Historic Auto Row garage on Capitol Hill reopens as boutique office space

A former automotive garage built during Seattle’s Auto Row era is now home to nearly 15,000 square feet of renovated open office space.

Architect Graham Baba designed the renovations for client and developer Asana Partners who purchased the building at 1617 Boylston Ave. in 2019. At the time of purchase, it was home to a co-working space for Office Nomads. The new boutique office space is split across three levels (the lower, main, and upper).

The Boylston Garage dates back to 1921, a time when Capitol Hill was bustling with automotive shops, showrooms, and garages. Getting the historic building ready for its next phase of life involved excavation as much as restoration and upgrades. In a social media post, Graham Baba explained how much of the building’s original construction and brick and heavy timber structure had survived in good condition behind decades of renovation and modification which provided an opportunity “to rediscover and celebrate the existing character of the property both inside and out.”

For example, at the upper level, an attic floor was removed to reveal original eight-foot-tall timber trusses within an 18-foot-high space. Skylights, which were boarded up long ago to give way to low-maintenance artificial lighting, have also been restored and additional skylights added, bathing this level in openness and natural light.

Unlike many of Capitol Hill’s Auto Row era buildings where only the facade has been preserved, at the Boylston Garage original elements shine throughout and are thoughtfully juxtaposed with more modern finishes and fixtures. The building’s primary entry vestibule is located at the southeast corner of the site which was originally the vehicle entry and ramp to the garage. You enter into a small lobby space that provides access to a stair and elevator via an accessible ramp up to the building’s main level. The main level has 14-foot-high ceilings exposing original three-foot-deep heavy timber beams and a nail-laminated deck above. The lower level is highlighted by 12-foot-high ceilings and unique exposed column assemblies, with the office oriented to take advantage of natural light along the West facade.

To bring the building up to current energy code requirements, much of the interior brick had to be insulated and covered, but pilasters along the East wall are left featured and exposed.

New storefront windows and entry doors have been set into the existing brick facade to better connect the main level to Boylston Ave. In addition to the primary entry is a second entry that opens directly into the main level, with a third at the Northeast corner of the property entering an additional enclosed stair.

The historic building has also received a seismic upgrade with new large steel seismic braces at the interior along the East and West walls as well as fully upgraded building systems, including HVAC, and a new energy efficient building envelope.

All of the space at the Boylston Garage, which is pitched as “creative office space,” is currently up for grabs. Newmark is the leasing agent. Newmark is also listing approximately 4,500 square feet of office space for Asana at the nearby 610 E. Pine St. building, which Asana purchased at the same time as 1617 Boylston. Current tenants in that mixed-use property include the original Rudy’s Barbershop location and “waste-less” grocery store, The Naked Grocer, which opened last summer.

The project team for the Boylston Garage also includes Dovetail, general contractor; Swenson Say Faget, structural engineer; and SparkLab Lighting Design, lighting.

 

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IMAGE CREDITS

Lara Swimmer and Graham Baba

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