AKA: United States Federal Court, Courthouse #2, Downtown, Seattle, WA; US Federal Courthouse #2, Downtown, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - public buildings - courthouses

Designers: Absher Construction Company (firm); CBG Consulting Engineers (firm); Erection Company, Incorporated (firm); Jones, J.A., Construction Company, Incorporated (firm); Magnusson Klemencic Associates (MKA) Structural + Civil Engineers (firm); Naramore, Bain, Brady, and Johanson, (NBBJ) (firm); Skilling Ward Magnusson Barkshire, (SWMB), Incorporated, Engineers (firm); Sparling Electrical Engineering (firm); Daniel Absher (building contractor); William James Bain Jr. (architect); William James Bain Sr. (architect); Arthur J. Barkshire (structural engineer); Clifton J. Brady (architect); Douglas Brown (structural engineer); Brian Dickson (civil engineer); James R. Duncan (electrical engineer); Perry Bertil Johanson (architect); Adam Jones (building contractor); J. A. Jones (building contractor); Ronald Klemencic (structural engineer); Jon Magnusson (structural engineer); Steven McConnell (architect); Floyd Archibald Naramore (architect); John Bower Skilling (structural engineer); James Tully (architect); William D. Ward (structural engineer)

Dates: constructed 2001-2004

19 stories, total floor area: 679,752 sq. ft.

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700 Stewart Street
Downtown, Seattle, WA 98101-1271

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The US 9th District Court, Western District of Washington, outgrew its facilities in the old courthouse at 1010 5th Avenue by the 1990s, and planning began at that time to build a large-scale skyscraper that could contain the court and its various departments. The building is composed of three main parts: a central block 390-feet-tall, a long, wedge-shaped wing on the east, and a shorter, rectangular appendage jutting from its west side.Construction on the $1.7 million courthouse was completed in 2004.

Building History

Perched on a reinforced concrete base, this 390-foot-tall steel and glass skyscraper possessed 19 stories above ground and two below, and contained 679,752 gross square feet. (Some sources list it at 614,996 square feet of gross floor area, although the 679,752 figure comes from the General Services Administration [GSA].)The Federal Government's Judicial Branch was the building's original tenant, the US 9th District Court, Western District of Washington. The facility opened on 08/17/2004.

A GSA web site described the building:"The 9th District Court operates out of the building, which houses a total of 18 courtrooms, including 12 district courtrooms, five bankruptcy courtrooms and one special proceedings courtroom. The 9th District Court serves California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands. The main court library resides on the 19th floor adjacent to a fully integrated IT conference suite. The primary tenant, the Judicial Branch, includes the U.S. District Court, Bankruptcy Court, and Probation Services. In support of the court functions, the U.S. Attorneys, U.S. Marshals and the Trustees also share space." (See General Services Administration.gov, “Fact Sheet Seattle United States Courthouse,” accessed 09/29/2020.)

The courthouse stood on a two-acre site, flanked by 7th Avenue on the west, 8th Avenue on the east, Stewart Street on the south and Virginia Street on the north. It was situated nearby to the Denny Triangle and South Lake Union neighborhoods, the epicenters of Amazon.com’s explosive growth during the 2000s and 2010s. A one-acre, landscaped plaza occupied the site’s southern side. A series of impediments--including a row of steel bollards, a grove of birch trees and three flights of steps--protected the main entrance on Stewart Streeti, all designed to impede an attack by car or truck. This design solution/security precaution became required following the World Trade Center and related attacks of 09/11/2001.

The Seattle architectural firm of NBBJ won the coveted commission for the Western District Courthouse. Steven McConnell, served as a Lead Principal for the architects, NBBJ. Brian Dickson worked as the Project Manager for the structural engineers, Skilling Ward Magnusson Barkshire (SWMB). Construction led by general contractor Absher Construction Company of Puyallup WA, occurred between 2001 and 2004.

Budgets for the courthouse project dwindled during the planning stages, as controversies over the costs of other Federal courthouses affected the Seattle project. Maureen O'Hagan wrote in the Seattle Times: "Along the way, torrents of criticism hit other new federal court buildings around the country, where the digs were seen as too lavish and the space excessive. Two investigations revealed that federal judges elsewhere had revised the design guidebook that sets parameters for court projects, giving themselves such things as bigger chambers and better décor. The fallout from this excessive spending led to a scaling back of the Seattle courthouse, from a $260 million projected cost to today's construction cost of about $171 million. The whole project, which hinged on the whims of Congress, seemed at times on the brink of oblivion. Finally, after years of tantalizing promises, Congress appropriated the money to build the structure in 2000." (See Maureen O'Hagan, Seattle Times.com, "U.S. Courthouse opens Aug. 17 with plenty of concrete, steel and security," published 08/05/2004, accessed 09/30/2020.)

Building Notes

The United States Courthouse #3, Seattle, WA consisted of a 19-story building (390 feet high) and a connected 17-story tower set on a 2.7-acre site; the interior contained 615,000 square feet to accommodate the U.S. District Court for the Western District of the State of Washington and other U.S. Federal security and administrative agencies. Due to its unusual redundant support system, the building cost a substantial $156 million. In addition to the standard steel frame, the engineers, Skilling, Ward, Magnusson, Barkshire (later known as Magnusson Klemencic Associates) designed an integrated system of cables that could support the courthouse in case of an explosion or other destructive event.

Absher Construction Company associated with J.A. Jones of Charlotte, NC, on the design of acted as General Contractors. Jim Duncan of Sparling Electrical Engineering undertook the electrical engineering. CBG Consulting Engineering worked on the mechanical engineering of the courthouse and BRC Acoustics and Technology Consulting worked on the building's acoustics and mechanical noise control for courtrooms, jury deliberation rooms, and U.S. Marshal interview spaces.

This building won a 2004 GSA Design Awards for Architecture and Interior Design and Construction Excellence. Peter Walker and Partners handled the landscape architecture, including a sculpture located in front called "Pillar Arc"; Designers located sod and other plants on the roof; this green roof was designed to use rainwater and inhibit it from overloading the city's sewer system.

The American Institute of Architects, Seattle Chapter, presented NBBJ a Commendation for its design of the courthouse in 2004.

Sources associate 19, 21 and 23 stories to the building. While the building has the height of a 23-story tower, it contains only 19 stories, due to double-height floors used for courtroom spaces.

In 2020, the US District Court Clerk's Office was located in Suite #2310. The US Marshals Service was situated in Suite #9000.

PCAD id: 3309