Cornish Commons-Cornish College of the Arts Seattle, WA

Cornish College of the Arts

Our team built a 157,623-square-foot, 20-story multi-use student residence building through a public/private partnership (P3) with the Cornish College of the Arts and Capstone Development Partners.

Our team built a 157,623-square-foot, 20-story multi-use student residence building through a public/private partnership (P3) with the Cornish College of the Arts and Capstone Development Partners.

Seattle, WA
Capstone Development Partners
Year Completed
$10M - $50M
Market Type
Higher Education, Multifamily Housing
DB Contractor Led, Public-Private Partnerships (P3)

Public Private Partnership Brings Contemporary Style to Historic Seattle Campus

Founded in 1914, Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, WA, offers Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in the performing and visual arts, multiple public programs, and extension courses. The College’s founder Nellie Cornish, and the many teaching artists who have followed her, believed in education through exposure to all the arts.

Cornish had been seeking solutions to a permanent housing facility for several years. With limited financial resources, rising real estate costs, pending eviction from existing housing, and flat enrollment growth, the time to act was now. How to do this responsibly and with a focus on the future of the school and the student population became the question that had to be answered.

With a mere 26 months until the doors had to open, Cornish entertained a new proposition. The integrated team involved a public-private partnership with Cornish College of the Arts and Capstone Development Partners, and a design-build team of Ankrom Moisan Architects and Howard S. Wright, a Balfour Beatty company. All working closely together to deliver a unique campus-housing solution that further enhances Cornish and downtown Seattle.

Opening in August 2015, the Cornish Commons is a 157,623-square-foot, 20-story multi-use student residence building located on the Cornish College of the Arts campus in downtown Seattle. The exterior showcases a signature yellow fully covering one side of the building while the interior houses a countless student amenities and facilities. The building marks the college’s first ground-up project since 1921, meeting a longstanding need for a permanent housing facility. Balfour Beatty partnered with Ankrom Moisan to form the design-build team, collaborating with a public/private partnership with the Cornish College of the Arts and Capstone Development Partners during the 30-month project.

The Cornish Commons will serve as Cornish’s “living room” as well as space suited for a number of activities and needs. The building includes 20,618-square-feet of administration, studios, and student living room space. The top floor houses 7,064-square-feet for fitness, a media room, community kitchen, gaming area, fireside lounge, laundry room, music practice rooms, and a sky deck. 16 floors of residence areas includes 224 student rooms, 408 beds, and 4 staff apartments. The bottom two floors comprise the Student Life offices.

Integrated Project Delivery Light: One Project, One Goal

A notable success of the project was the collaborative structure between the owner, architect, and contractor, falling into the category of “Integrated Project Delivery Light.” By merging all architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, site utilities, and curtain wall trade-specific models, the team worked seamlessly together in pursuing one comprehensive goal: consolidating all aspects of the project design construction process to accommodate a defined budget and schedule. Collectively, the team utilized parallel work paths to shorten timelines and lower costs, accelerating the project schedule. Design packages were utilized to support the overall project schedule in place of traditional design delivery schedules. Using collaborative project management of the design production constructability review, issues, cost, and constructability challenges concerning the team’s prescribed and collaborative objects were addressed much more efficiently.

Elements and benefits of the project team’s effective collaboration included: integrated scheduling, constructability and design reviews, quantity takeoff and procurement, communication tool, virtual mock-ups, shop drawings, and prefabrication. It is this collaboration that translates to increased productivity and labor savings. Every entity within the Cornish project team remained fully integrated during the entire process – minimizing costs, accelerating the timeline, and ensuring the highest quality of work.

The new Cornish Commons enhances the lives and education of its students while bringing novelty and contemporary style to a historical campus. The success of the project can be attributed to the effective collaboration between Balfour Beatty and each of its entities, fostering an effective joint effort that allowed for the project to run smoothly from start to finish.

“This new building will give our incoming students a beautiful new place to live and learn right in the very heart of our downtown campus.” – Cornish College President, Nancy Uscher