SEATTLE — An iconic Boeing 747 jumbo jet, a symbol of Pacific Northwest innovation and industrial achievement, will soon be the centerpiece of a new development in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood.
Developer Ian Gillespie, the founder of WestBank based in Vancouver, Canada, is the visionary behind the project.
"The idea of celebrating that innovation was something I thought was really interesting," Gillespie said in an interview with KING 5. “What symbol celebrates innovation better than the Boeing 747? There isn't one."
The old airplane is currently being refurbished and deconstructed in the desert near Los Angeles. It will then be loaded in pieces onto two dozen flatbed trucks before it's shipped to Seattle.
That's where the fuselage of the airplane will be reconstructed and hung between two towers under construction at Stewart Street and Denny Way.
Gillespie, a self-proclaimed city-builder, is especially interested in the architecture and design of his communities in major cities around the world. His biggest focus now is on Seattle, where the apartment towers at 1200 Stewart St are just one of three developments he currently has in the works in the downtown Seattle area.
"Seattleites should be incredibly proud of what they have done,” said Gillespie. “You have an incredible city.”
The Boeing 747 is sure to turn heads when it's fully installed sometime in the summer of 2022. The 250-foot-long, 65-foot-tall airplane will be hung 14 feet above the central galleria of 1200 Stewart. The development includes hundreds of residential apartment units.
The airplane will be home to office space for WestBank, but also open to the public as access to several shops, restaurants and a “Live Nation” music venue.
"It's super cool and creative. It's just exactly what Seattle is about," said Jon Scholes, president and CEO of the Downtown Seattle Association.
Scholes admitted the city has a long way to go to fully recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Gillespie's addition to downtown is a sign big money developers are still ready to bet big on Seattle.
"We've got a strong foundation that we're rebuilding from," he said. "We've got more people living downtown today than we did prior to the pandemic. So, that's a good sign for the future."
Gillespie hopes his project will help further put Seattle on the map. But most of all, he's hoping to inspire anyone that sees the Boeing 747 downtown.
"Leaving this discarded thing sitting out in the desert, never to have any value again, seems sad," explained Gillespie. "If we could bring it back to life, I thought there was something kind of romantic about that, and if we can inspire some people, then we've had a success."