Fran’s Chocolates making plans to expand operations in Georgetown

Fran’s Chocolates at Original Rainier Brewery

Frans Rainier Brewery

The Fran’s Chocolates production facility is a modern adaptation to the Original Rainier Brewery’s historical character, juxtaposing old and new to meet the new building design criteria that must accommodate the exacting science and art of fine chocolate production without compromising the historic authenticity of the Brew House and remnant wall.

Sabey purchased the Original Rainier Brewery with the goal of bringing life back to these unique and historical buildings. We’re proud of the fact that after years of dormancy, the buildings shelter a diverse and colorful community of artists, craftsmen, designers, professional organizations, and now the renowned Fran’s Chocolates.

The Brew House is among the last of the buildings to be occupied because it poses particularly difficult structural challenges. The building requires upgrading to today’s seismic safety requirements. Always an expensive process, it is particularly so in light of the quite small floor areas that limit its marketability. Maintaining the historic integrity of the building as it undergoes extensive work also requires a significant amount of care as well.

Fran’s Chocolates expressed an interest in the first two floors for offices and retail, provided that 1) it could be seismically upgraded to meet today’s standards and 2) a production facility could be constructed on the empty lot immediately south of the Brew House. Together, the two buildings achieved a solution that has historic integrity and beauty as well as practical functionality.

Design Considerations

The Fran’s Chocolates production facility is a modern adaptation to the Original Rainier Brewery’s historical character, juxtaposing old and new to meet the new building design criteria that must accommodate the exacting science and art of fine chocolate production without compromising the historic authenticity of the Brew House and remnant wall. Throughout the design process for the new production facility, the design team focused on balancing the concerns of the Georgetown community, the Landmarks Preservation Board and its Architecture Review Committee, the occupant, the building owner, and the project budget. The first design iteration demolished the remnant Stock House wall and proposed a thin brick veneer over the warehouse walls as a way of relating the new building with scale and materials of the existing Brew House. However, the community and the Landmarks Preservation Board both expressed a great interest in preserving the remnant wall.

In response, the design team found a way to preserve the wall while addressing the structural concerns regarding its delicate state and without making the project unfeasible from a budget standpoint. The thin brick veneer option for exterior cladding was discussed at length in many Landmarks meetings. The consensus of the Landmarks Preservation Board and its Architecture Review Committee was that thin brick veneer is not an “honest” use of materials in this context and that the building should express the materials and construction systems we use today. The new façade, approved by the Landmarks Preservation Board in a unanimous vote, references the scale and rhythm of the openings in the brick façades along Airport Way and includes a series of reveals that reference the datum lines of the historical Brew House and remnant wall. Fenestration has been included to continue to relate the scale and rhythm of the existing buildings in the property.

The project team also considered the pedestrian experience which resulted in a doubling of the width of the sidewalk, adding street trees and benches at the bus stop as well as adding textures and reveals in the wall surfacing at the street level for visual interest. The color of the precast panels was selected to allow new construction to complement the richness of the surrounding landmarked buildings without competing with it. The project team is proud of the design that emerged from the public Landmarks Preservation Board review process and believes the design fairly balances the many interests at play.

Process Recap

As a landmarked site, any design proposed is subject to the consideration and approval of the Landmarks Preservation Board. Moreover, Sabey has always welcomed the perspective of our Georgetown neighbors and our mutual commitment to the economic viability of the community. Many public meetings were held over the course of the ten month process including:

Landmarks Preservation Board and/or Architecture Review Committee meetings took place on November 9th, 2012; January 11, 2013; April 3, 2013; May 10th, 2013 and August 7th, 2013; all meetings were noticed to the Georgetown Community Council. There were also two meetings held at both the Georgetown Merchants Association and at the Georgetown Community Council.

The Master Use Permit has been received from the City of Seattle and construction has begun. We anticipate completion of the project in May – June, 2014.