3400 Stone Way

Courtesy: Seattle DPD

Think about the Burke Gilman Trail for a moment.  Think about where it reveals itself to the neighborhood at N. 34th & Stone Way.  Now imagine a a vibrant, active building that has a relationship to the trail – a living building that connects the community.  What if that building takes little or nothing from the earth, not even during construction, and then gives back to the environment in return?

Skanska USA and Fremont Dock Company are teaming up to bring business and jobs to the Fremont and Wallingford neighborhoods.  Plans are in motion to build a 120,000 square foot, five story building that will participate in the City of Seattle’s new Living Building Challenge.  The building will be located at 3400 Stone Way, on the east side of Stone between 34th & 35th.

I spoke with Lisa Picard, Skanska USA’s Vice President of Commercial Development (and former resident of Fremont and Green Lake), who provided additional detail:

  • What will the building be like?  We really want retail on the first floor, with spaces for the community to enjoy.  We’d like to meet the living building challenge that promotes walkability and visibility, with the ground floor base being tall enough to give pedestrians a great experience.  Elevated ceilings, lots of light.  Vibrant, active, and open.  Above that, we’re planning office spaces.
  • What is a living building, and how will 3400 Stone Way meet that definition?  You can learn all about it on the City’s website, but basically the living building challenge has some interesting building codes.  A true living building takes nothing from the earth and gives everything back.  It recycles all water (e.g. storm water is returned, utilized in fixtures), and it doesn’t take any energy off the grid.  We’re hoping to meet all the living building criteria.
  • How is a Living Building different from a LEED certified building? LEED is focused on wattage, on energy.  If you made the tiniest windows possible, you’d make an efficient envelope without consideration of light, air, and walkability.  The Living Building does.  It focuses on living architecture, giving back to the environment, certified regional materials, and human occupancy.   There is more rigor in the Living Building Challenge than in LEED certification.  It’s a deeper system.  There are twenty “petals” that buildings try to achieve as they go along, instead of using a pre-certification system like LEED.  The Living Building Challenge doesn’t sacrifice humans for energy efficiency. If you don’t have healthy humans, they’re not going to make the right decisions about turning off lights (energy efficiency).

It was at this point in the conversation with Lisa that I had to check myself.  From my perspective, she was saying all the right things.  But was I just hearing what I wanted to hear from an international developer planning a new office building in my neighborhood?  Or was there something else going on?  I brought up biking and public transportation for some odd reason.  Next thing I knew, Lisa was telling me that while her Seattle office is in South Lake Union, near the highway, she and the other developers often cycle to meetings in Fremont.  “I don’t think you’ll often hear about five developers cycling to a planning meeting.”


  • Are you considering putting in a green roof?  We’re still trying to figure out how to address storm water.  Maybe a portion will be a green roof, but we might also utilize a cistern technology to utilize water in the building.  Any green roof we build will be functional, not just for aesthetics.
  • Sounds like this is a unique project.  What’s unique about Skanska USA is that we’re equity financed, so we’re not beholden to others (traditional financiers) in a way that is detrimental to the community.  Our interest is in how the project will interface with the community and really be both a signature gateway for both Wallingford and Fremont, but also a vibrant trailhead.  We want the upper floors to be filled with offices that will bring new jobs to Wallingford.  The goal is to offer space at market rates so tenants don’t take on more risk financial than in a traditional building.
  • And there’s a public meeting coming up?  Yes.  There is an early design guidance meeting Monday, September 19th, 6:30pm at University Heights Community Center.  Meeting details are available here.
  • Who should attend the meeting?  Anyone who cares about the community and wants to see positive change.  This is a real opportunity to be heard, to tell us what you want.  We’d love to see young people, community leaders who can communicate Wallingford’s desires, and people who have vision who can see what this project can become.
  • And the timing?  We have fast track hopes.  Hoping for all approvals next year, to start construction in 2011.  Then it maybe takes 18 months to construct the building, so completion date may be around the end of 2013.
  • What about the existing two buildings on the site?  The whole block will be demolished.  That won’t happen until later next year.

