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Pacific Tower (Seattle)

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Pacific Tower
A brick-clad Art Deco-style building
Pacific Tower in 2012
Pacific Tower (Seattle) is located in Seattle WA Downtown
Pacific Tower (Seattle)
Location within downtown Seattle
Alternative namesPacific Medical Center
Pacific Hospital Preservation and Development Authority
US Marine Hospital
PacMed Building
General information
TypeHealth facility
Former hospital
Former corporate headquarters
Architectural styleArt Deco
Location1200 12th Avenue South
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
Coordinates47°35′34″N 122°18′57″W / 47.5928°N 122.3158°W / 47.5928; -122.3158Coordinates: 47°35′34″N 122°18′57″W / 47.5928°N 122.3158°W / 47.5928; -122.3158
Elevation350 ft (110 m)
Height239 ft (73 m)
Technical details
Floor count16
Floor area259,703 sq ft (24,127.2 m2)

The Pacific Tower, formerly the Pacific Medical Center, is a 16-story building at 1200 12th Avenue South on Beacon Hill in Seattle, Washington, United States. It was completed in 1932 and opened the following year as a U.S. Public Health Service facility.[1] The lower floors of the facility still function as a medical center today. occupied much of the building as its headquarters from 1999 until 2010. Much of the space was left vacant after Amazon relocated to South Lake Union. In 2013, the state of Washington agreed to a 30-year lease of 13 floors. Seattle Central College subleases six floors for its healthcare training program.

The building was designed by Carl Frelinghuysen Gould of Bebb and Gould with assistance from John Graham & Company, and built in a distinctive Art Deco style. The structure is perched on a hill overlooking downtown Seattle and is a prominent part of the city's skyline. It has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places[2] and has been recognized as a landmark by the City of Seattle. The building was retrofitted to better withstand an earthquake in the 1990s; however, portions of the building suffered significant damage during the 2001 Nisqually earthquake.


Marine Hospital[edit]

The building was opened in 1933 by the U.S. government as a U.S. Public Health Service Marine Hospital,[3] replacing a facility in Port Townsend. Upon opening it had a total of 312 beds. The hospital originally served veterans, merchant seamen, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Lighthouse Service, and poor and indigent people defined as "federal compensation cases". In 1951, it was re-designated as a Public Health Service Hospital along with all other Marine Hospitals. Two years later, a three-story annex was constructed on the east end of the building to serve outpatient clinics. Two stair towers were added to the south face in 1975. The building was further expanded in 1980, when a laboratory and primary care addition were built.[4]

Office building[edit]

The federal government ceased operation of the facility and other similar hospitals in 1981. Control was shifted to the City of Seattle, and the city chartered the Pacific Hospital Preservation and Development Authority (PHPDA).[4] The PHPDA owns the property and uses long-term tenants with leases. Lease revenues are to advance the PHPDA's mission of providing health care services to low-income uninsured and under-insured persons in King County. The lease agreement with WRC.Com Tower LLC was signed in 1998 and was terminated in 2012.[5]

A $9.3 million county bond paid for seismic improvements between 1991 and 1994. A new tower was constructed on the north side of the building to create a buttress for the original structure. The addition was designed by architects Zimmer Gunsul Frasca, and received an award from the American Institute of Architects for its innovative design that was inline with the building's historical facade.[6] The project created 70,000 sq ft (6,500 m2) of additional space that was not initially occupied.[7] As the medical organization struggled financially, attempts to lease at least 155,000 sq ft (14,400 m2) of the building failed over the course of several years. With medical facilities continuing to occupy the bottom two floors of the building in 1998, signed a sublease for $1.5 million a year through 2010.[3][6]

The building on the edge of a wooded hill
The building on the edge of Beacon Hill

The building suffered substantial damage during the 2001 Nisqually earthquake as the structure's upper floor twisted in a corkscrew fashion. On the top three floors, 80 percent of the perimeter walls were damaged. A brick pinnacle on the upper roof collapsed and fell through a roof on the 10th floor. An elevator shaft and five floors were flooded when a mechanical water line ruptured.[3] There were no injuries but it was estimated that the repairs would cost $6 million.[8] During repairs, efforts were made to reuse the brick and terracotta, and the same colors and style were sourced when replacement was needed.[3]

Amazon continued to occupy their floors during rehabilitation of the structure. In 2003, the clinical group practice of the PHPDA officially split off to form a 501(c)3 health care organization, PacMed Clinics (doing business as Pacific Medical Centers or PMC). The Pacific Medical Center Clinic continues to operate in the first two floors of the building. In 2010, ended its sub-lease with WRC.Com Tower LLC and began the move of its headquarters to a new campus in the city's South Lake Union neighborhood.[9][10] Much of the building was left vacant without new tenants moving into the space. The location outside of downtown Seattle was a constraint for businesses.[11]

