Behind the Scenes with The Lodge at Saint Edward State Park Team

In our new Q&A series, we take a candid look at projects, hearing from the engineers who brought the projects to life. We sat down with Civil Associate Aaron Fjelstad and Structural Staff Engineer Jerren Paradee to talk about The Lodge at Saint Edward State Park, an award-winning historic preservation project that transformed a 1930s seminary into a spectacular Pacific Northwest getaway.

Tell us a bit about the project.

Aaron: Atypical, challenging, and memorable! The project rejuvenated a historic seminary, and while it was an extreme renovation, it honored the site’s history every step of the way. The Lodge itself represents a piece of the past, but all the below-grade structure is new.

What made this project different?

Jerren: The Lodge has many so many historic elements. The team carefully reviewed construction drawings and historic photos to ensure the restoration conformed to the original details of the 1931 building. The emphasis on getting the details right meant certain elements had to be protected during construction and we had to find a way to efficiently mix old and new.

Aaron: While we do a significant amount of urban infill work, the Lodge is set in the middle of a state park. The unique setting meant there were many departures from the norm. For example, where we would normally tie into a pipe, we needed to consider ravines and natural drainage systems in this forested location. We considered each area’s particular properties and how each integrates into the surrounding landscape. The ultimate goal with native dispersion is to mimic what’s happening naturally, letting development follow.

Why did you like working on this project?

Aaron: We touch a lot of project types but there’s only a handful I talk with my family and friends about. This is definitely one of them! My wife and I even stayed there for the grand opening, which was a memorable visit! It was a challenging project, but it’s so rewarding to see it in its final, beautiful state.

Jerren: I liked navigating the existing and unknown conditions and working with the unique design elements to preserve the historic nature and look of the building. Seismic retrofits were completed in compliance with the US Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation by adding new shear walls and fiber wrap to increase the performance of the building in the event of an earthquake.

Do you have a favorite feature? Any engineering standouts?

Aaron: The rain gardens! As you approach the main drive to the porte-cochere, the Lodge is flanked by extensive rain gardens on either side.

Jerren: The dining room (now a restaurant) is an impressive space with very intricate detailing. And I have to mention the main hallway on the first level too. It’s a beautiful, white-clad arch full of art and grand windows. The existing wood windows were completely restored to their original condition and as were the steel window systems on the first and lower levels. My favorite spot is in the main entry, because standing in the center and looking both directions will give you a glimpse of both elements.

What was the biggest challenge the team faced?

Jerren: Analyzing the existing structure and developing a scheme to tie the new elements to the existing building was a significant challenge.

Aaron: You would assume that being in the middle of a state park you have infinite space to work with, but the lease area was quite constrained and it felt more like an urban infill site in downtown Seattle. It was congested in terms of existing utilities and buildings that we needed to work around. And that’s all before the new parking garage addition! Managing the congestion and phasing of these items (while maintaining service/function to the site) was a challenge.

I liked working with…

Aaron: Carl Schumacher with Daniels Real Estate. He was very involved throughout the project and wasn’t afraid to voice an opinion or question a decision. He was the first to sit down with the city when things arose and clearly had the best interest of the project at heart. I have a lot of respect for the level he cared about the project.

Jerren: RWAA and Daniels Real Estate because they are well known in the renovation world (after all, they’re the team behind The Sanctuary, the former First Methodist Church in downtown Seattle). The team has a passion for preserving history, something that’s admirable and necessary.

How does this project impact the city or its community?

Jerren: The Lodge went from vacant and lost to a centerpiece of the state park, a generator of jobs and tourism dollars, and an exciting local option for retreats and weekend getaways.

It’s also a great design example of how to incorporate modern sustainable design principles into a historic renovation. With sustainable intentions established from the onset, the Lodge features upgrades to the envelope insulation, air-to-air heat pump systems, dedicated outside air systems, low flow plumbing fixtures, electric car charging stations, and numerous other energy conscious design methodologies. All were introduced without impacting the historic character of the property.

Aaron: While it’s not a big project for us in terms of scale, it’s one I talk about often. It’s one that the community finds meaningful. It’s a beautiful building that would have inevitably been torn down had the Daniels team not invested in its restoration. I think that commitment and willingness to take it on makes it a special place within the park and to the community.

What is it like to see the finished product? 

Jerren: It’s astounding! The finishes are so well done, from the wallpaper in the rooms which features the old drawings to the carpeting which feature a variety of iris specific to the location. The thoughtfulness makes a huge difference!

Aaron: It’s amazing to see the transformation from “the ghost days” to its current state. I didn’t know what to expect walking in for the first time after it was complete, but I was blown away by the interior. It is hip, cool and the branding creates an inviting, one-of-a-kind aesthetic. The food was amazing too and I highly recommend the downstairs bar!

A few quick-fires from Aaron:

  • One word to describe the project: Timeless.
  • Project team member who needs a free lunch: Suni Hatcher with Ron Wright & Associates. She stepped up to the plate every time. She was always the first to jump in, figure out what needed to happen, and start making the necessary calls.
  • When visiting, the first thing I check out is: The grounds! Go around the building and explore the hiking trails which lead all the way to the water. For an urban place, the park setting gives you ample room to spread out and get away.
  • This project has the best: Natural integration.
  • Next up, I can’t wait to design: Several of the projects we’re working on in Bellevue. Many of the roadways tie together which make it intriguing from an urban infill and civil perspective.

And from Jerren:

  • One word to describe the project: I would agree with Aaron. Timeless.
  • When visiting, the first thing I check out is: The garage that I helped design! Followed by a stop in the main entry.
  • This project has the best: Reuse of a building in the same vein that it was originally designed for. Originally a seminary, it still houses people for overnights!
  • Next up, I can’t wait to design: With the Lodge wrapped up, I’m eager to design a large, multifamily podium project from the ground up. Every element and all associated detailing!

The Lodge at Saint Edward State Park was recently awarded NAIOP’s 2021 Hospitality Development of the Year.

Go behind the scenes with some of our other favorite projects with Q&As from The Little School Rivers Building and Mount Si High School.

Images © Rodrigo De Medeiros