Home AEC 167-Unit Residential Project Pitched for Capitol Hill Questioned for “Unrelenting” Massing, Asked...

167-Unit Residential Project Pitched for Capitol Hill Questioned for “Unrelenting” Massing, Asked Back for Additional Review

Koz Development, 123 Bellevue Ave. E, Seattle, Capitol Hill, Uptown, 300 W. Republican
Courtesy of Koz Development

By Meghan Hall

For the second time within a few weeks, Koz Development has faced Seattle Design Review Boards. While a previously proposed residential project within Seattle’s Uptown neighborhood made it through the early design guidance process, Koz faced push back this week from the East Design Review Board on its designs for another, 167-unit multifamily development in Capitol Hill. At a recommendation meeting that took place on February 24th, the Board asked the project team to return for a second recommendation, citing concerns about the lack of secondary massing movements and the building’s “unrelenting” presence on the street.

The project is located at 123 Bellevue Ave. E., and its current massing and site plan has been heavily influenced by a collection of exceptional trees on the site. The development is set to rise eight stories and include a mix of 135 small efficiency dwelling units and 32 apartment units. The units would be several hundred square feet each, according to project plans.

“We started with the concept of grove preservation,” explained Koz Development Founder and Architect Joshua Scott. “That’s really where we started with the design, seeing what could be done to keep this protected grove in existence on the site.”

Whether Koz Development will be required to preserve the trees, or whether their age and condition dictates their removal, remained to be seen. At the time of the meeting, Koz was still working with City officials to make the determination as to whether the grove would remain on-site. 

Regardless, Scott noted, the overall design would be driven by the trees, or if necessary, by the landscaping that would serve as their replacement. In the design of the building, Koz sought to replicate the patterns created by the current landscaping along the street. The proposed residential development will be in an almost C-shape, with a generous courtyard at the southeast corner of the property. The project team also worked to step the massing of the building back and shifting it to the south, improving the distance between another apartment complex located to the north.

Located just off of Interstate 5, the project site is less than a block from E Olive Way, a main commercial avenue within the neighborhood. Koz notes that the current project property—currently occupied by two aging residential structures—is surrounded by a changing neighborhood context that favors denser, high-rise development.

“Right now [the project site is] an island…in the middle of previously developed sites,” said Scott.

Koz hopes that the project will bring a needed density and updated aesthetic to the neighborhood.  A red brick façade and white tone-on-tone metal panels have been proposed for the exterior of the building.

The Review Board generally appreciated the project’s massing evolution from the original early design guidance meeting several months ago, and emphasized that the open southeast corner is a beneficial move for the project. However, the Board raised a number of concerns about the lack of secondary massing elements and described the design as “unrelenting,” given the lack of additional modulation or fenestration. The Board suggested a change in height or modification of window patterning, addition of balconies and other strategies to offer additional visual relief.

The Board also asked the development team to more strongly consider the entrances to the building, adding that they did not feel integrated and were too small. One member also asked Koz to turn more attention to its treatment of the alleyway, as the design as it stood had a “defensive take” to the space. The Board noted that because that was the only bike entrance, for example, it would be highly used due to the lack of parking on the site.

The Board also debated for some time about materials usage, and asked for a study regarding the level eight amenity space. The Board suggested greenery on the rooftop to tie in with the proposed two-story green wall. While the Board wanted to refrain from being too prescriptive about the remaining materials, it expressed it was not a fan of the white panels, stating it gave the project too much of an “institutional” look.

Given these suggestions, the Board unanimously voted to have the project return for a second recommendation meeting in the coming months. A week ago, Koz saw slightly more success with another residential project, also planned in the core of Seattle. Koz has proposed a 162-unit project at 300 W. Republican St. that seeks to encompass the neighborhood’s mix of post-war and Nouveau architectural styles. The project received the green light to move forward with its Master Use Permit application in the coming weeks.