Posts tagged with "Seattle":

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The 2019 Seattle Design Festival puts out a call for proposals

The Seattle Design Festival (SDF) is returning from August 16 through 25 and will once again gather tens of thousands of architects, designers, residents, and aficionados in the city. Before that, though, the SDF is openly soliciting installation proposals throughout April and May. SDF is run by Design in Public, an initiative of AIA Seattle, and appropriately, a host of supplemental educational events will run during the festival. The SDF is being broken up into three parts: a block party at Lake Union Park on August 24 and 25, which will showcase outdoor pavilions and events; neighborhood design crawls from August 16 through 25, where visitors can stop in at lectures, tours, screenings, and more; and finally, partner events all over the city. This year’s theme, Balance, asks applicants to consider how balance can be won by design. How can good design help balance our ecological concerns and restore the environment? How can design establish urban equity, or negotiate a work-life balance? Proposals can address any and all interpretations of the theme. While designers don’t need to be affiliated with a studio or even live in Seattle to apply, Design in Public will be hosting three “design jams” at Seattle’s Center for Architecture and Design. On April 20, May 8, and May 16, interested parties can workshop their ideas, get feedback, ask questions, and mutually support other applicants. Interested applicants and partners can submit their proposals here.
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Amazon backs out of Seattle’s Rainier Square after head tax debacle

Long Island City isn’t the only place that Amazon is pulling out of. The tech giant made waves when it threatened to withdraw from its 722,000-square-foot lease in Seattle’s under-construction Rainier Square Tower over a possible $500-per-employee “head tax” last May that applies only to massive businesses like Amazon. The Seattle City Council ultimately passed a scaled-down version of the measure at $275-per-employee—with the proceeds destined for the construction of affordable housing—but even that measure was ultimately rolled back due in part to pressure from the business community. Now, even with its conditions met, Amazon has announced that it would be subleasing its space in Rainier square and looking elsewhere to meet its needs. The lease was enormous by Seattle’s standards and would have provided space for 3,500 to 5,000 Amazon employees and would have cemented the tech company as the tower’s anchor tenant. “We are currently building two million square feet of office space in our South Lake Union campus in Seattle,” said Amazon in a statement released to Geekwire. “We are always evaluating our space requirements and intend to sublease Rainer Square based on current plans. We have more than 9,000 open roles in Seattle and will continue to evaluate future growth.” The NBBJ-designed tower is notable both for its size and novel construction methodology. The 850-foot-tall, 58-story office building will be the second tallest in the Pacific Northwest once complete next year, and will use a core of modular steel plates and concrete “sandwiches” instead of the traditional rebar. A distinctive high-heeled-boot shape massing was used to preserve views of the adjacent Minoru Yamasaki–designed Rainier Tower (affectionately nicknamed “The Beaver” for its gnawed log-like appearance). A shorter glass-clad hotel will also be wedged between the two buildings as part of the Rainier Square Tower project. Despite the setback, Amazon is still on track to grow to 50,000 total employees in Seattle, and construction on the Graphite Design Group–designed Block 18, a 17-story, 388,000-square-foot office building solely for Amazon, is still on track.
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Microsoft to invest $500 million in affordable housing around Seattle

