On July 5, 1994, Jeff Bezos founded Amazon from his garage in Bellevue. Today, the city houses the world’s largest technology companies, including eBay, Google, and Microsoft. Even amidst the global financial crisis in 2008, Bellevue was named the best place to launch a business, according to CNNMoney.
Downtown Bellevue is now home to thousands of diverse businesses that translate to abundant job opportunities. In 2018, the average household income of Bellevue had reached the top 5 in Washington. Contributing to Bellevue’’s commercial success are the architects elevating businesses in many ways possible. We have then curated a list of the 15 best commercial architects in the city. We ranked them based on their works, recognitions, processes, and other stand-out factors.
1911 116th Ave. NE Suite 101, Bellevue, WA 98004
MZA Architecture brings together a team with a rich history of working on large commercial projects. These design professionals have worked with major architecture firms in the Puget Sound area for more than 20 years. The team is composed of smart, talented people who know the value of listening, have a passion for design, and are committed to creating design solutions that enable clients’ businesses to thrive. Founder and American Institute of Architects Fellow (FAIA) Ming Zhang specializes in the design of high imagery projects. His great attention to clients’ needs and excellent communication skills have earned him a distinguished reputation as a world-class designer.
Rooted in Bellevue, Washington, MZA takes to heart the mission of enhancing and enriching the built environment. One of its stunning projects in the hospitality scene is Hotel Indigo. Opened in 2019, the hotel has become the destination for visitors to Seattle’s Everett waterfront. Taking cues from historic photographs of boating operations previously on the lot, combined with the Boeing airplanes that are manufactured just down the street, the architecture reflects the history and activity surrounding this unique site. Building elements took inspiration from nearby industrial buildings, shipping containers at the port, and colorful aircrafts at Paine Field. MZA designed the guestrooms to maximize the views of the water on three sides of the site and include wood end cut floors to reflect the town’s history as a timber center.
10801 Main Street, Suite 110 Bellevue, WA 98004
In 1975, Baylis Architects received its first award: the AIA/Seattle Times Home of the Month for its Lewis Residence in Bellevue. Forty-four years later, the firm was named 2019 Best of Bellevue Architect by Bellevue Magazine. The company’s consistent performance in Bellevue establishes that this firm is a great hire. Not to mention over a hundred reputable awards all over the Pacific Northwest and the Pacific States in its course.
Baylis Architects is fond of perfectly blending the project and its local landscape. The firm does so by weaving natural, cultural, and aesthetic contexts. One interesting case is the VENN at Main in Bellevue. Different dichotomies surround this mixed-use project: old to new, low-rise to high-rise, and metropolitan to residential. The firm constructed 350 residential units with community spaces to accommodate all interests and purposes, including 25,600 square feet of retail space. The parking also favors different vehicles by putting charging stalls for electric vehicles and secure storage for bicycles. This project won the 2017 Gold Nugget Merit Award for Best Mixed-Use Development.
909 112th Ave NE, Suite 206, Bellevue, WA 98004
Since 1986, JPC Architects has always been about interior architecture and design. The firm’s first client was Microsoft. Since then, the company has maintained creating inspirational, sustainable, and productive workplaces—values evident in its portfolio. The highlight projects of the firm now expand to corporate, retail, medical, and our favorite: gaming company projects.
JPC recently designed Pokemon’s “Third Space”. The vision for Pokemon’s 3rd floor was derived from the concept of the “third space” to create an amenity space for their employees to use to interact in groups, for all-hands meetings, interviews, or for quiet individual getaways from their workspace on the upper floors. Materials were selected with sustainable practices in mind. The space incorporates thoughtful and intentional concepts to enhance wellbeings such as access to a waterfall, tactile materials like pebble flooring and turf, natural and varied light, and a restorative fireplace. The floor is nature-focused and will promote and support the Pokémon community.
