By Jack Stubbs
There’s a new development on the horizon in Seattle’s Roosevelt neighborhood, with a 4-story 131-unit residential project recently given the green light to proceed to the next stage of the city’s Design Review process.
At a Design Review Recommendation (DRR) meeting held on Monday October 30th, the applicant team—Karen Kiest Landscape Architects and design architect GGLO Design—presented updated project plans to the northeast Design Review Board. The owner and developer of the property is Roosevelt Development Group. At the DRR meeting, the applicant was responding to priority design guidelines articulated at an Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting in August 2016.
The development—called RDG Block 3A—is located at 6502 15th Ave NE in Seattle’s Roosevelt neighborhood. The development calls for the new construction of a mixed-use building with 131 residential units (19 two-bedroom units; 39 one-bedroom units; 28 urban one-bedroom units; and 45 studios), 81 below-grade parking spaces, and 4,294 square feet of retail space. The property aims to bring positive changes to the Roosevelt neighborhood and help to create a high performing transit-oriented community, with the future Roosevelt Light Rail station set to change the neighborhood context in the coming years. The proposed project site is currently comprised of six parcels with vacant structures under singular ownership, which would be demolished as part of the proposed project plans.
According to the submitted plans, the Roosevelt neighborhood is experiencing an exponential growth of multifamily projects, with the proposed residential development planned to address the increased rental demand in the neighborhood. The proposed apartments will draw from the precedents of existing multifamily buildings within the neighborhood, both those under consideration and those currently under development.
The main design elements that the applicant was responding to from the previous EDG in August 2016 included the need to reduce the building’s overall height and scale, the transition between the residential units and the streetscape as well as the proposed uses for the commercial space. The applicant also highlighted the problematic location of a bus stop on 65th Street and the desire to strengthen the building’s retail presence at street level. Other concerns articulated at the EDG included proposed changes to the building’s exterior materials and privacy issues the placement of windows in relation to adjacent residential buildings.
The board expressed several design-related issues when asking clarifying questions about the development. Board member Eric Blank expressed the need for the building to respect the privacy of adjacent residential buildings, asking about the proposed landscape buffer and additional secondary design features. Member Anita Jeerage asked about the elevation of the building’s street-level units, noting that they would have limited access to natural light. Additionally, the board’s comments focused on the proposed uses for the project’s amenity space and the location of the nearby bus, in terms of whether the entire shelter ought to be removed entirely from the site.
During the public comment section of the meeting, one member of the public expressed potential safety issues with the project, noting that it was an important opportunity for the applicant to make a statement about the bike and pedestrian experience around the development. Another neighbor—a resident of an adjacent residential building—expressed that he did not want to see a pathway or through-block between 15th and 16th Avenue through the development, as it would create issues of privacy between residents of the development and the surrounding community. Additionally, other public comments focused on materials used, expressing her desire to see brick rather than wood used for the building’s exterior.
During the board’s deliberation, priorities highlighted included the location of the street-level units and their proximity to the street; the through-pathway, questions about landscaping and the materials used, the location of the bus stop, and potential wayfinding issues. The board allowed the project to advance to the next stage of the design process, also imposing several conditions that the applicant would need to consider moving forward. The board emphasized that more landscaping was needed for the development at the street corner, and that the canopy of the bus stop would need to be removed. Additionally, the board agreed with the applicant’s plan to omit the through-pathway from the project designs, and that the proximity of the ground-level units to the adjacent street was a non-issue. Finally, the board expressed a desire to see more artwork and murals implemented throughout the project, recommending that the applicant continue the dialogue with the Roosevelt art community to explore potential artistic opportunities.
The board voted unanimously to advance the project, with member Eric Blank saying, “They’ve met their due diligence, I vote that the project is moved forward.” The applicant team will now await the decision of the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection on its Master Use Permit for the project.