Home AEC 111-Unit Development in Seattle’s Historic Yesler Terrace Neighborhood Denied Approval at Early...

111-Unit Development in Seattle’s Historic Yesler Terrace Neighborhood Denied Approval at Early Design Guidance Meeting

Seattle, Seattle Housing Authority, Pondera Architecture, Bojan Vucen Workshop, Merrell Design Services PLLC, David Berleth Landscape Architect
Rendering courtesy of Pondera Architecture

By Jack Stubbs

A residential project in close proximity to Seattle’s historic Yesler Terrace neighborhood, a 30-acre site that is recognized as the city’s first publicly-subsidized housing community developed by the Seattle Housing Authority in the early 1940s, will not yet proceed to the next stage of the city’s design review process.

On Wednesday, May 9th, a 111-unit project in Yesler Terrace was discussed at an Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting, at which the east review board decided that it would need to see the development return for a second EDG meeting.

At the meeting, Pondera Architecture presented preliminary plans to the board on behalf of the project manager, Vertical Product Development. The project team also includes Bojan Vucen Workshop; structural engineer Merrell Design Services PLLC; and David Berleth Landscape Architect.

The development, located at 216 10th Ave. calls for the construction of a 6-story building that will include 111 residential units and an interior courtyard. Three single-family homes on the project site will be demolished as part of the applicant team’s project plans.

Kicking off the applicant team’s presentation, Eric Armstrong of Pondera Architecture discussed the neighborhood context and zoning around the site. The project will hope to take design cues from surrounding apartment properties including the 107-unit Alder Flats; the 85-unit Reverb Apartments; and the Decibel Apartments. Armstrong also discussed vehicular transportation and circulation around the site and the priority design guidelines for the project, which include creating a building appropriate for the neighborhood context and incorporating various open space elements.

Board member Alastair Townsend asked for more information about how the development would be impacted by the topography of the project site, and board member Barbara Busetti asked for clarification about the applicant’s landscaping plans. The board also requested more detailed project plans about the programming of the proposed courtyard area and the visual design of the building’s exterior facade.

There were several public comments expressed during the meeting by neighborhood residents, most of which requested more information about how the project would relate to the adjacent streetscape along 10th Ave. and the surrounding neighborhood context. Other comments expressed concerns with the lack of parking along the street.

During its deliberation, the board’s discussion centered around the applicant team’s proposed massing options and how the project’s current massing was out of scale with the character of the neighborhood. The board recommended that the applicant team work on emphasizing the community-oriented features of the development, including the courtyard and the resident amenity area, and refine its plans for landscaping.

There have been two other developments approved in the Yesler Terrace area in recent months. In December 2017, Lowe Enterprises’ 510 unit development (designed by architect Ankrom Moisan and located at 209 12th Ave. S.) was unanimously approved at a second EDG meeting. And on April 25th, 2018, a 298-unit development located at 104 12th Ave. E.—designed by NK Architects and developed by Centric LLC— was advanced by the board.

SHA first developed Yesler Terrace in the 1940s to address a distinct shortage of housing in the neighborhood. Roughly a decade ago in 2006, when it became evident that large-scale infrastructure changes were needed on the property, SHA began the redevelopment process by conducting extensive public outreach with local neighborhood residents and neighbors, and Seattle’s city officials—this process was the beginning of SHA’s vision to transform Yesler Terrace into a model community, according to the organization’s web site.

In 2013, SHA officially began implementing its revitalization plan to replace the 561 aging housing units on the property for families who earned no more than 30 percent of the area’s median income. In addition to replacing the outdated housing units, SHA also plans to create up to 1,100 low-income housing units at Yesler Terrace.