Weinstein AU Architects + Urban Designers
2200 Western Avenue, Suite 301 Seattle, WA 98121
Weinstein A+U is a 27-person architecture firm in Seattle, Washington. Founded by Ed Weinstein in 1977, Weinstein A+U provides comprehensive architecture and urban design services for a broad array of project types: commercial, institutional, civic, public safety, adaptive reuse, not-for-profit, multi-family, office buildings, and places of worship.
In 2019, the firm was the recipient of the AIA Northwest and Pacific Region Firm Award. This award recognizes outstanding contribution to the excellence in design, testifying to their fundamental mission – “to support communities, one thoughtful building at a time.” Furthermore, Weinstein A+U buildings are consistently recognized, having earned over 90 national, regional, and AIA Seattle design awards. The firm has earned many of these awards for buildings with modest budgets, complex scope, and funding sources, and involves large groups of diverse stakeholders.
The firm is rational, intelligible, and straightforward in the service of realizing designs that fit their circumstances and achieve their client’s ambitions. It combines rigorous site and program analysis with disciplined design and documentation processes to produce designs that are constructed efficiently and cost-effectively, earn broad community support, and serve as exemplars for design excellence.
Fire Station 22 was completed in 2017 and honored with the following three awards in 2018: AIA Washington Civic Design Awards, Merit Award, AIA Northwest and Pacific Region, Merit Award, and AIA Seattle, Merit Award.
The Driftmier Architects
7983 Leary Way NE, Redmond, WA 98052
All company values of The Driftmier Architects revolve around the client. Being a mid-sized firm is a great advantage: The firm is large enough to take on a large number of projects and explore a wide variety of project types, but is small enough to allow their staff to focus attention on each customer’s needs. This Redmond-based firm is also a member of six reputable organizations, including AIA and ICC. These organizations work as indirect clients, too, as they expect nothing but an excellent performance from the firm.
The Driftmier Architects has completed over 1,000 facilities, including, a large number of office and retail buildings, shopping centers and financial institutions. They also have a long list of completed municipal and special use district facilities, and residential projects. The firm has designed more than 300 bank and credit union branches. The WAFD Bank in Bellevue, for example, relied on the firm to develop the design of the bank’s relocation. Studying the bank’s needs, The Driftmier Architects matched the design to the building’s tall windows and high ceilings, creating a light and open appeal. This design developed by Driftmier is being used by the bank in a rollout of new branches in several western states.
777 108th Ave NE Suite 1650 Bellevue, WA 98004
Learning from owners, tenants, and end-users, Freiheit Architecture gets what commercial clients specifically want: a simple design process, time efficiency, and value-adding results. The firm then commits to be practical. As a result, the strategies of the company are straightforward, organized, and creative. And to make each project genuinely valuable, the firm aims to create commercial environments that ultimately improve communities.
An example of a community-impacting project of Freiheit Architecture is the Five Newport in Bellevue. This Newport Corporate Center is a distinctive landmark in Western Washington, rising over the hills and waving goodbye to anyone leaving Seattle via I-90. As pictured below, the Five Newport office building is built with glass, steel, and concrete, matching the appeal of the other existing corporate structures.
Jackson | Main Architecture
311 1st Ave S., Seattle, Washington 98104
When two established firms merged to form Jackson | Main Architecture (JMA) in 2015, significant accomplishments quickly followed. After just two years, the firm made the Puget Sound Business Journal’s Fastest Growing Companies list in 2017. The following year, the company was on the publication’s Largest Puget Sound Architectural Firms list. In addition to becoming one of the most productive modular designers in the Northwest, JMA also designed the first two LEED Certified self-storage facilities in Washington State.
JMA is an excellent firm to employ for Bellevue commercial projects having designed multiple renovations for The Marketplace at Factoria as well as a new Pro Golf store in Bellevue. Alexan Central Park, a mixed-use apartment building in Downtown Redmond, is just one recent example of JMA’s ability to meet client needs and simultaneously enhance the surrounding neighborhood. The firm avoids the usual design “studio” concept in commercial projects and instead makes sure to employ all possible strategies to satisfy clients and stakeholders.
