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135-Unit Senior Housing Project to Return to Seattle Design Review Board for Second EDG Meeting

Seattle, Ravenna, Era Living, Weber Thompson, Ida Culverhouse

By Catherine Sweeney 

A 135-unit project proposed for Seattle’s Ravenna neighborhood was met with some opposition during an early design guidance meeting with the City’s Northeast Design Review Board. While the board was generally receptive of the residential building’s design scheme, the project was asked to return for a second EDG meeting. 

Located at 2315 NE 65th Street on an L-shaped parcel of land, the five-story residential building would take the place of a 72-year-old senior living center that is currently onsite. The 203,000 square foot project is being developed by Era Living with designs from Weber Thompson. In addition to the proposed residential space, the project proposal also includes 6,000 square feet of retail and 130 underground parking spaces. 

“Ida Culverhouse was first developed as a retirement home for teachers in 1949 and has been in operation ever since,” Jeff Reibman of Weber Thompson said. “The original building is the two-story structure in the South portion of the site. Era Living purchased the facility in the mid 80s and developed a three-story edition on 60th Street in 1988. After 73 years of use, the building is no longer able to meet the needs of senior residents and cannot realistically be brought up to modern codes or standards.” 

According to the design proposal, the new building is inspired by Northwest modern architecture, which attempts to blend interior spaces with the surrounding environment. Elements of the design style include large floor-to-ceiling windows, clean edges, roof overhangings to protect from rain, exposed beams and natural materials and finishes. 

“The northwest forests’ slender, vertical elements and strong canopy expressions celebrate, both shelter and natural light by blending indoor and outdoor spaces,” Reibman said. 

In implementing this design technique, the architecture firm also presented three design scheme options. The first option, referred to as the Parallel Axis Scheme, consists of two wings connected at varying heights. This option provides a widened sidewalk and large roof deck, but also includes potential conflicts with its close proximity to property lines and limited landscaping opportunities.  

The second option, the Perpendicular Axis Scheme, provides more abundant landscaping as well as a loop path for pedestrians . However, the lobby entrance in close proximity to the garage entrance could complicate the overall building circulation.  

The third, and preferred option by the project team, is the Bent Axis scheme. According to the project team, this design approach offers a greater level of articulation and modulation along NE 65th Street and includes an angled south wing, ultimately creating a larger setback from neighboring properties.

The preferred design scheme also creates the most flexibility for landscape options with an ample amount of garden space. The plan also retains all but one exceptional tree.

“Our preferred design takes a thoughtful and respectful approach to each ecology area. It includes many connected greenways, wetlands and waterways which have been important to the area dating back to native towers and it shapes the patterns of European American settlement to this day,” Reibman said. 

Overall, the board approved of the third design approach but voted to have the team return for a second meeting, ultimately asking for more detailed information about the design. 

Specifically, the board asked for clarification on dimensions to site relationships. The board also showed appreciation for the design’s approach in reducing height, bulk and scale along 65th Street but asked the project team to explore new ways to implement the same approach at all sides of the building. The board also suggested the team consider ways to step back the building at the upper floors.  

However, the board was supportive of the commercial spaces and their relationship to the sidewalk, including the proposed setback. There was also support shown for the garage entrance location and the overall strategy to try and provide an open, accessible floor plan.