An Uptown apartment project will need to reconsider a number of its design principles after Seattle’s Design Review Board voted the project unacceptable for approval in this week’s recommendation meeting. KOZ Development’s 300 W. Republican Street 8-story, 168-unit apartment development was hoping to get the green light and advance the proposal through the design phase, but that next step will be delayed until the Board’s conditions are fully incorporated.
The meeting began as many recommendation meetings usually do. The developer takes time to review the updates that the developer and architect have incorporated into the plans, carefully outlining the recommendations from the Board and explaining the finer elements of the design. At this point, the massing is nearly complete, and the Board hopes to review things like materiality and get into the deeper details of the property.
KOZ Development’s Jason Anderson, a project manager at the Snohomish-based firm, led the presentation and jumped quickly into the details of the development. His primary focus in the presentation was on the pattern of the building’s façades, the courtyard amenity, and the design response to the site conditions, which included street-level experiences at a number of points along the ground level of the property. These were all in response to the feedback from the Design Review Board, which was given to the applicant team in previous meetings.
The overall design of the property follows the philosophy of the firm, which focuses on certain types of projects within urban settings across the Pacific Northwest. “KOZ has done many projects of similar size and type in the area, in Seattle, Tacoma, Portland and Everett and other urban areas in Oregon and Washington. Our goal is to provide a high quality-low cost living solution for people who do not need large living spaces and want to live simply,” said Anderson.
The location of this development is in Seattle’s Uptown neighborhood, on the corner of 3rd Avenue and Republican Street. The lot itself is just under 15,000 square feet and is in proximity to the Climate Pledge Arena to its east and Eliott Bay, which sits just south and west of the development site. The neighborhood is primarily residential with some commercial uses, as well. This building is projected to be 100 percent residential, without any commercial space or parking within the property.
One of the main features of the building’s massing included what the design team called the ABA pattern of its façades. It describes the outer edges of the side in one way, the As, while the middle of the façade, the B part, stands out. In this case, the middle portion is inset into the side of the building, which gives the building visual distinctiveness and a chance for the design team to explore a deeper street-level expression that allows the ground floor units to have small courtyards. This ABA pattern was something the Design Review Board specifically asked KOZ to study. The revised design included solid, quality materials like brick, cement and metal, which look durable and strong, but also clean and simple in appearance.
This patterning of the façade was enhanced by the landscaping and fencing along the ground level. Large planters and wired barriers featured the pedestrian experience helping increase visibility of the project and at the same time offering security.
The biggest challenge for the developer was amenity space on the corner of 3rd and Republican, which the Board supported overwhelmingly in the previous review sessions and wanted the designer to explore further. During the presentation, Anderson showcased several studies and examples of what can be done at that corner, however, the applicant team settled on a semi-enclosed space that focused more on the adjacent programming inside the building that connected the outdoors with the lobby space within and featuring a simple railing design that was functional and safe. In some ways, this was the main feature of the property and one that likely consumed most of the design team’s creativity and time during the presentation.
Some of the Board’s initial questions were focused on the materials proposed by the designer. In one instance, they requested more details about the types of plants the team was proposing along the ground floor. They confirmed that the project was proposing a green roof and explored why planters were used instead of at-grade plants. It seemed that the initial focus of the review might end there, but it wasn’t until the public comment that the Board realized it may have deeper issues to consider.
The majority of the public feedback came from one member of the public, which in this case has a vested interest in the project’s design. The owners of the 76-unit Latitude building, a property across the street from the development site, objected to the development proposal quite vociferously. “We are deeply concerned about the design and layout of this project, in particular the large outdoor private patio,” said Valli Benesch. “We believe that this patio will have a very negative effect on our neighborhood and the residents of The Latitude.”
While Benesch went on to describe the quiet nature of the neighborhood, she also called upon the design guidelines that outline how corners need to be treated as publicly desirable open spaces and promote activity in the area. She stipulated that the proposed design accomplishes the opposite of that – a private setting and a setback building that creates a large space, not for public consideration. “This is not a place welcoming a pedestrian to stop, take a seat, it’s rather making a statement of exclusivity and is creating a mental barrier between the resident, who has the right to sit there, and the pedestrian who doesn’t,” she added. There were “serious issues,” she concluded, that would affect the livability of the neighborhood.
Unfortunately for the development team, this was one of the areas where the Board also struggled to see how the preferred option was enhancing the pedestrian experience. Board member John Morefield explained that he retracts his support for the larger area of the patio, which in his view only benefited the private use of the space and not one for the greater public. Other members of the Board agreed with his assessment of the private nature of the patio amenity, and from that point on it seemed the project was unable to advance further.
Additional feedback by the board included more concern about the expression of the ABA façade design language. They found that to be inconsistent and wanted the design team to explore that more and provide further massing breakdown. In addition, they did not support the materiality of the different design elements and unanimously voted for the project to return for a second recommendation meeting.