70 Years of the Federal Reserve Building (Seattle)

70 Years of the Federal Reserve Building (Seattle)

The Federal Reserve Building in Downtown Seattle Turns 70 This Year — Just in Time For its Reopening in the Fall

At Martin Selig Real Estate, we’re proud to develop iconic buildings that shape Seattle’s skyline. But we also recognize the nobility in redeveloping older buildings and breathing new life into our shared, historic landmarks. One such project is our redevelopment of The Federal Reserve Bank Building (Seattle).

The Federal Reserve Building was completed in 1950, marking 70 years in Seattle this year. To honor its seven decades, we’re taking a look at the history of this Pacific Northwest icon.

1914: The Federal Reserve Bank is Established


Historic building in Seattle
The Baillargeon Building, circa 1909. Image source: Public domain.

In 1914, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco was established to serve the twelfth district of the United States. The twelfth district is the largest by area and population, serving more than 1.3 million square miles across Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

The Seattle branch opened three years later (1917), originally located in the Baillargeon Building on the Northeast corner of Second Avenue and Spring Street. The bank remained in this building for more than 30 years before plans for a permanent and more secure building were discussed.

1950: The Federal Reserve Building Opens to the Public

Historic building in Seattle
The Federal Reserve Building, 1950. Image source: The Seattle Public Library.

Plans for a new building at 1015 Second Avenue began in 1948, officially gaining approval from the City of Seattle in 1949. The six-story building was designed in the post-war modernist style by architecture firm NBBJ for a project total of $2.5 million.

2008: The Federal Reserve Building Retires

Historic building in Seattle
A vacant Federal Reserve Building, 2009. Image source: Public domain.

Due to minor damage sustained during the 2001 Nisqually earthquake and outdated pre-9/11 security features, the Federal Reserve began looking for a new location for the bank, and in 2008, the Seattle branch of the San Francisco Fed officially moved to Renton, Washington.

On February 20 of that year the Seattle building was retired and deemed “no longer adequate for efficient operations” by Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Donald Kohn. After more than four years of vacancy, the building’s ownership was transferred to the General Services Administration in 2012 with the hopes of a possible sale.

2015: A New Future for the Federal Reserve Building

City street at night
The Federal Reserve Building, 2018.

At the end of the 2014, the Federal Reserve Building was sold through a public auction. The auction lasted approximately two months, closing with a winning bid by Martin Selig Real Estate for $16 million.

2018: Upgrades to the Federal Reserve Building

Lobby of building with marble
The remodeled lobby of the Federal Reserve Building with original marble; renovated in 2018.

In 2018, the Federal Reserve Building celebrated its second groundbreaking. Construction began with interior demolitions and rebuilds to improve the structure and integrity of the building.

The Federal Reserve Building has too much history to lose, a stance Mr. Selig was firm on when he purchased the building, and many original elements of the building have been carefully preserved. The original marble and stone in the lobby was photographed, removed, catalogued and stored. Now replaced to appear like new, the lobby generates the same feeling of energy and productivity as it did 70 years ago. Similarly, the original limestone on the building’s façade has been cleaned, stored and re-attached, mirroring its appearance from 1950.

An open bank vault door
The preserved bank vault of the Federal Reserve Building; renovated in 2018.

Perhaps the most unique part of the Federal Reserve Building is its two-story, underground bank vaults. These vaults were installed for increased protection and were kept hidden from the public, so very few people knew of this secret security measure confined within the Federal Reserve Building’s basement. During renovations, the vault doors had to remain in place and reinforced by nearly three-foot cement walls to ensure the vaults are up to current code. There is no set plan for the current vault space, so tenants of this building will have a completely one-of-a-kind space to let their creativity flow.

2020: The Federal Reserve Building Reopens

Rendering of a building at night
The future of the Federal Reserve Building, set to open in fall 2020. Rendering and design by Perkins + Will.

The redevelopment of the Federal Reserve Building is set to complete in the fall of 2020. Over the past year, the building has celebrated many milestones — such as the topping out in December 2019 and the installation of the curtainwall in February 2020 — and received seismic upgrades to ensure the new Federal Reserve Building will be a standing landmark for decades to come.

Once complete, over 200,000 square feet of Class-A commercial office space will be available for single or multi-tenant use. Tenants will enjoy pet friendly offices, rooftop decks, and convenient transit access in the heart of Seattle’s downtown.

Still slated to open according to schedule, the MSRE team is honored to provide Seattleites a state-of-the-art office building atop this historic landmark. Future tenants will work in a space that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places yet boasts modern office conveniences and comfort. If you’re interested in viewing space in the newly restored Federal Reserve Building, contact one of our leasing specialists today.

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