One last question:

Why Wallingford?  Wallingford is green-saavy and ready to receive a project like this.  More than any other community in the city.

Anyone interested in watching this project develop over the next few years is encouraged to keep an eye on the City of Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development website for pictures, upcoming meeting announcements, and other news.  You can also sign up for email alerts related to the project (project # 3012601).

 H/T to Ryan, thanks for the tip!

  1. TRW said,

    I am very pleased to hear about this project. This, along with Stoneway Village, the Transfer Station redesign and the Fremont Collective amount to a mini renaissance of Stone Way.

    Thu, September 15 at 12:58 pm
  2. Ryan said,

    First the festering pit is gone and now this! Life is good in the Wallyhood.

    Thu, September 15 at 1:14 pm
  3. DOUG. said,

    One less Subway!

    Thu, September 15 at 3:07 pm
  4. Norm said,

    Five stories is just too high – that is my only serious objection. The transfer station did a fine job of staying low, and the neighborhood responded with support. Think these folks can do the same?

    Thu, September 15 at 3:30 pm
  5. Adam13 said,

    I’ll be sad if we lose the kite store.

    Thu, September 15 at 4:32 pm
  6. Cameron said,

    This and the Bullitt Foundation project on Capital Hill give me hope that, at least locally, we have our priorities in the right place. That’s super refreshing when we seem to be on so mixed up at a national level. Seattle rocks!

    Thu, September 15 at 7:29 pm
  7. DOUG. said,

    It is a bit ironic that the Fremont Dock Company is co-developing this project, seeing how its president, Suzie Burke, was the person who single-handedly attempted to block the implementation of bike lanes on Stone Way a few years ago. Her “green” track record is questionable.

    Thu, September 15 at 9:47 pm
  8. FreGirl said,

    I am quite sad and distressed to hear that the building where such an established, family business as the kite store is going to be torn down. There could be no more perfect location for that store than exactly where it is, right where everyone walks or drives down to the park down Stone Way. Will they be able to relocate? That’s hard enough financially for such a business. And if they do, will they be able to find a location that is finacially feasible and gets enough traffic to keep them in business in our neighborhood?

    Also, right next door is a BEAUTIFUL hair salon that looks like the owners have put tremendous work into. It is one of the nicest looking businesses anywhere along that stretch of Stone Way. I can only imagine how much money has been put into that location and how much it may cost them to have to move.

    Why, why, why, why can’t these people tackle some horrible piece of property that REALLY needs cleaning up in the neighborhood and repurposing instead of tearing down a perfectly good property with established, great Wallingford businesses in it? Wouldn’t that be a far more “green” thing to do?

    Thu, September 15 at 11:18 pm
  9. Lisa said,

    Skanska has a long term lease from the land owner, Fremont Dock Company (as the post didn’t characterize this accurrately). Fremont Dock is not developing the site but is the land owner. The land owner and Skanska are working to relocate tenants within the community and reuse/repurpose materials currently onsite. Creating better utilization of urban sites is the greenest step we can take.

    The kite shop is one Skanska hopes to keep in the neighborhood or even within the new project. I do remember when the kit shop was in its prior location just east of its current location on 34th (probably 8 years ago or so). It can thrive in the hood, no matter its location. Its a solid use.

    As to the building shape, Skanska seeks to effectively create a community connection at the trail and ground floor with vibrant retail, AND to maximize daylighting in the building for human comfort. If we can’t create livability in our buildings and how they connect or ground in community, we aren’t exercising good civic building in green development.

    Fri, September 16 at 6:21 am
  10. Rob said,

    The kite store has relocated at least once since I’ve lived here. Weren’t they a little closer to Gasworks a few years ago? Maybe the new developers will give them a good deal on space in the new building.

    Fri, September 16 at 9:03 am
  11. Chris W. said,

    Thanks for the correction, Lisa.

