Richard Hedreen purchased a three-quarter block, L-shaped parcel in Seattle’s downtown district in 1995, but his plans were not revealed until 2008. The developer wanted to construct a 51-story 500-foot hotel with meeting rooms, restaurants and convention space.
The nationwide recession beginning in 2009 caused the project to be canceled, and in 2012, Hedreen purchased the remaining land on the block. Finally, in 2018, Hedreen’s vision that surfaced 23 years prior opened its doors. The 45-story Hyatt Regency Seattle, with 1,260 guest rooms and 103,000 square feet of meeting space, finally opened. It also closed the book on one of Seattle’s most highly-anticipated projects. The hotel is the largest in the Pacific Northwest.
Designed by LMN Architects, the hotel faced an unusual number of hurdles, including the city’s design review process. The site was also the location of the city’s long-standing Greyhound Bus Station—a site that had been reviewed as a possible historical landmark—leases needed to be bought out and some tenants in apartments on the block where the hotel was built required relocation assistance.
The final project, however, closely resembles the plan that Hedreen envisioned. “We wanted to create a visitor experience that was authentic to the ethos of Seattle, allowing guests to be immersed in the culture of the Pacific Northwest,” says Stephen Van Dyck, Design Partner for LMN Architects. “Establishing an inviting experience into the hotel, the design honors a vital connection to its surroundings while transforming the site into a dynamic and inviting ‘living room’ in the heart of our city.”
In a congested inner-city, it can frequently be hard to find space. That is not the case at the Hyatt Regency, where guests and meeting participants will discover more than enough elbow room.
Examples? Start with the Presidential Suite, which includes more than 1,700 square feet on the top floor with a separate bedroom, living room, dining room, workspace, butler’s pantry, large bathrooms and oversized windows featuring sweeping city views.
The Summit Suite includes 1,275 square feet, which is still larger than some single-family homes in the housing-starved community. Rooms in the Executive Suite (800-1,100 square feet) and the Regency Suite (500-725 square feet) are also plush.
Guests can also enjoy a fitness center outfitted with Peloton bikes and other state-of-the-art exercise equipment, a lounge with firepits, large modern bathrooms, 65-inch televisions and a collection of black-and-white photos captured by six Seattle-based photographers that highlight the beauty of the Northwest Region.
The lower levels include two sit-down restaurants, bars and shops. Two ballrooms each have more than 19,000 square feet of space with ceilings that stretch as high as 30 feet. The high-end Deschutes Executive Boardroom, featuring a private balcony, can accommodate 24 people. Eight pre-function spaces range up to 7,022 square feet, and an additional 46 meeting rooms ranging from 600 to 1,900 square feet include floor-to-ceiling windows.
Meeting rooms were a critical need for the hotel, which is two blocks from the Washington State Convention Center and adjacent to The Summit, a planned convention center expansion that is scheduled to open in 2022.
An eight-story podium serves as the base for the tower, which includes ground-level retail, an art-filled hotel lobby and a pedestrian and vehicular passage area through the podium.
“This project required great attention to proportion and scale throughout, balancing the interplay between intimate private moments and large social events,” Van Dyck says. “Additionally, the site required stacking the program vertically and placing the tower on the south corner of the block due to the challenge, dense commercial high-rises of downtown and the convention center addition while framing the Olive and Howell Street triangle as a significant space in the shifted urban street grid.”
The hotel received LEED Gold certification, the second-highest building rating in the world, and is the only LEED Gold-certified hotel in Seattle.
“We have committed to reducing our impact on the environment through operations,” says Shauna Decker, VP of Design & Development for Hedreen. “We made the decision to eliminate the individual amenities in the guestroom (shampoo, body wash, conditioner) in lieu of a dispenser in the shower filled with beautiful products for our guests. I figured it would eliminate more than one million plastic bottles going to the landfill every year.”
Other environment-friendly measures included installing a light-colored roof to reduce the urban heat-island effect, and incorporating a highly-efficient laundry system that captures both heat and water after use to reduce the need for additional energy to preheat incoming water to the laundry system.
Construction teams also designed mechanical and lighting systems that reduce the building’s energy usage, uses waste heat from the chiller to heat hotel spaces and incorporates recycled content in more than 20 percent of the products used in its construction.
“Building sustainability is a strong core value of ours,” Decker says, “and frankly in order to represent Seattle appropriately, we had to make the commitment early to achieving LEED Gold for the Hyatt Regency Seattle.”
Customized hatches ensure reliable roof access
Atop the structure are four custom-made roof hatches manufactured by The BILCO Company. The roof hatches are equipped with snow sensors and motorized operation. They also include safety railing systems.
The roof hatches were integral to the design of the hotel by the architectural team. “That’s what they specified, and we were able to install them without any difficulty,” says Chris Chesire, Managing Partner for RC Building Specialties, who worked on the project as a subcontractor for Sellen Construction.
LMN Architects had been knowledgeable about BILCO from work on previous projects. “BILCO’s reputation as an industry leader and the company’s ability to accommodate the sizes needed in a timely matter were almost assuredly important factors for LMN,” says Lisa Stevens of GVA Northwest, which procured the hatches for RC Building Specialties.
Boom times in Seattle
The addition of the Hyatt Regency Seattle helps illustrate the city’s rise as a growing metropolis. In 1960, the city was not ranked among the top 20 cities in the United States in population. Even just 40 years ago, it was ranked 20th, and in 2010, it ranked 14th.
But since 2010, the population in Seattle has soared 22 percent, making it the fastest-growing big-city of the past decade. The city’s population grew by 2.1 percent from 2017-18, the second highest total among big U.S. cities. It has ranked among the top five fastest-growing cities for six consecutive years.
Businesses have also settled in Seattle. Six Fortune 500 companies are located in the city, including Amazon, Starbucks and Microsoft. In January, Google announced it was expanding again in the Seattle area, giving the tech giant two million square feet of space across the region. It has 4,500 employees in the area.
As population and employment grow, so does the need for hotel space. A record 2,192 hotel rooms opened in the city in 2018—more than the rest of the decade combined—in seven hotels. It is expected that from 2017 until the end of 2021, the city will have expanded its hotel room capacity by more than 5,200 rooms.
“Hyatt’s growth strategy directly correlates to where our customers and guests tell us where they want us to be,” said Tom Wolf, the hotel general manager. “Hyatt Regency Seattle’s location bodes well for success given its well-appointed location within downtown, proximity to Washington State Convention Center, and adjacency to two Grand Hyatt Seattle and Hyatt at Olive 8. Collectively, all three hotels can accommodate more than 2,000 guests.”
But as the city grows, it is also important to its citizens and officials to remember its diversity. The Hyatt Regency Seattle offers distinct experiences that help make the city one of the most unique in the U.S.
“The building design was not intended to reflect diversity, but to frame and host a diversity of experiences,” Van Dyck says. “We designed very flexible spaces to allow for a wide range of uses throughout the building—as such it has already become a natural home for many of the city’s most significant economic, cultural and culinary experiences. It is also open, welcoming and accessible along the street edge, and has knit itself into the fabric of people’s everyday lives.”
Thomas Renner writes on building, construction and other trade industry topics.