After vociferous opposition from Starbucks, Amazon, and other large Seattle-based corporations last summer, the Seattle City Council voted to roll back a tax that would have raised $47 million towards building 591 units of affordable housing. Now, Microsoft has announced that it will invest $500 million for affordable housing over the next three years across King County, Washington. Seattle has been plagued by rising rents and homelessness rates as the area has grappled with a housing shortage, caused in part by inflated demand and stagnant wages. Amazon and other so-called “mega-corporations” in the city had successfully talked the government down from imposing a $500-per-employee head tax that would have funded 1,700 new units of affordable housing in May of 2018 before the watered down version of the tax was ultimately killed in June. Affordable housing and homelessness advocates, who felt that the large companies headquartered in Seattle are partially responsible for its tight housing market, saw the move as adding insult to injury. Microsoft, which is headquartered in neighboring Redmond, wouldn’t have been hit with the head tax, but the initiative sparked a dialogue between Microsoft and the business-led group Challenge Seattle. The plan, which is still being finalized, sprung out of their conversations last summer on how to close the gap in affordability in housing across the region. The $500 million will be doled out as a series of grants that Microsoft is calling “targeted investments," across three stratified tiers. The company will load $225 million at a lower-than-market rate to spur the construction of middle-income housing across six cities to the east of Seattle: Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Issaquah, Renton, and Sammamish. Microsoft will be lending an additional $250 million at market rate to support the construction of low-income housing across King County. The remaining $25 million will be distributed as grants to combat homelessness in and around Seattle. As part of its announcement, Microsoft revealed that $5 million of its grant will be going towards Home Base, a program that provides legal aid to families facing eviction, and another $5 million will be used to support a new joint agency being formed between Seattle and King County to tackle homelessness. Rather than using that money to solely build housing, which Microsoft expects would only generate about 1,000 new affordable units, the tech company claims that its targeted investments have the potential to spark development of “tens of thousands” of new units. While the company doesn’t expect to make much of a return, it plans to repeat the process and reinvest the money after being repaid. While this is Microsoft’s largest philanthropic gift to date, the company’s motives likely aren’t entirely altruistic. As the New York Times noted, the company is currently riding high with nearly $136 billion in cash on hand and is in the process of renovating its 500-acre Redmond campus. Supporting the region’s housing stock is a boon to lower-income residents, but will also provide a long-term solution for potential employees the company continues to woo as it expands.
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High-speed rail plan for Pacific Northwest takes a step forward

A fledgling plan to bring high-speed rail (HSR) service to the Pacific Northwest region of the United States and parts of southwestern Canada is moving closer to becoming a reality. The Urbanist reported that this week, the Washington State Legislature introduced legislation that would create a new interstate high-speed rail authority for the region that could begin to take the first steps toward making the Cascadia Rail plan a reality. According to The Urbanist, the new rail authority would be in charge of coordinating high-speed rail efforts across Washington, Oregon, and Canadian jurisdictions while also setting requirements for contracting operations and other issues. The authority would also be responsible for ensuring that the trains and routes selected for the project could deliver service at 250 miles per hour, a key stipulation for making the project economically viable across the region. The authority would also provide a singular contact point for communities along the proposed routes and would handle the preparation of environmental impact reports at the federal and local levels. A preliminary plan for the Cascadia Rail service was unveiled in 2018 that proposed a coastal line connecting Portland, Oregon, with Vancouver, Canada. The plan includes an eastern spur connecting Spokane, Washington, with Seattle. The plan has support from the Washington State business community as well as a growing set of local officials who see the prospect of reliable, high-speed rail service as a key way of reducing automobile traffic along Interstate-5 while also helping to address growing transportation emissions across the region. Several high-speed rail plans are making progress around the country, including in California, where the nation’s first true high-speed rail network is currently under construction. After years of planning and partisan bickering, the controversial plan is finally in full-swing and a line running through central California between Bakersfield and Madera is expected to open by 2022. Along the Florida coast, the privately owned Brightline route made its debut this year connecting West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Though the train is not truly a high-speed rail corridor—it runs at top speeds of roughly 80 miles per hour—the train has cut travel times between the two cities by over an hour. The line is expected to expand to serve Miami and Orlando by 2020. All Aboard Florida, the company that owns and operates Brightline, is also moving toward a second train venture connecting Las Vegas, Nevada, with the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area. The company recently purchased XpressWest, a struggling venture that was aiming to deliver service between the two cities following the Interstate-15 corridor, Urbanize.LA reported. Like the Florida line, however, trains will not exactly run at high speeds; projected service is expected to begin in 2022 and will run at around 92 miles per hour. This might sound like a good bit of progress—and it is—but recent rail development in the United States pales in comparison to the many ambitious rail projects under construction around the world. China, for example, plans to build over 2,000 miles of true high-speed rail lines in 2019 alone. That’s enough track to connect Philadelphia to Phoenix.
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Seattle set to finally close Alaskan Way Viaduct and open new tunnel

