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Originally published September 25, 2012 at 9:11 PM | Page modified September 26, 2012 at 12:30 PM

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City board OKs design of Amazon's 3 towers with 3-2 vote

First key approval for giant high-rise complex in Seattle’s Denny Triangle

Seattle Times business reporter

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A divided Downtown Design Review Board gave its blessing Tuesday to the design of Amazon.com’s proposed three-block, high-rise complex in the Denny Triangle, downtown’s biggest development ever.

While the advisory panel’s 3-2 vote was simply a recommendation to the city’s Department of Planning and Development, it nonetheless is a milestone for the ambitious project.

The board held five meetings over six months to review evolving plans submitted by Amazon’s architect, NBBJ.

The two dissenters said they still weren’t satisfied with the design of the buildings on one of the blocks.

“This whole process has been rushed,” said board member Mathew Albores. Considering its size, the complex hasn’t received as much attention as other downtown projects, he said.

The majority directed city staff to work with Amazon and NBBJ to further refine the design of the one tower to which panel members Albores and Gundula Proksch objected.

Amazon has proposed a total 3.3 million square feet of office space, with a 38-story tower and a smaller building on each of the three blocks.

Plans also call for 66,000 square feet of shop and restaurant space, underground parking for 3,300 cars and 1.7 acres of public open space.

The three blocks are bounded roughly by Sixth Avenue, Blanchard Street and Westlake Avenue.

The Department of Planning and Development will consider the review board’s recommendation as it examines Amazon’s application for a land-use permit for the complex, which the company has dubbed Rufus 2.0 after a former employee’s dog.

A decision could come in late November, department spokesman Bryan Stevens said.

Amazon has indicated it hopes to start construction on the first block next year.

The department also will review the project’s environmental impact and the “public benefits” Amazon proposes in return for permission to build as densely as it proposes.

Among other things, Amazon has offered to fund acquisition of a fourth car for the South Lake Union streetcar, which runs past the proposed complex; subsidize more frequent streetcar service; and build bikeways separated from both pedestrians and cars along Seventh Avenue, which runs through the middle of the site.

Also proposed: a “shared-use street” on Lenora Street between Seventh and Westlake avenues.

It would remain open to cars but would be designed to give pedestrians and bicyclists priority.

Stevens said the planning department can’t act on Amazon’s land-use permit application until the City Council agrees to vacate alleys that bisect each of the three blocks.

A council committee held a hearing on the alleys Tuesday. A decision on them could come in late October or early November, Stevens said.

Amazon also still needs building permits before it can start construction.

The online retailer has estimated 12,000 people will work at Rufus 2.0 when all three blocks are built out.

It also has indicated its purchase of the property from Seattle’s Clise Properties is expected to close by the end of the year.

Eric Pryne: epryne@seattletimes.com or 206-464-2231

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