    Fri, September 16 at 9:28 am
  12. Ffej said,

    And I was just getting used to buying compost from the Cedar Grove compost “store” at that location.

    Fri, September 16 at 11:48 am
  13. FreGirl said,

    The corporate ‘green’ speak is lovely, but I still am not hearing why it would not be better to leave thriving local businesses alone right where they are and tackle a site that is in far more need of environmental and developmental help. Relocation is NEVER easy for a business and you make it sound like it isn’t even important. Having to move a business can be devestating and extremely financially disruptive. And we certainly do NOT need any more friggin’ condos on Stone Way or in Wallingford period. There are plenty just sitting out there cluttering up the skyline as it is. What the heck is wrong with having a nice one story building here and there? Especially at that intersection. We don’t need to be blocking out the sky even more all over our neighborhood, which has some of the best views in the city.

    Fri, September 16 at 8:13 pm
  14. Brian said,

    While I like nice views and quaint buildings, they are a heck of a lot less important than clean air, energy independence, and rational growth policies. I want my kids to live in a world that is better than the one we have now. Making urban neighborhoods more dense will help achieve the latter goals. For us to survive as a nation, neighborhoods like Wallingford are going to have to come to terms with the notion of change. Two hundred years ago, Wallingford was a forest. Seventy five years ago it was a sooty company town. Today it is a quiet bedroom community. One hundred years from now, I hope it as dense and busy as Barcelona.

    Moving sucks. For the kite store and the beauty salon and I guess Subway and Cedar Grove, change is going to hurt. But we’ve all moved – you deal with it and move on.

    This is a great project.

    Fri, September 16 at 9:26 pm
  15. FreGirl said,

    OMG. You are seriously arguing to INCREASE urban density to improve clean air, energy independence and rational growth?


    Sat, September 17 at 9:47 am
  16. Miss Ruby said,

    When you increase urban density, people live where they work and shop and they walk/bike instead of drive. Very much a rational strategy to improve air quality and energy independence. Short of stopping population growth…

    Sat, September 17 at 1:09 pm
  17. Brian said,

    FreGirl, by increasing urban density, the Puget Sound region will be better able to handle the people who are being born here and the people who are moving here. The alternative is that those people move to car-based suburbs like Issaquah, where they live in less efficient single-family houses and drive everywhere for everything. The choice between putting 30 people in single-family dwellings in Issaquah and 30 people in 3400 Stone Way is no contest. If you like clean air and water and strong communities and an end to oil dependency and the problems that come from it, then you choose the latter.

    Tue, September 20 at 9:07 pm
  18. Chris W. said,

    Thanks, Brian, though I don’t think there will be any residences at 3400 Stone Way. I sure hope that the businesses that move in there can bring jobs to the neighborhood that Wallingford/Fremont residents want & can walk to instead of driving, but I do expect an increase in traffic & its attendant problems with a percentage (hopefully small, but no guarantees) of those employees driving in to Wallingford to work.

    Wed, September 21 at 8:32 am
  19. Paul said,

    Has anyone thought about the fact that the building will be 65 feet! That’s the height of two utility poles. The size and scope are totally out of scale. The zoning for the area calls out for 45 feet…. let’s keep it that way.

    Sat, September 24 at 4:04 pm
  20. Michele said,

    No, this building is NOT a good idea. At least not at it’s height. This is simply too tall. It would drastically stand out and create a shadow literally and figuratively over the lower Wallingford area.

    Wallingford is a neighborhood, not downtown. It isn’t meant to have a skyline.

    I will strongly oppose the hight of this building. I encourage others to find something of equal height to see how tall this really is.

    Thu, September 29 at 4:53 pm
  21. Abdul said,

    Private views are not protected by the city process. However the city must consider views related to shoreline protection (i.e., within 200 feet of the shoreline of Lake Union). I’m not sure this proposal is within 200′. Anyone with a highspeed connection can pull up the city’s GIS map and measure it.