The aged elevated highway that famously borders downtown Seattle along its waterfront is set to officially close this Friday as part of the city's multi-pronged tunnel replacement project. The two-mile Alaskan Way Viaduct, also known as State Route 99, has blown past its recommended lifespan and has long been considered a major hazard to the city and its drivers. Its upcoming closure marks the beginning of a new transportation system for the whole city, but the saga leading up to this point has been harrowing. After a 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck Seattle in 2001, causing widespread panic about the then 48-year-old highway’s structural safety, the city and state began more seriously studying options to replace the viaduct. The Washington State Department of Transportation settled on a plan in 2004 that would include the build-out of a shallow, six-lane tunnel, but opposition soon arose over the project’s exorbitant cost and lengthy proposed construction timeline. After years of arguments, the most dangerous part of the highway, which sat south of downtown, was eventually demolished in 2011. Two years later, Seattle began making way for the tunnel, but the boring machine used to burrow the tunnel’s diameter broke down four months into its 1.7-mile journey underneath the city. It took another two years to repair the machine and digging began again in late December 2015. Despite more setbacks, including a large, unexpected sinkhole, the tunnel boring project was completed in spring 2017. It’s expected to open up to vehicular traffic in four weeks. Next steps include the demolition of the remaining standing viaduct and the construction of a street-level boulevard along its footprint. Dubbed the New Alaskan Way, it will line the edge of Elliot Bay. Once that's complete, the entirely revamped highway system will stretch northbound in two directions starting from Seattle’s major sports stadiums, CenturyLink and Safeco Fields, which are situated south of downtown. The SR 99 tunnel route begins adjacent to the arenas and runs northeast underneath the city toward a northern portal near Seattle Center, the home of the Space Needle. Drivers will be able to bypass downtown through the tunnel or the waterfront street-level surface highway or simply exit onto city streets. The decision to build both an underground highway and an elongated boulevard is an unconventional approach to mid-century transportation replacement projects. Cities around the country are currently grappling with similar situations revolving around dilapidated infrastructure, but Seattle’s struggle has been on the global stage for quite some time. After all, the Alaskan Way Viaduct should have come down decades ago when experts first saw signs of damage. It’s interesting to see a major metropolis, one sitting at sea level no less, choose this multi-project plan that for years created a mess of construction chaos and citywide debate. Though the pedestrian-friendly New Alaskan Way will likely do wonders to connect downtown Seattle with its industrial waterfront—a much-needed intervention—at a total of $3.3 billion it’s hard not to see this decision as both a big win for the city's future and a big burden for its present. 
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Seattle boosts building codes for high-rises after study deems them at risk

Seattle is updating building codes for new skyscrapers after a shocking study revealed that the power and nature of earthquakes in the region pose a significant threat to its tall buildings, one that is worse than experts could have imagined.

The Seattle Times recently reported on results from the M9 Project, a four-year study that aimed to estimate the effects of a magnitude 9 Cascadia earthquake, revealed that the vast, sediment-filled basin under Seattle can magnify the type of ground shaking that puts high-rises at risk of collapse by a factor of two to five, which can trigger stronger surface effects than earthquakes in nearby California.

When rattled by an earthquake, the Times explained, the region's glacial-packed soils, which can extend more than four miles underground, violently shake and convulse, trapping massive seismic waves within the basin that underlies most of the city. Intense shaking like this could last for two minutes, which is four times longer than the average quake. While shorter buildings under 10 stories can withstand the earth's back-and-forth motion, tall buildings tend to whip back and forth under those conditions until they are on the verge of collapse.

As the Times reported, as a result of these findings, Seattle and its neighbor, Bellevue, plan on revising seismic construction standards for new buildings over 240 feet, or over 20 stories tall. These standards will require high-rises to be stronger and more sturdy than their predecessors, without the additional cost.

