Seattle’s Space Needle May Upgrade Elevators and Other Features

Space Needle elevator upgradesSeattle’s iconic Space Needle may soon be getting a face-lift. The company that owns the site presented a plan on November 13 to Seattle’s Landmark Preservation Board that calls for changes to the elevators and observation deck.

The Space Needle has three elevators that weigh 14,000 pounds each. They have a capacity of 4,500 pounds or 25 people, and the counterweights weigh 40 percent more than the elevators weigh when fully loaded. Each elevator has seven cables, but a single cable is capable of supporting the entire weight of an elevator.

Two of the elevators can travel at speeds of 10 miles per hour, or 800 feet per minute. It takes 43 seconds to travel from ground level to the top-house. Under high wind conditions, the elevators travel at speeds of 5 miles per hour. The third elevator is used mostly for freight but is occasionally used to transport passengers.

The plans would improve wheelchair access and upgrade the elevators. Two double-stacked elevators would be added.

The company also proposes replacing the metal security cables on the observation deck enclosure with a glass barrier to improve 360-degree views of the city and eliminate the feeling of being caged in. It proposes installing floor-to-ceiling windows on the restaurant and observation deck levels with electrochromic glass that could be dimmed electronically to reduce glare and regulate temperatures. The revolving restaurant’s floor mechanism would be replaced, and glass would be placed in some parts of the restaurant’s floor to give patrons a view of Seattle Center beneath them.

The Space Needle needs to submit an application and respond to recommended changes. It will probably have to meet with the architectural review committee several times before it meets with the full board. The board must approve the changes because the Space Needle was designated a landmark in 1999.

The renovations would be paid for with private money. The company’s chief executive did not give an estimated cost but said it would probably exceed $20 million. If the plan is approved, it will be the largest reinvestment in the Space Needle since it was constructed in 1962.


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