By Meghan Hall
A residential development slated to rise in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood is finally moving forward after several rounds of review and a number of updates. At the end of summer, Koz Development faced the East Design Review Board for the final time, procuring its blessing to move forward with a 167-unit apartment complex at 123 Bellevue Ave. E.
The project site is comprised of two county parcels, surrounded by a sea of other residential development. 123 Bellevue Ave. E. would fill in this gap, contributing to the continuity of the neighborhood. Currently, there are two single-family homes on the site, which would be demolished to make way for the project. Units would be single occupant studios ranging from about 230 square feet to 420 square feet in size.
“Right now [the project site is] an island…in the middle of previously developed sites,” Koz Development Founder and Architect Joshua Scott. Koz hopes that the project will bring a needed density and updated aesthetic to the neighborhood.
However, despite the project team’s best efforts, the Review Board found the project’s design “unrelenting” at a previous recommendation meeting, stating that the lack of secondary massing and other design elements made the building feel imposing. 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 design team to reconsider its material usage, and that the previous iteration of the project gave it too much of an “institutional” look.
In response, the project team made a number of changes to the project. First, the project team revised the upper-level exterior amenity space, scaling back on the amount of covered area, reducing the bulk of the building and creating a softer transition to the skyline. The entrance to the building was also relocated to pass through the proposed courtyard and recreated grove. Windows are now grouped together vertically to create further modulation.
The window groupings were also designed to complement a new color arrangement and palette. The primary cladding material on all facades of the project was changed to a dark color brick. Fiber cement panels, in a lighter color, will provide additional material contrast. A secondary cement panel color will be used at the belt course, sill, header and cornice to further break down the scale and massing of the project.
Generally, the Review Board was impressed with the changes made by the project team, and it particularly applauded the development of the design scheme. The Board stated that, “the proposal and the way in which the overall massing, material application, and use of secondary architectural features respected the typography found within the context of the site’s location within the city and reflected the local history and values of the neighborhood.”
The Board also commended updates to the rooftop amenity area and did briefly discuss an additional setback on the top floor, but decided that such a change would ultimately be unnecessary. The Board also appreciated changes to the materials palette, noting that the inclusion of larger window openings, balconies and combination of brick and cement panels worked to significantly reduce the perceived height, bulk and scale of the building. The Board also appreciated the relocated and enhanced residential entry, which provides a stronger connection to the street.
At the end of the meeting, the Board approved the project’s design, based on a few conditions. The Board asked the development team to continue working with the planner on details such as landscaping, material color composition and other details. The Board also stated that the project team, in its final revisions, maintain the overall facade design and secondary architectural elements. Koz will make these updates as it proceeds through the remainder of the entitlements process, after which it will be able to start construction.