The plan to revise building codes has also raised concerns regarding Seattle’s older high-rises, many of which were constructed between the 1960s and 1990s, prior to when the dangers of earthquakes were fully understood. Older high-rises have a greater risk of major damage and collapse due to their fracture-prone welded joints, which are supposed to secure the steel frame, as well as their poorly-reinforced concrete supports. Seattle’s renowned Rainer Tower, for example, with its golf-tee-shaped base, was built in the 1970s and undoubtedly has fracture-prone welds. According to the study, buildings like that are up to five times more likely to collapse during an intense earthquake than a modern building.

In Seattle, where the seismic threat to skyscrapers is higher than in California because of the city's sedimentary basin, there have still been no attempts to research and pinpoint dangerous high-rises. While the city is taking steps forward by enhancing construction standards, retrofitting old concrete and steel high-rises may be the next necessary step. This may prove costly, but taking time to fix the underlying structure of older buildings could prevent serious levels of damage that can be catastrophic to the community.
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Facades+ Seattle will trace the rise of Pacific Northwest design

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Over the last three decades, Seattle has experienced explosive population and economic growth, that has fundamentally reshaped the city’s architectural makeup as well as its AEC community’s relationship to national and international trends. On December 7, Facades+ Seattle will bring together local practitioners in an in-depth conversation around recent projects and innovative facade materials and design. Consider architecture and design practice Olson Kundig. Founded in 1966, the firm has established an international reputation for blending high-performance enclosure systems with the craftsmanship of local artists and artisans. Principal Blair Payson will serve as co-chair for the conference, with other principals of the practice moderating the three panels.
  • Co-Chair Blair Payson, Principal Olson Kundig
  • Firms Olson Kundig Gensler Katerra PAE Front Inc. Werner Sobek Thornton Tomasetti Eckersley O'Callaghan
  • Panels Integrated Envelopes: New Project Delivery Workflows Envelope Performance: Current Trends in Codes, Energy and Comfort Envelope Design: Innovations in Facade Materials and Design
  • Location Seattle
  • Date December 7, 2018
One such project is the recently completed Kirkland Museum in Denver, which features an array of glazed terracotta baguettes produced by NBK Terracotta arranged in a unique alternating pattern, and amber-colored glass inserts produced by small-scale manufacturer John Lewis Glass Studio based out of Oakland, California. The firm collaborated with local sculptor Bob Vangold to embed a sculptural form within the facade. To achieve this effect, the sculpture is anchored along the horizontal roof edge with a series of base plates. On a larger scale, the Olson Kundig-led renovation of Seattle’s Space Needle recently wrapped up after 11 months of sky-high construction. The project entailed the removal of decades of haphazardly designed additions in favor of an open-air viewing area. Working with facade consultants Front Inc., the design team converted floors within the top of the Space Needle to transparent glass panels providing revolving views on the city below, and wrapped the observation deck with 11-by-7-foot, 2.5-inch-thick glass panels produced by Thiele Glas and installed by a team of robots designed by Breedt Production. Just south of Seattle’s Space Needle, the trio of Amazon Spheres consists of approximately 2,500 glass panels suspended over a complex steel truss system. Collaborating with NBBJ Architects, Front Inc. led exhaustive case studies, with the help of custom-built software tools, to develop a glass tiling scheme matching visibility requirements for occupants and light exposure for the greenhouse within. Following the creation of multiple digital models, Front Inc. led the fabrication of full-scale mockups of the design to test the computer-generated models. Representatives of these two firms, as well as Gensler, Katerra, Werner Sobek, Thornton Tomasetti, and Eckersley O'Callaghan, will be on hand to dive deeper into the architectural resources and trends present in both Seattle and the rest of the country. Further information regarding Facades+AM Seattle may be found here.
 
