Convention Center hopes to spark a comeback in downtown Seattle

Jan 25, 2023, 1:20 PM | Updated: Jan 26, 2023, 11:05 am
convention center...
The Summit is the new expansion of the Seattle Convention Center that opens this week. (Courtesy LMN Architects)
(Courtesy LMN Architects)

It has been a while since good news came out of downtown Seattle, but the opening of the Convention Center expansion is, by any standard, a huge step forward.

The new Summit Building, with a $2 billion price tag, more than doubles the event space at the Seattle Convention Center (SCC), by adding an additional 573,770 square feet to the original Arch building’s 434,988 square feet.

“The building really is an architectural statement, but it’s also very, very functional,” SCC President and CEO Jeff Blosser told MyNorthwest. “What we really want to do is have repeat business come back to the city.”

Swimming against the tide

The opening comes in the middle of an exodus of some 500 businesses from downtown, including the recent announcements of Niketown and Regal Cinemas leaving. However, according to the SCC, the Center turned away over 300 potential events due to the unavailability of space.

“I think the new building allows for us to be able to generate additional bodies in the downtown core, along with the waterfront redevelopment; we think that come to the end of this year and ’24, we really have the ability to have a brand new downtown,” Blosser said. “We think that’s going to be part of the process to reinvigorate the tap downtown core, with the city as well.”

Downtown Seattle Nike store to close at the end of the week

The SCC is now 14 stories high and extends between Pine Street and Olive Way. The Hillclimb, a gradually sloping, continuous madrone wood staircase, ascends most of the length and height of the building.

Many people know it as a big glass box hanging over I-5 in downtown Seattle. It is in the heart of downtown near several large hotels, however, entertainment options are shrinking. The expansion was funded by a 7% fee on hotel rooms in the city and a 2.8% tax on hotel rooms in King County.

Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce CEO Rachel Smith told KIRO Newsradio she believes this is a big deal and great for the city. “I believe the next 10 years will bring a bigger change to the region than the World’s Fair or Forward Thrust (the 1968 initiative that supported public transit, parks, and low-income housing, among other things), and it all begins with the expansion Convention Center opening.”

Public event on Friday

People will get a chance to see the new structure this Friday between 1-6 p.m. at a public event. It’s free with registration.

The SCC is also a conduit between several Seattle neighborhoods: Denny Triangle, Capitol Hill, First Hill, and the downtown retail core. “We think that this building has provided a really nice connection there for all those and improved the situation. That helps people to get around,” Blosser explained.

$93 million of construction costs went to a public benefits program, according to Blosser. “$10 million for the renovation of Freeway Park and $40 million worth of low-income housing development. We’re redoing and helping improve the pedestrian and the bikeway for Pike and Pine all the way down to the waterfront,” he said.

“So a lot of effort went into giving back to the community to make sure that we were part of that and really had a huge benefit relative to the Convention Center construction.”

Summit is projected to achieve LEED Gold certification, which means using environmentally friendly-design elements during the construction and in operations.

“It [will] be a Seattle icon for sure,” Blosser said.

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Convention Center hopes to spark a comeback in downtown Seattle