Engineering a New Home for Mary’s Place

Nitro, Amazon’s latest commercial office development, incorporates a first-of-its kind application: a permanent home for local non-profit and family shelter, Mary’s Place.

The largest family shelter in Washington, the new facility occupies 63,000 square feet of the multi-tower development. Its opening in March could not have come at a more paramount moment, as the pandemic reached the U.S. The new space nearly doubles Mary’s Place’s service capacity, accommodating up to 200 families, 24/7. Amazon is providing the space rent-free, including all utilities, maintenance and security costs, through the next decade.

Occupying eight levels, Amazon’s industrial aesthetic (polished concrete floors and exposed overhead mechanical) merges with vibrant, playful spaces thoughtfully designed for children and families. Vital services include a health clinic, dedicated space for Popsicle Place (a program especially for homeless children with life-threatening health conditions), private rooms suited for families, children’s play spaces, workstations, and a dog run. Aligned to such a meaningful mission, and understanding the impact the final product would have on so many, the team made each design decision thoughtfully, with family top-of-mind.

Swift structural adaptations mid-design generated a larger, multi-level family community center, additional elevators, more outdoor amenity space, and overall structural floor load increases. Beyond the technicalities, there were some other inspiring aspects that stood out for us:

  • One of our team’s favorite elements (pictured here) is a platform form play area, featuring geometric pop-outs and “hidey holes” for the kids. The two, large white leaning pillars are eccentrically framed braces that provide structural support while cleverly integrating this fun breakaway space.
  • Every detail of this space was designed with intention. Even the curtains. Not something you would traditionally consider structurally crucial, right? According to Associate Principal Matt Snook, each one of the curtains was (and we quote) “designed to hold a 500-lb swinging child.” Here, rambunctious little ones can safely do what kids do best – play.
  • Another heartfelt aspect of the project was a gift from the architects to the entire project team. The names of every team member who participated in the design are printed on the curtains hanging in the welcome area. Most importantly, it was to let families know that there are real people who support them, who thought of them when they designed and built the space.

A longtime supporter of their mission, we are humbled to have played a role in creating a new permanent home for Mary’s Place. Interested in joining the cause? The Mary’s Place SHINE Gala is going virtual this year and we can’t wait for the show!

Modeled after “The Voice”, the SHINE Gala program includes live musical performances and friendly competition between local community leaders. Gala guests will crown the SHINE champion by voting for their favorite performer while bidding on live and silent auction packages featuring exclusive and unique experiences and items. There is no cost to register and attend!