By Jack Stubbs
Downtown Seattle has recently been a hotbed for development activity, but one project across from the entrance to Pike Place Market will not yet proceed to the next stage of the city’s design review process.
On Tuesday, February 6th, a 14-story hotel project was denied approval to proceed at a second early design guidance meeting. The project was initially reviewed by the downtown review board at an EDG meeting held in October 2017.
The audience in attendance, comprised of various neighborhood residents and community groups, expressed its strong opposition to a development that does not fit the historic context of the downtown area proximate to Pike Place.
“Change is inevitable, but it needs to be handled intelligently. The proposed building wouldn’t benefit people who depend on the tourism industry and wouldn’t benefit citizens of King County who would lose an important part of Seattle’s cultural identity,” said Alice Winship, former president of the Association of King County Historical Organizations, at the design review meeting held this evening.
The development was met with widespread, vigorous opposition from the attending audience and the downtown review board unanimously agreed that the building would need to return for a third EDG meeting.
At the meeting, the applicant—architect Ankrom Moisan—presented updated project plans on behalf of developer Marketview Place LLC, a partnership of Stellar Holdings, Inc. and Seattle Properties. Spectrum Development Solutions will be representing Marketview Place during the design and application phase. HEWITT is the landscape architect for the project.
The proposed project, located at 103 Pike St., is 14-story 121-unit hotel that will have an additional 5 residential units. The project will also include a roughly 3,300 square foot commercial area at street level, a 3,400 square foot commercial space on the second floor of the development, and a rooftop bar and amenity area open to the public.
The project is set in a prominent downtown intersection. The development is just blocks from the waterfront and adjacent to the iconic Pike Place Market on 1st Avenue, which is a prominent thoroughfare that connects Belltown, Pike Place, Pioneer Square and the Stadium District.
Kicking off the applicant’s presentation, Jenny Chapman of Ankrom Moisan discussed the various changes that had been made to the project plans since the previous EDG meeting. At the prior EDG meeting, the board had expressed concerns with how the development would fit into the surrounding neighborhood—specifically how it would relate to the nearby Pike Place Market and the adjacent residential Newmark Tower—and also highlighted issues with the development’s massing and scale.
In response to the board’s guidance, the applicant team worked on refining the architectural character of the building to fit the neighborhood and also improved the relationship between the hotel and the adjacent streetscape along Pike St. Additionally, the applicant team strived to encourage more pedestrian interaction with the development at street level and also conducted community outreach with various neighborhood groups, business and individuals about the potential impacts of the proposed hotel development.
The board’s clarifying questions were brief. Board members Anjali Grant and Aron Argyle asked the applicant to elaborate on its plans for the building’s massing and the relationship between the development and the adjacent streetscape.
The public comment period of the meeting was robust and long-lasting, with roughly twenty members of the audience voicing their disapproval of the proposed development. Nearly all of the comments opposed the current plans for the hotel development, with several neighborhood residents and organizations expressing particular concern that the development would significantly detract from the rich historical context of the Pike Place Market and surrounding neighborhood.
Several members from the Save the Market Entrance group—a grass roots coalition of city residents and other supporters dedicated to preserving Pike Place Market—urged the downtown review board to send the development back for another design review meeting, emphasizing that the 14-story hotel was much too tall for the surrounding neighborhood and would negatively interfere with the entrance to the Market. The advocacy group has circulated an online petition to the city of Seattle in opposition to the development that currently has 5,140 signatures.
Other neighborhood residents and community members expressed strong concerns about the hotel’s aesthetic character and also cited potential circulation, accessibility and parking-related issues throughout the development. Several other community members emphasized that the hotel should not replace the three-story Hahn building—a historic structure that dates back to 1869—which would be demolished as part of the applicant’s project plans. The Hahn Building, which is located at the entrance of Pike Place Market at Pike Street and 1st Ave., does not have historic landmark status.
There were several other comments that reflected various community members’ strong opposition to the proposed project. Andrew Haas, a member on the city’s East review board, emphasized how the applicant team had not been receptive to the downtown review board’s feedback since the last EDG meeting. Additionally, two other comments echoed the sentiments voiced by the Save the Market Entrance group: a barista, who works in Pike Place Market, expressed her concern that the luxury hotel would reduce more affordable living options for visitors to the city; and a street performer at the market also encouraged the board to deny the project to preserve the long-standing history of the neighborhood.
The downtown review board was also urged by one audience member to balance the potential economic impacts of the development with broader community interest in the downtown location. “There’s an obvious gain to the city [to approve the project]…the economics are an overriding factor, but have to consider the cultural requests,” he said. “As a community, we value Pike Place much more than we value a hotel at this critical intersection.”
During its deliberation period, the board primarily discussed the applicant team’s response to the previous EDG guidance and public comments, and also agreed that the development did not yet adequately conform with the surrounding neighborhood context, especially in relation to Pike Place.
In preparation for the next EDG meeting, the applicant team will need to provide more detailed plans for the proposed rooftop amenity area and other design elements, including the exterior facades. The board recommended that the applicant further refine the development’s massing and architectural character and work on creating a project that better fits with the character of the adjacent market.
The board’s final decision to ask the applicant team to return for another EDG meeting was also heavily-informed by the widespread opposition to the project expressed during the nearly two-hour meeting. Given the public interest in the development site and the historic neighborhood context—articulated from the local and regional perspective—the applicant team will have plenty of work to do before the next EDG meeting.