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Olson Kundig’s Space Needle renovations yield pristine 360-degree views 500 feet up

After 11 months of high-flying construction more than 500 feet above Seattle, a team led by Olson Kundig has completed construction on renovations to the historic Space Needle. The so-called “Century Project” nearly doubles the amount of glass coverage on the structure’s flying saucer-shaped Top House, as part of the firm’s efforts to use “subtraction as a guiding design principle,” according to Olson Kundig’s Alan Maskin, the design principal for the renovation. With this goal in mind, the designers worked to remove the uncoordinated detritus left over from previous designs, including the obtrusive aluminum pony walls separating the indoor observation deck from the open-air viewing area. The effort is geared not only toward opening up the Top House to pristine, 360-degree views, but also toward adding elements that were originally intended for the structure but ultimately were not realized. The Space Needle debuted in 1962 with one of the world’s first revolving-floor restaurants, ushering in what would become a global trend in mid-20th-century design. The original opaque revolving floor has been replaced with sheets of tempered structural glass fabricated in Germany by Thiele Glas, an upgrade that provides views straight down to the ground below. The glass floor also allows visitors to peer into the inner workings of the Space Needle itself by highlighting the moving gears and pulleys—something akin to a “huge Swiss watch,” according to Maskin—that bring the rotating floor and elevators to life. Engineering services provided by Arup, Fives Lund, and Magnusson Klemencic Associates were instrumental in the design’s precision-driven focus, which included seismic retrofitting and other tricky structural upgrades. Front Inc. acted as the glazing consultant to Olson Kundig For the duration of the project and collaborated with MKA to engineer the structural glass assemblies for Hoffman Construction, the project’s general contractor. Achieving Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance was another key concern for the renovations. The Seattle Space Needle opened 28 years before ADA regulations took effect and contained areas that were only partially accessible to disabled visitors. With the Century Project, the design team brings full accessibility to the Top House by adding a new central “Oculus Stair” that features dynamic treads that collapse into a platform that can carry individuals between levels as needed. In the observation areas, non-continuous glass benches leave ample room for someone who uses a wheelchair to get right up to the outwardly canted glass barriers that wrap the space. Here, the architects have restored visitors’ ability to peer down over the edge of the saucer, an aspect that was lost with the addition of cumbersome safety gear many years before. The 11-by-7-foot, 2.5-inch-thick glass panels that wrap the observation platform were installed by specially designed robots created by Breedt Production Tooling & Design. The installation, like many other aspects of the renovation, involved navigating “wickedly complex logistics” and a nearly ’round-the-clock schedule. Hurdles for the project included accounting for significant wind deflection in the design and fabrication specifications for many components and designing nearly all components so that they could be transported up the Space Needle’s passenger elevators. Several feats of design and engineering later, the Space Needle’s new views are crystal clear and fully on display for all to see.  
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Olson Kundig completes Seattle Space Needle renovations

Olson Kundig has completed work on the Century Project, a $100 million renovation effort aimed at upgrading and retrofitting the Seattle Space Needle’s iconic Top House. The project comprises the most extensive set of renovations undertaken in the 55-year history of the Space Needle. Changes to the structure include replacing metal panel cladding with floor-to-ceiling glass, replacing the motor for the Top Houses’s rotating restaurant, and reconfiguring the exterior wrap-around observation areas to be more open and transparent. The observation deck platforms have been reconfigured to include integrated benches along exterior partitions made from tempered glass. Here, metallic “caging” barricades have been removed and replaced with tempered glass. The effect is one of sheer transparency, with the Top House now providing unobstructed, 360-degreeds views of the city, which in recent weeks has been choked with smoke that has wafted into the area from nearby wildfires burning in Siberia and Northern California. https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=FL-JmdNnd9Y&app=desktop&persist_app=1 Perhaps the most eye-popping change is that the floors within the Top House have been converted to glass, giving visitors to the rotating restaurant 520-foot high views of the sprawling Emerald City below. The new flooring is made of 10 layers of glass, including a so-called “scuff layer” that can be removed and replaced without compromising the floor’s structural integrity. The spinning floor can rotate at variable speeds and is capable of completing a rotation in anywhere between 20 and 90 minutes, depending on the setting. The project also brings extensive ADA-related upgrades to the pinnacle. New York-based Tihany Design has provided interior design services throughout the project, including for the restaurant. The 600-foot tall structure was originally designed by Edward E. Carlson, architect John Graham, and Victor Steinbrueck for the 1962 World's Fair. When completed, the Space Needle was the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River. The Space Needle is now open to the public.
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How Amazon achieved crystal clarity in its glass domes