    Regardless, views from public property must be considered. The transfer station upgrade includes land set aside for the public enjoyment. For example a park (!) is proposed along Woodland from the parking lot at 35th (think not an empty lot but the ghost of a burned-down house), to 34th. By the way, what is the status of that park proposal? Volunteers to work with SPU were solicited.

    I encourage the city to consider how this rezone and additional height negatively impact the public view from these public (permitted yet not constructed) facilities and amenities. If it is reasonably expected to block, obscure, or shade, then the proposal should be denied.

    Thu, September 29 at 7:29 pm
  22. PE said,

    The Kite Shop formerly was at the SW corner of Wallingford Ave N & N 34th St. Ironic, isn’t it – they were forced to move due to redevelopment of that property, and now they will be forced out again. And no, this developer won’t give them a deal on a brand-new sidewalk commercial space that would justify the hop-scotch upheaval from their next location – plus interminably waiting on permits & construction…

    If we can put them at Gasworks near the base of Kite Hill, now THAT would be a dream come true…

    Thu, September 29 at 7:44 pm
  23. PE said,

    Skanska, I love ’em, but I gotta question them going to the expense of putting on green roof and cisterns just to chase a Living Building credit. They can do a direct discharge to the lake, no building expensive stormwater detention vaults in the basement parking. And no water quality facility needed if the building is all roof or pedestrian sidewalk, ‘cuz there’s no pollution from cars. Also making the building higher will not facilitate achieving the Living Building Challenge water petal Imperatives.

    Thu, September 29 at 8:44 pm
  24. Michele said,

    Something I don’t understand. I just realized that Paul, above, noted that the current zoning is for 45 feet.

    Does this mean that if somehow this were to pass, at 65 feet, that it could pave the way for subsequent equally tall buildings?

    Thu, September 29 at 8:57 pm
  25. Dennis said,


    It won’t change the zoning. Other folks could apply for the extra 20 feet the same way these folks are but the base zoning would remain the same.

    It’s not unusual in zoning codes to provide developers with incentives to add specific features that meet other City objectives (public space, green building, etc.).

    Thu, September 29 at 9:13 pm
  26. Abdul said,

    Not a rezone. If the city accepts this proposal as a Living Building pilot project, then the developer might be permitted to exceed the standard height for the zone as an incentive.

    Fri, September 30 at 9:15 am
  27. KTC said,

    It’s interesting that Skaska is only aiming to meet 75% of the Living Building Challenge requirements. That means that they won’t actually have a Living Building when it’s completed. Meanwhile they are using the program to justify a 20-ft height variance. That’s 44% above what current zoning allows. Hmmmm.

    Mon, November 14 at 10:22 pm
  28. Kathleen said,

    The rationale that higher urban density means that people live where they work and shop and walk/bike instead of drive is false as far as I can see.

    Haven’t you noticed that the recent explosion of condos in Ballard, Phinney Ridge, Fremont, and Green Lake has only resulted in a drastic increase in car traffic on surface streets? I have lived here most of my life and I find the increased traffic depressing. I have not seen a plethora of folks walking and biking instead of driving. I would love to see statistics that prove that the folks in those condos work and shop in their neighborhoods. There are very few jobs in those neighborhoods, so people have to go far for their jobs. To work near your job, you would have to live downtown, near Boeing, near Microsoft and the Eastside, in South Lake Union, etc. Not in Wallingford, Ballard, Green Lake, and so on.

    Using the bus instead of driving would be great, but Metro is reducing their service, not increasing it. The route that would serve this building is about to be axed by Metro, I believe. And I don’t see the developer contributing to either improvement of streets and infrastructure, nor contributing to increasing Metro bus service. Which is needed if you are going to add more people.

    When I see all these large construction “improvements”, all I see is a burden on the community that is in no way compensated for, either by the builders, the owners, nor any city law that requires they do so. And the rest of us get to live with the consequences. For my part, it makes Wallingford and the city of Seattle less liveable.

    Sat, January 14 at 9:22 am
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