By Jack Stubbs
“I am very impressed by the effort you’ve put into working with community groups. I can tell it hasn’t been an easy process, but it’s done wonders for the building. Your presentation touched on many important priorities… For my part, I’ll vote to move the project forward,” said Eric Blank, senior architect and design manager at the Low Income Housing Institute and board chair of the Northeast Design Review board.
On Monday, October 16th, 2017, a 159-unit mixed-use project called the Artisan Apartments was approved to proceed to the next phase of the design review process at the second Design Review Recommendation (DRR) meeting. The applicant, represented by architect Ivary & Associates, GHA Landscape Architects, land surveyor Chadwick & Winters and Transportation Engineering Northwest, presented updated project plans to the Northeast Design Review Board, the first time they had presented their project plans since the initial DRR meeting in September 2016.
The board voted unanimously to advance the project forward.
The proposed project is a 159-unit mixed-use structure that will comprise 5 levels of residential units over two levels of below-grade parking. The street level portion of the project will be made up of a combination of commercial and live-work units. In addition to the residential units, there will be 126 parking stalls.
The proposed project is located at 12706 33rd Avenue NE in Lake City, nine miles to the northeast of Seattle’s center. The purpose of the DRR2 was for the applicant to respond to the guidelines presented by the Seattle board and the Lake City Future First (LCFF) Planning & Development Committee. The main concerns presented at a prior Early Design Guidance meeting in September 2016 dealt with the architectural roof forms, the discrepancy in elevation between the street level and the residential units and the overall massing and scale of the proposed project. The main concerns articulated by LCFF were the building’s architectural character, the surrounding streetscape, landscaping, security concerns as well as the regional history of Lake City.
In response to the raised issues, the applicant’s updated project plans emphasized a reduction of the size and scale of the residential project while at the same time emphasizing how the building would more successfully integrate with and conform to the surrounding neighborhood context.
Prominent design elements for the project included a modification of the canopies along the street front, a revision of the materials and exterior color pallette, and the integration of an artistic program into the project plans to emphasize the neighborhood’s historical context in the new development. The applicant also reiterated his intention to enhance the open space with landscaping, increasing the opportunity for vehicle access to the site and encouraging pedestrian access at street level.
When given the chance to ask clarifying questions, the board’s main concerns were the applicant’s use of materials. Board member Eric Blank highlighted that the broader exterior design decisions needed to be completed at this stage in the design process, with only minor changes possible from this point forward. Among other issues articulated was a question about the extent and scale of a perimeter fence enclosing the project’s outdoor area. Another comment focused on the importance of further designing a public artwork area.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, one person highlighted the problematic aspects of the development’s commercial element, since other projects with commercial frontages in the Lake City region often go underutilized. Other issues highlighted safety and security concerns around the garage entrance. One audience member, the co-chair of planning and development with LCFF, voiced his support of the project, noting that “the applicant was very open and responsive to meeting with us…to help the developer to understand the community’s vision…we want to recommend that this project be approved.”
As the board deliberated about whether or not to advance the project, central areas of discussion included the surrounding streetscape, materials used by the applicant, the articulation of the roofing, the project’s adjacency to other buildings and safety and security concerns. Another highlighted issue was the applicant’s inclusion of a gazebo and canopy area as part of the project. Ultimately, the board decided that the applicant would have to remove the overhead canopy but would be able to retain the frame of the structure.
The board voted unanimously to move the project forward, imposing one condition that the applicant include security cameras in the development’s parking garage to address safety and security concerns.