Space Case

Workers demand a range of experiences in the workplace

By Zach Zaborowski April 20, 2023

Zach Zaborowski

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2023 issue of Seattle magazine.

The responsibility of the workplace is to double as a dynamic community hub where work and life intersect — always for the better. In conceptualizing the positioning of a property, owners should focus on incorporating the best elements of work, home, and hospitality into the experience, establishing the workplace as a destination.

Workers themselves are largely driving the “office of the future.” A survey by global architecture, design, and planning firm Gensler found that “office workers seek a different mix of experiences” from their work environment. In total, 83% of more than 2,000 workers surveyed said they would return to the office more if their workspaces offered more than just a desk and a chair.

Developers across the United States are transforming many iconic properties to reflect the way people want to work and interact. At EQ, we recently completed the redevelopment of 800 Fifth and the repositioning of U.S. Bank Center (USBC) — both premier buildings in downtown Seattle that should resonate with tenants and support what they are seeking in today’s environment.

The USBC project is nearly complete and includes a new street-level public retail space named Cedar Hall that was created with the modern workforce in mind. Visitors can meet for yoga, stay for lunch, and grab an espresso in one central location.

In addition to the retail and amenity updates, USBC will feature local art throughout the building and will include the reinstallation of two of the building’s largest original pieces, as well as newly curated art from more than 50 artists with ties to the Northwest arts community. The property will also include a new tenant lobby, exclusive conferencing facilities, event spaces and lounges, and a modernized fitness center.

To bring the plans to life, we partnered with local architecture and design firm SkB Architects. Kyle Gaffney, one of the company’s founders, had clear intentions for the design.

“Our vision for USBC is to connect greater Seattle with this building and its rich history,” Gaffney says. “Inspired by the grand halls of train stations and layered with a Pacific Northwest ethos, we have designed a sensory-rich environment for both USBC tenants and the Seattle community.”

Just a few blocks away is the recently completed redevelopment of 800 Fifth which, once again, is the result of a collaborative partnership with a local design firm, Olson Kundig.

The design approach for 800 Fifth influenced new amenities that foster collaboration, creativity, and community, including a new 16,200-square-foot entry, and a 15,800-square-foot public garden and plaza with an inviting outdoor fireplace and event space. The Class A tower sits within easy walking distance of the Seattle waterfront, Pike Place Market, and the downtown retail core.

That project offers a similar connection between workforce and community, complete with a public garden and plaza with outdoor fireplace and event space.

“Particularly important for 800 Fifth are the revitalized areas that provide spaces for both public and private uses, connecting the workforce to a reinvigorated central business district,” says Kirsten Ring Murray, FAIA, design principal at Olson Kundig.

Creating memorable experiences must be at the forefront of design plans for all properties in Seattle. Ongoing investment in downtown Seattle spans across other notable properties, including The Exchange, a 22-story, Class A high-rise office building originally completed in 1929 to house the Seattle Stock Exchange. It was converted to office space following the market crash and received landmark status in 1990.

Local art is a consistent facet at all of EQ’s Seattle properties. Some of the most powerful examples of art in the workplace are happening on the street level of major office buildings, such as 999 Third Avenue and The Exchange. We believe it is vital to include art in the workplace and give a voice to local artists from within the community.

A case study in that is Bianco Gallery at 999 Third, a multiuse exhibition space that fosters a diverse community of multi-generational artists as part of our EQ Impact platform. The program provides local artists and creators an opportunity to showcase their work through neighborhood activations at our properties.

The goal of tomorrow’s workplace should be to match the city’s vibrancy and establish community hubs, creating a place where people want to be. By highlighting the influences of art and culture, in addition to creating a connection between the building and the surrounding community, owners can create premier workplaces with access to new amenities, retail, and public gathering spaces.

Zach Zaborowski is senior vice president, Pacific Northwest Market lead, at EQ Office, a Chicago-based real estate investment company wholly owned by Blackstone’s real estate funds. EQ owns 80 office properties across the U.S.

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