Featured here is the Alexan Central Park. Centrally located in Downtown Redmond, this 263,255-square-foot apartment building has 193 units and a retail space anchoring the development to Downtown Park. Live-work units also sit on the pedestrian-focused street fronts. Residents enjoy an above-ground parking structure, scenic views from an upper level deck and mid-level courtyard, as well as walking access to restaurants, shops, and the nearby transit center.
71 Columbia St, Suite 500 Seattle, WA 98104
Bassetti Architects began with a legacy of contributing to the community. In 1947, founder Fred Bassetti made significant contributions to the mid-century northwest modern architectural style. Bassetti also led the designs of numerous landmarks such as the Jackson Federal Building and Seattle Municipal Tower. Today, the firm continues its legacy by committing to sustainable practices. The company pledged onto the AIA 2030 Commitment of carbon-free design by 2030. The firm has also signed a Materials Pledge, promising to design and construct using materials that benefit human health, climate, environment, and society.
One of the best sustainable projects of Bassetti Architects is the Seattle City Hall. The design of this LEED Gold project almost literally reflects Seattle’s natural environment with its primarily transparent building. The facility could last a hundred years with its rainwater collection system, green roof, and a raised floor system meant to weather harsh climate conditions.
Graphite Design Group
1809 Seventh Avenue, Suite 700 Seattle, WA, 98101
Retail owners come to Graphite Design Group for help whenever they need to reach specific demographics. Some of these retail owners are known worldwide names such as Mod Pizza, Glassybaby, and Amazon Retail. Thanks to the expertise of Principals Martin Hill and Peter Krech, the firm has established itself as an expert in translating brand values into retail environments. In addition, the company designs ground-up freestanding stores, remodels existing retail properties, and designs location-specific branches.
So, when Restaurants Unlimited (RUI) reached out to Graphite Design Group for Henry’s Tavern in Bellevue, they wanted Henry’s to be the go-to place for beer lovers. The firm expertly accommodated a large selection of micro-brews, 120 beer taps, and 150 ready-to-use barrels. Henry’s Tavern now features a full-service dining room, lounge, two private dining rooms for guests, a glass-encased keg room, 3,000 square foot kitchen, and a large sports bar — perfect for game days and celebratory beer nights.
Graphite Design Group is based in Seattle and specializes in the design of Retail, Food and Beverage, Mixed-use, Commercial Office, Multi-family Residential, and Data Center projects. Check them out at: www.GraphiteDesignGroup.com.
Jensen Design Architects
7730 Leary Way NE Redmond, WA 98052
There is something about the portfolio of Jensen Design Architects, particularly the way it provides a sense of warmth and delight. The inviting appeal of the firm’s projects comes from mastery of hospitality design. As a hotel expert, the company knows how each element of a building—facade, proportions, and lighting—can enchant people with just one look. For 22 years, the company has completed over 200 hotel projects across the nation, from two stories to multi-level high rises.
Consistently at the H&MM’s top hotel design firms, Jensen Design Architects has designed numerous outstanding hotels, including the Heathman Hotel. This Downton Kirland hotel throws guests back to a historic era, thanks to its arches, balconies, stucco, and brick. This boutique luxury building features 91 guestrooms, a deluxe fitness center, a spa, and a restaurant. This project was also named among the Top 10 Hotel in the US by Trip Advisor.
1402 Third Avenue, Suite 1000 Seattle, WA 98101
Encore Architects is a seriously flexible firm. The firm does not adhere to standard outcomes and instead finds all design solutions possible, responding to one challenge at a time. The company also feels immense responsibility to local communities so each project must cohere to the context of its surrounding. As an extension, the members of Encore Architects actively participate in their respective communities through organizations such as Seattle AIA and Design in Public.