Washington State House Speaker Frank Chopp spearheaded a plan to use government funding to move community college health programs into the building.[12] In August 2013, the PHPDA announced a 30-year lease with the Washington State Department of Commerce for 13 stories of Pacific Tower. Six of the stories will be subleased to Seattle Central Community College for its healthcare training programs. Multiple nonprofits are prospective tenants. Chopp and other state lawmakers planned on consolidating several district offices into the location.[13] The state capital budget allocated $20 million for the tower's renovation, but the cost increased to $54.3 million by the time it was completed in 2016 due to unexpected water damage and new city energy-use regulations.[14][15]


An anchor and caduceus on the exterior of a building
An anchor and caduceus from the building's use as a Marine facility

Architectural firm Bebb and Gould, assisted by the John Graham Company, designed the original structure.[16] Carl Frelinghuysen Gould designed it in an Art Deco style.[17] Located 350 ft (110 m) above sea level at the northern edge of Beacon Hill, the 239 ft (73 m) tower overlooks downtown Seattle and Elliott Bay. The 259,703 sq ft (24,127.2 m2) building sits on a 9.5-acre (3.8 ha) landscaped property.[3] It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. In 1992, the building received landmark status from the city.[18] The northern addition completed in 1994 was considered significant by the American Institute of Architects. It was noted that the exterior of the building could have been supported by new beams and trusses. Instead, the new space integrated almost seamlessly with the original building while being seismically beneficial.[6] In 2017 painter Ari Glass was commissioned to create an installation at the Pacific Tower. Several of his new works will be a permanent addition to the North Entrance of the Pacific Tower.[19]

The main building and its surrounding campus are surrounded by manicured grounds. The property includes six buildings near the primary structure. These were originally quarters for officers but have since been converted into laboratory and office space. The buildings are in the same style as the main building with facades that include terracotta ornamental details and brick patterns.[20] Other additions include a parking garage and smaller metal buildings. The property is surrounded by a detailed wrought iron fence.[4]


  1. ^ "Our History - PacMed Primary & Specialty Care Medical Clinics - Seattle". Pacific Medical Centers. Retrieved 2018-03-20.
  2. ^ "National Register of Historic Places -- Nomination Form". United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service. December 21, 1979. Retrieved February 6, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e Kolerich, Kristina (November 25, 2001). "Preserving the past: The PacMed Building is a structure that time won't forget". Puget Sound Business Journal. Retrieved April 10, 2011.
  4. ^ a b c Gordon, Karen (August 18, 1989). "Report on Designation" (PDF). the City of Seattle Landmarks and Preservation Board. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 24, 2014. Retrieved February 4, 2015.
  5. ^ "History". PHPDA. Retrieved February 4, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c "United States Public Health Service, Marine Hospital, Beacon Hill, Seattle, WA". University of Washington. Retrieved April 10, 2011.
  7. ^ Nabbefeld, Joe (June 14, 1998). "Amazon tied to deal for PacMed site". Puget Sound Business Journal. Retrieved April 10, 2011.
  8. ^ "Painstaking repairs slow quake recovery in historical district". The Vindicator. December 19, 2001. p. A9. Retrieved April 10, 2011.
  9. ^ Engleman, Eric (April 6, 2010). "Amazon starts moving into new Seattle headquarters campus". Puget Sound Business Journal. Retrieved April 12, 2011.
  10. ^ Pailthorp, Bellamy (November 26, 2001). "Seattle celebrates's new headquarters in South Lake Union neighborhood". KPLU. Retrieved April 10, 2011.
  11. ^ Pryne, Eric (May 16, 2011). "Amazon's shift to South Lake Union leaves empty feeling". The Seattle Times. Retrieved January 24, 2015.
  12. ^ Jenkins, Austin (May 27, 2014). "Pacific Tower Expected To Fill With Tenants; Long-Term Funding An Issue". KUOW. Retrieved January 24, 2015.
  13. ^ Bhatt, Sanjay (August 13, 2013). "Tentative deal reached for Pacific Tower lease". The Seattle Times. Retrieved January 24, 2015.
  14. ^ Garber, Andrew; Bhatt, Sanjay (August 4, 2013). "House Speaker Frank Chopp flexes muscle on historic PacMed Center". The Seattle Times. Retrieved November 5, 2016.
  15. ^ Brunner, Jim (April 4, 2015). "$54M PacMed remodel a political tug of war". The Seattle Times. Retrieved November 5, 2016.
  16. ^ "Kenney Seaview Building7125 Fauntleroy Way SW" (PDF). Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board. September 2, 2009. p. 15. Retrieved March 12, 2020.
  17. ^ Graves, Jen (January 19, 2006). "Deco Fabulous". The Stranger. Retrieved April 10, 2011.
  18. ^ Ellis E. Conklin (April 23, 2013). "Like a whale upon the sand, awesome yet helpless, the majestic Pacific". Seattle Weekly. Retrieved March 12, 2020.
  19. ^ "Ari Glass unveils golden vision of South Seattle at Pacific Tower - The Seattle Globalist". The Seattle Globalist. 6 September 2017.
  20. ^ "Pacific Tower, an Art Deco landmark in Seattle". Minor Sights. Retrieved 5 November 2019.

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