Seattle touts one of the world’s largest economies, but it also has surging homeless rates. The city’s downtown commercial real estate houses the offices of tech-giants such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft—all perched above a swell of makeshift tent encampments where thousands of people experiencing homelessness live. The 2023 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress reported that there are just over 14,000 homeless people in and around Seattle.
To help alleviate the city’s homeless crisis, Amazon gifted space at its Nitro South tower in downtown Seattle for supportive housing. There, nonprofit Mary’s Place Family Center provides emergency housing and services for families in need. The 8-story, 63,000-square-foot space designed by Graphite Design Group aids over 300 people daily.
Mary’s Shelter has six locations spread throughout Kings County, and serves 725 people every night. Its newest Family Center proffers semi-private rooms for families to sleep, dining facilities, hygiene areas, kid’s play spaces, laundromats, and meeting rooms for families to meet with staff and volunteer service providers.
As reported by AN, the venture was first announced in 2019. Graphite Design Group, the Amazon Global Real Estate and Facilities team, Seneca Group, GLY construction, and Mary’s Place staff worked together on the project which completed in 2023.
The space is uniquely designed for families with children that have medical conditions, providing temporary shelter for those requiring housing for a short period. It offers safe, dignified, and joyous temporary shelter for those in need. The architects say the project is an example for how other cities with surging homeless problems can tackle this crisis, especially as office buildings around the U.S. have record-high vacancy rates.
“One of the things about Mary’s Place is that it was a gift from Amazon,” said Kim Krech, an architect at Graphite Design Group who led the project. “The intent was to be frugal. That’s at the root of how Amazon pursues their business. It was about asking what we can do with what we have.” Krech continued: “We wanted the space to feel big and majestic in its reach, but also intimate and supportive.”
Last October, Mary’s Place Family Center was recognized at the AIA Seattle Honor Awards and the Council for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat Awards. It was credited for its experimental approach to urban development that brings together “two very different populations” according to a statement.