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Local Businesses Reflect Northwest Life in the Central Terminal

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August 22, 2019

The south side of the Central Terminal opened in March at Sea-Tac Airport, bringing back more dining and seating options for passengers and that iconic glass wall with amazing views of the airfield and the Olympic Mountains. The new additions to the modern and light-filled space include solid wood furnishings manufactured by local companies doing business with the Port. In addition to the millwork that has already been installed, more will be added next year to coincide with the opening of a new restaurant on the north half of the Central Terminal.

The new dining space features furnishings made of durable solid white oak and marbled solid surface material, including dining counters with built-in charging stations, benches with planters, low coffee tables, long benches, and enclosures for waste/recycle/compost receptacles. The work is a collaborative endeavor between the Port of Seattle, general construction contractor PCL, and two local small businesses:  Patano Studio Architecture and ML Fox, responsible for the design and manufacturing of the pieces.

Central Terminal furniture being built in the woodshp

More pieces will be installed on the north half of the terminal in 2020 to coincide with the opening of Salty’s at the SEA. In the past, the Port worked to increase the number of small businesses that contract with the Port. In 2017, Port contracting and procurement efforts awarded $62.8 million to small businesses (or 25.3 percent of overall Port spending). The new Diversity in Contracting initiative focuses on increasing equity, inclusion, and the participation of minority and women-owned businesses (WMBE) in Port opportunities, regardless of their size. 

Design: Patano Studios

Erik Barr, Director of Practice at Patano Studio Architecture, a regional architecture firm with a history of designing Port projects and other public works projects, said he designed the Central Terminal millwork with the passenger experience in mind.

Barr collaborated with the Port project manager and stakeholders to develop a design that enhanced the space and provided comfortable and attractive furnishings, where passengers could relax before their flight. The furniture also needed to be durable enough to handle the intensive use seen in an airport with 50 million passengers every year.

Charging tables in the Central TErminal

“The goal was to provide a level of design and craft that is seldom seen out there, and bring it up a level,” he said. “In the Northwest we have this lifestyle, there’s a great level of craft here, and we’re rolling all that up into a Northwest sense of place, speaking to the notion of technology, craft, and design.”

Barr said as the work is being installed, it’s rewarding to watch people comfortably eating lunch and charging their phones and enjoying the beautiful space.

“Our mantra was ‘light and bright’ as we were designing the inside of the space,” he said. “A lot of spaces in an airport can be challenging but I love seeing how it all gets used. People are respectful of things when they are nice.”

Barr said one of the great things about public work is the challenge of producing a high-quality design and product on a tighter budget. The team was able to provide beautiful millwork that creates a wonderful backdrop to elevate the passenger experience.

Manufacture: ML Fox

The husband and wife-owned manufacturing company ML Fox based in Everett is celebrating 20 years in business this year. Meade and Lori Fox started out doing commercial finish work installations. Over the years their work shifted to manufacturing of architectural millwork and casework. Lori runs the office and Meade manages the finish work and manufacturing. 

“Manufacturing was the natural way for us to move,” Lori said. “We enjoy the machinery and solving problems.  Meade is exceptional at taking a design he gets from an architect and figuring out the best way to construct that.”

The Foxes have done work for the Port on a variety of manufacturing jobs over the years and construct cabinets, counters, reception desks, trim, and other pieces at their 7,900 square foot shop. The staff of 10 has done a variety of commercial work for libraries, restaurants, hospitals, and courthouses. 

Lori said she’s enjoyed the use of solid wood used in the Central Terminal pieces.

“It’s really beautiful; it’s an unusual project for the Port because there is so much wood,” Lori said. “Everyone who comes into our shop and sees what we’re working on is like ‘wow this is so cool.’” 

Lori said she also has enjoyed how much she’s gotten to collaborate with the suppliers and architect, the general contractor, and the Port on the project.

“The project had a nice team feeling to it; we’re excited about it,” she said. “Erik Barr made weekly visits to our shop to see what we're doing and answer questions — that collaboration makes it come off the way he designed it.”

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