NBBJ designed a trio of connected glass orbs with living walls at the new Seattle headquarters for online retail giant Amazon. According to an announcement on Amazon’s blog, the spherical design—a project seven years in the making—was “chosen due to its natural occurrence in nature and as a nod to historic conservatories, like Kew Gardens.” This atypical meeting place away from the typical office towers provides a treehouse-like environment for employees, complete with terraces, water features, soaring staircases, and wooden decking.

The construction required more than 620 tons of steel supported by a burly concrete base to buttress the triangular insulated glass units fashioned from modularized Vitro glass. The open floor plan comprised three spherical units enveloped in Ultra-clear Vitro Starphire low-iron glass, which allows for higher visible light transmission, heightening views from multiple angles. “Iron is what makes glass appear green," said Andre Kenstowicz, Vitro Glass manager on the project. "Low iron Starphire glass eliminates the 'green' hue of traditional clear glass so the only green that you see is from the 300 species of tropical plants inside of the Amazon Spheres.” There are around 40,000 plants in the project.

Like all three domes, the largest is glazed by the contractor Enclos with Vitro’s Solarban Solar Control 60 Low-E coating in double laminate, measuring approximately 90 feet tall and 130 feet wide. All 2,643 panels of glass achieve 73 percent visible light transmittance and a solar heat gain coefficient of 0.40 across the visibly sinuous surface. This film beneath the surface limits the amount of radiation entering and consequently helps the interior to remain a stable, cool temperature.

NBBJ designed this biophilic environment to “inspire creativity and even improve brain function," according to the company’s blog. Luckily the public also has year-round access to the stimulating habitat at the base of the garden in the visitor center. There, in the thick of it, Seattleites can experience biodiversity in the heart of the city.

Architect: NBBJ

Location: Seattle

Structural Engineer: Magnusson Klemencic Associates

Glass Manufacturer: Vitro Architectural Glass, Northwestern Industries, Kuraray

Glass Fabricator:  Northwestern Industries, Inc.

Glazing Contractor: Enclos

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Richard Haag, groundbreaking landscape architect, passes away

Richard Lewis Haag, a pioneering landscape architect known for his groundbreaking experiments in post-industrial landscapes and bioremediation, has passed away at age 94. The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) commemorated Haag’s death in a tribute over the weekend, describing his passing as “a quiet but profound blow to the many colleagues, friends, and admirers whom his life and work touched deeply.” Haag passed away on May 9, 2018 and was well-known around the world for the designs of Seattle's Gas Works Park and the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, among the over 500 other built commissions he completed over his lifetime. Haag was born in 1923 and grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, where he worked for his father, who was a self-trained horticulturist. Having never graduated from high school, the budding Haag enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1945 and served as a radar engineer in the Air Force. After traveling to Morocco, Egypt, China, and India while in the service, Haag returned home to study landscape architecture at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he benefitted from the G.I. Bill. While at U of I, Haag studied under professors Stanley White and Hideo Sasaki, two of the country’s most renowned post-World War II landscape designers. In 1949, Haag transferred to the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture in 1950. From there, he worked for the lansdcape architects Dan Kiley, Osmundson and Staley, and Lawrence Halprin before setting out on his own in 1957.  At this point, Haag relocated to Seattle, where he was instrumental in establishing the landscape architecture program at the University of Washington’s College of Architecture and Urban Planning.  Perhaps best known for his work on Gas Works Park, Haag set a new path in landscape design by choosing to preserve the hulking remains of a disused gas plant on the 19.1-acre site. By converting the hollowed-out industrial shells into a children’s “play barn” and leaving other elements as industrial ruins, Haag blended picturesque and abstract modes into ecologically-minded designs. The designs were among the first in the nation to utilize bio-phytoremediation to clean up the park’s heavily polluted site. The park opened in 1975 and eventually received the American Society of Landscape Architects Presidents Award of Design Excellence. The park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013 and is also listed as a Seattle City Landmark and a Washington State Landmark. TCLF completed a video oral history of Haag’s work in May 2014 that features interviews with Haag at his home and at selected projects in and around Seattle. The history also features written reflections by Haag scholar Thaisa Way and landscape architects Gary Hilderbrand and Michael Van Valkenburgh, among others.  See TCLF’s website for the full tribute. 
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A choice for Seattle: Affordable housing or stadium upgrades?

