Explore the Pacific Northwest

The New Space Needle

Explore the Pacific Northwest

5 Things to Love About the Seattle Landmark's Latest Renovation

Space Needle at Dusk

Seattle’s beloved Space Needle has been getting progressively more lovable with each passing week since last fall, when work started on the facility’s privately funded Century Project renovation. While the city’s most recognizable landmark has had work done in the past, including a $20 million renovation completed in 2000, nothing compares to its latest “Spacelift” (their term, not ours). As the project’s first phase, which will cost $100 million on its own (it was built for $4.5 million in 1961-62), nears completion, here are five things to love about the “new” Space Needle.

It’s stronger

When completed in 1962, the Space Needle exceeded most building standards of its day, able to withstand 100 mph winds (40 mph was code at the time) and a 9.1-magnitude earthquake. This latest renovation has brought in 80 to 90 more tons of steel for seismic upgrades, which only make it stronger. Karen Olson, the Space Needle’s chief marketing officer, says the improvements will allow the structure to withstand a 1,000-year earthquake (aka “the Big One”).

There’s more transparency

Space Needle renovation rendering

The wire caging surrounding the 520-foot-level Observation Deck is gone, replaced by 11-foot-tall glass panels that extend from floor to open air. Get ready for seamless views of the city, Puget Sound, Mount Rainier, the Olympic Mountains and all the other landmarks you love. A 4-inch gap between each glass panel is wide enough to accommodate camera lenses for glare-free photos of the surroundings.

At the 500-foot level, renovations to the yet-to-be-named restaurant include a mostly glass floor (more on this later) overlooking the Seattle Center campus. The restaurant level and Observation Deck are connected by two, half-moon–shaped steel, wood and glass staircases. A downward-facing oculus at the bottom of the stairs offers a peek at the elevators and their counterweights, as they ascend and descend.

Heights not your thing? About one-third of the restaurant’s floor, in the center of the space, is made of solid, non-vertigo inducing surfaces.

Leaning back is a thrill

New Space Needle Skyrisers

The perimeter of the Observation Deck is adorned with 24 inward-facing glass benches, called Skyrisers, that allow you to lean back against the outward-tilting glass panels and experience the rush of “floating” 520 feet in the air. Those 4-inch gaps between each panel only enhance the sensation of hovering in the sky.

A sleeker ride

Formerly powered by a single 1.5-horsepower motor, the rebuilt turntable under the restaurant is now powered by 12 independent motors and stabilized by 48 rollers. Diners can marvel at the intricacies of the system, which resembles the inside of a clock, through the glass floor. Fun fact: the restaurant completes a full rotation every 45 minutes.

The restaurant of the future

New Space Needle restaurant rendering

The facility’s managers contracted New York–based Tihany Design, whose extensive portfolio includes Per Se in New York and the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Geneva, Switzerland, among other prestigious properties, to create the “restaurant of the future.” However, the restaurant’s name, chef and concept won’t be announced until the future—probably this fall. Until then, the restaurant level, which reopens in mid-July, as a second observation level, will be home to a wine bar, also offering light bites and beer. A cafĂ© on the 520-foot observation level will serve family-friendly refreshments. When the official new restaurant opens, it will be the fourth to occupy the distinguished perch, following Eye of the Needle (1962-1979); the Space Needle Restaurant, home to the Emerald Suite (1980-1999); and SkyCity (2000-2017). Subsequent phases of the Century Project will include repainting the structure and the eventual replacement of its elevators.

—Written by Rob Bhatt

Use your AAA membership card to save $3 on a general admission day/night ticket, which allows you to visit the Space Needle twice within a 24-hour time period.

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