassy office buildings, including the new Northlake Commons, Seattle’s now finished first large-scale mass-timber commercial office and lab project.

The developers say that each year a vegetation-studded drainage ditch on the lake side of the two-wing development will slow the flow of 2.6 million gallons of stormwater water from roofs, streets, parking lots and other impervious surfaces totaling 3 acres. That helps filter out pollutants and salmon-choking sediments before it seeps into the lake.

Inside the Northlake Commons project

Northlake Commons’ sturdy cross-laminated timber structure exudes both strength and warmth. With its jaw-dropping views of the lake and the city skyline off in the distance, the development offers an Emerald City vibe.

Northlake Commons is just off the Burke-Gilman Trail next to Dunn Lumber’s longtime headquarters.

In the other direction is the emerging Portage Bay Crossing, the University of Washington’s ambitious 69-acre innovation district with 3.8 million square feet of development potential.

Bicyclists can roll off the Burke Gilman onto Northlake Commons’ plaza, which is crowned by soaring, open-air catwalks that connect the project’s two wings. They’re among the development’s 1.5 acres of public and private open space.

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