By Meghan Hall
A brand-new hotel at the heart of Seattle, just blocks from the Space Needle and downtown, has received approval from the West Seattle Design Review Board to move forward with the design process. Located at 130th 5th Ave. N., the project has been proposed by Mortenson and Minneapolis-based ESG Architects. Upon completion, the hotel will add to the rapidly changing and growing Uptown neighborhood and transform an underutilized lot into a hub of activity.
“Our site is really right now a surface parking lot with a small one-story building,” explained ESG Senior Design Principal Trace Jacques at the project’s second early design guidance meeting last Wednesday. “Our primary contribution will be filling in a gap in the urban fabric and understanding how best to fill in that gap in the most contributory, positive way in a transitioning neighborhood, a neighborhood that’s really evolving into something special.”
When complete, the project will also include a fitness center, lounge with a restaurant, and meeting spaces. No parking has been proposed.
The design team hopes to create a development that will fit in seamlessly with the rest of the neighborhood. Therefore, a similar design approach to building massing and architecture was taken when hashing out the project’s design. The overall building form will be divided to express a clear distinction between the base and the tower. The separation between the two will be emphasized by canopies along 5th Ave. and John St., and will align with stepped datums part of The Century Apartments base to the east and the KOMO TV broadcasting station across the street. The split between the base and tower will be further accented by a street level setback along 5th Ave.
The most prominent massing form—and the tallest portion of the building—will be located along 5th Avenue and will be the building’s primary frontage. On John Street, the massing will step down.
“We are trying to complement [other development] and make note of the orientations, various parts of the overall massing and also provide these opportunities to mediate with scale from one building to the next,” noted Jacques.
The development will use a range of exterior materials. These materials—while not yet solidified—will be employed to reinforce separate massing elements and forms that make up the building, and provide transition between elements. At the base, elements will distinguish public programmatic spaces from guestrooms up above. The base will be defined by a taller ground floor and extensive glazing.
Two plazas, one along the 5th Ave. North façade, as well as a second located adjacent to the alley, will also be incorporated into the plans.
“This swath of open space provides usable, covered breakout space and outdoor seating areas associated with the hotel lounge, dining and meeting rooms,” states the design team.
At the same time, it contributes to the non-hotel user experience by enhancing the pedestrian realm on 5th Avenue – creating a landscaped zone and buffer that is a visual amenity for the neighborhood and resting spot for passersby.”
Overall, the Board was relatively supportive of the project, but it did have a few suggestions for the project moving forward. The Board discussed at length the use of the plaza, and asked the project team to make it more of a destination for guests and pedestrians, stating that “the virtue of having a plaza is just not enough.” Additionally, the Board remarked on the massing of the project, asking the design team to further study the upper element setback and its role within the project. To the south, the Board also directed the project team to study the evolution of the massing element and to better create a coherent, whole project.
The Board generally supported the ground plane and encouraged a second entry off of the planned plaza. It also suggested the use of materials to create secondary and tertiary design elements to break up the project’s scale. At the end, the Board voted unanimously to move the project forward.
The design team took the comments in stride. “The project is getting better and better as we go,” noted Jacques. “So, thank you.”