By Jack Stubbs
Changes are afoot in Seattle’s University District as a 7-story development was recently given the green light to proceed to the next stage of the city’s Design Review process.
On Monday, March 12th, a 127-unit developed in the U-District was unanimously approved at a Design Review Recommendation (DRR) meeting. At the meeting, architect d/Arch LLC presented updated project plans to the Northeast Design Review Board on behalf of Yuan’s H&H Property LLC, the owner and developer of the project. Landscape architect Fazio & Associates and surveyor Terrane are also on the design team.
Located at 4726 15th Ave. NE., the development calls for the construction of a seven-story building that will include 127 market-rate apartment units, 41 below-grade parking stalls and bike parking on the first level. The building will also include a landscaped resident amenity area on the rooftop. The project site is currently occupied by three multifamily residences which would be demolished as part of the project plans.
Some of the other existing residential buildings in the neighborhood include the 56-unit Liv Apartments, the 7-story Bridges@11th, which contains 184 units, and the 167-unit Ava U-District complex. There are also a number of other in-progress projects within several blocks of the proposed development that are currently undergoing Design Review. Some of these include the 59-unit 6-story University Way Apartments; the 7-story Bellwether UCC, which will include 133 units; and American Campus Communities, an 8-story project that calls for 168 units.
It has been more than a year since the proposal was last seen by the board: the development was last reviewed at an Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting held in January 2017.
Kicking off the applicant team’s presentation, Matt Driscoll of d/Arch LLC discussed the primary changes that the applicant had made to the project since the previous EDG meeting.
During the last meeting, the board had requested that the applicant work on various design elements including encouraging pedestrian interaction with the development along the street, emphasizing the open spaces and refining the massing and and exterior facade of the building.
In response to the board’s feedback, the applicant enhanced the relationship between the building and the streetscape along 15th Ave. NE to improve the pedestrian experience and also refined the relationship between the building and the adjacent alleyway. Additionally, the applicant worked on emphasizing the design of the main residential entrance, added landscaping and signage elements along the street and incorporated different materials into the development’s facade. The applicant also revised the design and location of the parking garage and updated the orientation of the residential units.
Most of the board’s clarifying questions focused on how the building would be programmed and how the development would relate to the adjacent streetscape and neighborhood context. Board member Ivana Begley expressed concern about accessibility to the bicycle parking area, while board member Brian Bishop echoed this inquiry, also asking for more information about the proposed landscaping elements. Bishop asked for more information about the property line and boundary of the project site, also asking for further clarification about the new location of the garage entrance. Other comments focused on the applicant team’s choice of exterior facade materials, with the board suggesting that this design element would need to be further refined. Finally, board member Erick Blank highlighted potential security concerns with the current design of the fence along the property line.
There was one public comment expressed during the meeting. One neighborhood resident stated that he would like to see further attention given to the facade materials and how the building’s exterior would relate to adjacent developments in the University District along 15th Ave. NE.
During its deliberation period, the board ultimately approved the project, also articulating several design elements for the applicant team to incorporate into the project plans before the next stage of the Design Review process. Specifically, the board suggested that the applicant work on emphasizing the design of prominence of the parking garage entrance to alleviate pedestrian safety concerns. Additionally, the board recommended that the applicant work further on refining the relationship between the building and the adjacent alleyway, conditioning that the applicant increase the height of the fences along the property line.