Officials in King County, Washington, are fighting over whether to funnel $180 million in future tax revenue toward the development of affordable housing or for upgrades to the Seattle Mariners baseball stadium.  The County, which owns Safeco Field where the Mariners play, has been attempting to hammer out a new 25-year lease agreement with the team for the facility for several months and was near a deal as recently as May of this year. That was when King County executive Dow Constantine proposed to earmark roughly $180 million in funds to be generated by a county-wide hotel/motel tax toward the Washington State Major League Baseball Stadium Public Facilities District, the county-administered entity that presides over the stadium, for facilities upgrades. Specifically, The Stranger reports, the funds would be used to pay for maintenance and capital improvements to the building, including, potentially, new concession areas, a new hall of fame space, luxury box upgrades, and additional parking. The $180 million in public funds would augment $205 million in private funding provided by the team toward renovations for the 19-year-old stadium.  The hotel/motel tax was originally enacted to help pay off debt resulting from public financing for the construction of the nearby CenturyLink Field football stadium in the late 1990s. The football stadium was designed by Ellerbe Becket, LMN Architects, and Streeter & Associates and currently hosts the Seattle Seahawks NFL team and Seattle Sounders MLS team. Famously, the new stadium replaced the mid-century modern-era Seattle Kingdome, which was designed by architects Naramore, Skilling, & Praeger in 1972 and was spectacularly imploded in 2000. The Seattle Times reports that the debt for CenturyLink Field will be paid off in 2020 and that following that, state law requires 75% of the funds generated by the motel-hotel tax be divided evenly between affordable housing and arts-focused initiatives. The remainder is up for targeted but ultimately discretionary use. Constantine argues that the funds should be earmarked for tourism-supporting initiatives—including stadium renovations, as proposed—but other King County Council members would rather see the funds diverted toward helping to alleviate the County’s raging housing and homelessness crisis. The disagreement has escalated in recent weeks as the Mariners have hinted that the viability of their long-term lease is contingent on the $180 million hand out, though the team has not explicitly threatened to move from Seattle if a deal can’t be worked out. In particular, Councilman Dave Upthegrove opposes Constantine’s funding request and has argued publicly for funneling the $180 million toward housing based partly on the idea that the team—worth $1.45 billion, according to Forbes—can afford the repairs itself.  Upthegrove told The Seattle Times, “There is no reason they would walk away from a business enterprise that is generating so much wealth for them. The threat is nonsense.” Upthegrove continued: “We have a simple choice—We can invest this money in public needs, or we can use it to allow these business owners to make even more money.”  After a council meeting last week, support for the housing plan seemed shaky among councilmembers, but as the week wore on, some officials began to rethink their options. A recent report by The Seattle Times added fuel to the fire by questioning whether public money should go toward pricey luxury box upgrades and other high-end line items. There are currently over 12,000 Seattleites experiencing homelessness according to the most recent count, and while regional efforts to boost affordable housing production have ramped up over the last two years, the efforts have done little yet to change housing conditions for a significant portion of that population. There is an urgent need for affordable housing in the region and local leaders are trying a variety of outside-the-box approaches as they attempt to boost affordability. The latest tussle over affordable housing funding comes weeks after Seattle’s corporate elite, including Amazon, Starbucks, and Microsoft, successfully pushed back against a proposed “head tax” that would have levied a modest fee on major employers in the city to fund housing efforts. As far as the Mariners plan is concerned, the King County Council met last week with no resolution on the issue. Additional meetings are scheduled for late August and throughout the Fall.