Replacing what one architect described as a "concrete box" that was the former home of KOMO-TV, the complex nearing completion across Broad Street from the Space Needle also fits in with Seattle sensibilities in another way.
Designed by Lance Mueller & Associates architects, the $100-plus million Fisher Plaza is wired from top to bottom with the latest high-tech, digital communications gear.
Wired for high-tech
Connecting the plaza to anyplace in the world are eight different fiber-optic systems; DSL, T-1 and DS3 lines; 10 rooftop dish antennae, one of which is an uplink antenna that can be aimed at several communications satellites, and a line-of-sight laser system, said Ed Doyne, director of customer development for the complex.
The complex includes raised floors and sunken ceilings to allow for installation of the communications and cooling systems, he said. Put in Internet terms, the 205,000-square-foot complex has huge pipes, but Fisher Plaza also has another selling point in common with the latest generation of high-tech buildings: backup power. Six generators fueled by diesel fuel kept in on-site tanks are available for use if power fails in Seattle.
Assuming the complex is fully rented, there is enough fuel to provide power "for at least three days," Doyne said. That's important because - along with KOMO Broadcasting - the kind of tenants Fisher Plaza has already signed, and hopes to sign up, are "mission-critical" businesses, he said.
Mission-critical means the businesses would lose big bucks if power went out. A major power need involves air conditioning, which is required because the electronics used by high-tech businesses put out a lot of heat and would fail if the temperatures rise too much.
Fisher Plaza has a cooling capacity of 900 tons, Doyne said of a measurement similar to that of the British thermal units (Btus) used for heating.
A green building
Fisher Plaza is a "green" building in more ways than one.
"If it's 63 degrees or less outside, we don't need (air-conditioning)," he said.
The complex includes dampers that draw in outside air, which is filtered three times and used for cooling the building.
"The damper closes when the helicopter lands," Doyne added.
KOMO-TV's helicopter, he also noted, doesn't have to make as many trips as other broadcast copters because it can refuel at the plaza using an on-site tank that holds jet fuel. The other broadcast helicopters in town have to fly to Boeing Field for a fill-up, Doyne said.
KOMO-TV is making use of the technology, of course, and the local ABC station was one of the first in the country to air its news broadcasts in the digital HDTV format. KOMO-4's new broadcast set also has robotic cameras that are operated from the control room, said video-control technician John Carlbom.
The move to new digs was welcomed by KOMO-TV staff members, said Sandy Montgomery, a KOMO vice president and director of the station's marketing and broadcast operations.
She said the old studio, which had only one window that looked out onto the lobby, was very cramped.
"You were stumbling over tapes to get to the assignment desk."
By contrast, the new space has a wide expanse of windows, and there is a lot more space, she said.
KOMO-Radio will set up shop in the complex later this year, and about three-fifths of the already completed phase-1 portion of the project will be used by broadcasters. Besides KOMO-TV and KOMO-Radio, the ABC West Coast news bureau is located in the complex, along with the BBC and Tech TV.
According to the Fisher Plaza Web site, other tenants at the complex include the Civia Network, MFN, S2 Entertainment, Time Warner Telecom, Qwest, Worldcom, Verizon, AT&T, XO Communications, Terabeam, Internap, Ingeniux and Sonic Telecommunications International LTD.
Including other high-tech businesses besides its own broadcast division as tenants in the complex was necessary, Doyne said.
"For one company to do this doesn't necessarily make economic sense," he said of the project. Fisher Plaza isn't just a pair of buildings; it's a "communications community," Doyne added.
"The old building was pretty much a concrete box," said Jodi Major, one of the Mueller & Associates architects who helped design Fisher Plaza. The new complex is obviously a better-looking building, but the focus on high-tech provided a moving target at times for the architect team, she said.
"It's kind of evolved," Major said of the design. "We've been working on the project for at least four years, and technology has changed since then."
One of a kind in Seattle
Fisher Plaza is not the first high-tech building project in the Puget Sound region, but "it's definitely one of a kind in the Seattle area," she added.
That's good news for Tina Pappas, director of marketing and leasing for Fisher Properties, which owns Fisher Plaza and several other properties in the region.
"We really don't compete against buildings downtown," she said.
Space in phase I of the project is almost completely leased out, and the company is not worried about finding tenants for phase II of the project, she added.
"People are starting to get it," Pappas said of the plaza's high-tech amenities, "and they want to be there."
Pappas said Fisher is using four real-estate companies to market the property. One of them is Colliers International, said Matt Christian, a Colliers real-estate broker.
According to a Colliers' first-quarter market report, office vacancies in Seattle are holding relatively stable at around 13 percent, he noted. "It's a lot slower than it was 18 months ago," Christian said of office rental rates following the dot-com and telecom crash last year.
Still, providing a "mission-critical support space" is a big selling point for Fisher Plaza, he said. Christian said Colliers is talking to a number of potential tenants who have expressed an interest in the complex.
He wouldn't name them because no one has signed a lease yet, but Christian said potential tenants include the "top-10 publicly traded companies in Seattle."