The Blu in Bellevue’s Downtown Park is a testimony to Encore Architects’ flexibility and community responsiveness. This 123,000 square feet mixed-use project perfectly blends into surrounding nature and neighborhood. The large decks, windows, and stoops deliberately face the park. The retail and restaurant spaces add to downtown commercial activity. And the brick frame used echoes the charm of neighboring buildings. At the same time, the firm worked its way around a building massing difficulty, resulting in deep patios for some units—a great catch for anyone who wants incredible Downtown Park scenery.
Burgess Design, Inc.
1326 Fifth Avenue, Suite 400 Seattle, Washington 98101
Rewind about twenty years, and you will realize how different office spaces in Pacific Northwest were. Burgess Design makes sure to evolve in its office designs, along with the ever-changing market. The firm understands that today’s workplaces need to encourage collaboration, productivity and make employees stay. With these principles in mind, the company has produced efficient offices for huge clients such as Microsoft and the Seattle City Attorney’s Office.
In 2014, Burgess Design had the opportunity to reposition a 20-year-old class “B” property in Bellevue Central Business District. The goal was to attract companies to lease. The Trulia Center now features an updated lobby, custom light fixtures, and contemporary furniture. The firm also upgraded the walkways, installed semi-private “pods,” and added a central staircase. In no time, the property’s market rental rates escalated and were fully leased even before project completion. The building garnered a nomination for NAIOP Night of the Stars “Building Renovation of the Year.”
Chesmore | Buck Architecture
27 100th Ave NE Suite 100 Bellevue, WA 98004
A Chesmore | Buck Architecture project is identifiable from its quintessential indoor meets outdoor vibe. The firm is fond of merging indoor and outdoor spaces in response to the climate and distinct qualities of the location. Such an interest enables this small but tight-knit firm to create innovative, sensitive, and thoughtful areas. The company’s work on the 6th Street Office Building became the first in Washington to have electrochromic glass for controlling afternoon sun.
Our favorite indoor-outdoor fusion of Chesmore | Buck Architecture is the Milagro Restaurant on Kirkland. One can almost feel the warmth of the outdoors thanks to the distinctive fireplaces. Added to that are the splendidly colored walnut slabs, blackened steel panels, and exposed steel structure—ideally elevating the authentic Mexican cuisine experience.
119 S Main St. Suite 200 Seattle, WA 98104
For ARC Architects, the real work starts when the team gathers around and rigorously brainstorm design criteria, opportunities, and requirements. But the design process does not end there. The firm makes sure to ask opinions from all stakeholders—the clients, users, regulatory agencies, and consultants. After all, the company’s mission is to design spaces that will significantly benefit the community.
A perfect example of ARC Architects’ community-centered design is the South Bellevue Community Center. It is not every day that one sees a three-story interior climbing wall, and especially not in the main lobby of a community center. This 32,000 square feet facility features a challenge course, play areas, and public art. This over $9 million-worth project also received an Award of Commendation by Masonry Design Awards in 2006.
440 Virginia Street, Seattle, WA, 98101
Whatever financial, aesthetic, technical, or jurisdictional concerns a client may have, Hummel Architects will help iron it out. Founder and President Jeffrey Hummel’s architectural expertise involve a lot of problem-solving skills. Hummel is adept at building relationships and deeply understanding each challenge to its core. An all-around leader, he is experienced in organizing, managing, and coordinating teams. You can also count on Hummel for quick responses, having handled numerous complex projects.
Hummel Architects equates its success with client satisfaction. The firm has happy clients across numerous sectors: housing, commercial, and industrial. The company covers single-family, multifamily, senior housing, and condo conversion works; it is also behind Bellevue’s Houghton Transer Station, which won the 2011 APWA WA Chapter Project of the Year. More so, the firm has numerous commercial projects, including the Vertical World Seattle, Velocity Art & Design, and the Charlotte-Main Seattle Children’s Theater, pictured below.