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Seattle Central Library

Through public process, the Seneca Group was selected to provide development management for the design, permitting and construction of the new 425,000 square-foot, 11-story downtown Seattle Central Library - a $159 million project funded by the city’s 1998 “Libraries for All” bond issue and private donations. As a public project, it demanded particularly careful communications and coordination among diverse audiences and project partners to be successful.

The Library’s vision for the Central Library was to bring in a high-profile international design architect. Rem Koolhaas was selected. Rem’s firm OMA joint ventured with local architect LMN. The Seneca Group’s priority assignment was to balance the architect’s bold vision and high aspirations for the design with the Library’s program, cost and schedule objectives to achieve an exceptional and unique work of architecture.

The high aspirations required Seneca and the Library to effectively demonstrate to the community and the city government that the public resources and interests were being well managed. Seneca Group became an extension to the Library’s staff, serving as an experienced advisor to distill the issues, help the Library make good decisions, and then follow through as manager to see them implemented. Also, Seneca Group served as an “outside expert” to back up the Library’s decisions with facts, solid strategy and reasoning, thus lending credibility and confidence to the process.

Selected just before the architect was brought on board, Seneca Group negotiated the agreement with the architect and also managed the public selection process for the General Contractor/Construction Manager. This included the preparation of all selection process contract documents and integration of Hoffman Construction as the selected GC/CM into the project team. Seneca provided oversight and management of cost estimating, subcontractor selection, cost control and schedule management processes, and negotiated the agreements for maximum construction cost and project delivery schedule.

Seneca Group served as an effective liaison between project partners to ensure mutual success while helping the Library make the right choices among sometimes difficult options, based on Seneca’s extensive experience with large, complex projects. Seneca worked proactively with the Library and the GC/CM to address technical difficulties that arose during construction and to bring cost and schedule impacts to resolution. All construction cost issues were successfully resolved through negotiations and mediation.

Through experience, knowledge and attention to the details, Seneca Group helped the Library move through the challenges that arose during the design and construction process to a very successful conclusion — a world-class main library for the citizens of Seattle and beyond.


“Their strengths are their incredible skills and knowledge, and their amazing honesty and integrity. It was a huge challenge. They were exemplary in providing strategies and guidance to address the project’s problems.”

Deborah Jacobs
City Librarian, Seattle Public Library

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