By Meghan Hall
As development continues to rapidly change the character of Seattle’s neighborhoods, property owners and architects are constantly searching for design inspiration as they propose new projects around the region. For Continental Properties and architecture firm Johnson Braund, Inc., capturing Uptown’s character is the main goal — and challenge — for the redevelopment of 100 Roy St. This week, the firms presented their project plans to construct a 169-unit mixed-use building that would also include between 6,000 and 6,500 square feet of ground floor commercial space. Wednesday night’s Early Design Guidance Meeting was the second time Continental Properties and Johnson Braund faced the West Design Review Board, who unanimously voted to move the project forward.
In addition to the residential units and commercial space, the project will include one and a half levels of below- and partially-below grade parking. Outdoor amenity spaces will also include required public open space equal to 15 percent of the 30,732 square foot site area.
“Our two goals are….to enhance the Uptown neighborhood with a prominent building design and to enhance the Uptown neighborhood with open space and commercial opportunities,” stated Diana Keys, Johnson Braund’s vice president and director of housing. “We rolled those two goals into a design concept that we called ‘pedestrian urbanism.’”
Currently, 100 Roy St. is developed with a three-story over basement apartment building constructed in 1948-49. Initial historic evaluation has deemed the building of non-significance, and the development team plans to demolish the complex to make way for its proposed apartments. Continental Properties purchased the 66-unit complex in February 2018 for $22 million, or around $333,333 per unit.
The site is in a prominent location within Seattle that sees high levels of both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Initially settled by the Denny Family in the 1880s, the project site is just a few minutes’ drive from Pike Place Market, Lake Union and the Space Needle. Roy Street itself is also an established commercial corridor and is considered one of the gateways to Upton and Queen Anne, just to the north.
Driven by its location and the proposed development’s size, Continental Properties and Johnson Braund strove to make the building’s presence known in its design, particularly on Roy St. In keeping with design precedents established by the Uptown Alliance, the form of the building will be contemporary. The ground floor commercial space along Roy St. will be broken into six small segments and canopies with unique storefronts, while a stepped podium will help to establish a strong pedestrian realm. The operable storefronts will flank a large courtyard topped with generous balconies.
“We’re creating a strong pedestrian scale with a lively, big character street front, said Keys. “And then an upper level that is more urban that presents itself to the neighborhood as an urban project.”
Because the new development would take up an entire block, Continental Properties and Johnson Braund have proposed a development split into three sections comprised of two corner massing elements and a third recessed, center mass with a large street-level courtyard that would feature an art installation. In response to neighboring low-rise residential developments, the design also proposes increased modulation on the Warren and First St. facades. The north façade will be more residential in character and will be offset from the property line in an effort to create more space between the new development and the adjacent property.
The Board was generally supportive of the updated design presented by Continental Properties and Johnson Braund, but warned the development team against responding too literally to the surrounding neighborhood context and advised the team to create a building more unique in its design.
“The Board recognizes the applicant’s response and development of a newer concept and the execution of that concept,” it stated in its review of the project. “The Board unanimously supports the [preferred] massing option…and would provide some caution to the applicant to not literally or overtly mimic the buildings in the neighborhood.”
The Board recommended adding secondary details to provide additional interest, and if brought up from the ground plane to the upper levels, could help create a more cohesive whole. The Board also felt that while the Roy St. frontage was well-designed, the remaining three facades could use more attention. The Board also strongly encouraged to reach out to the adjacent property owners of the parcel directly north and conduct a detailed study on the two properties’ relationship with one another, and how the new development’s façade would impact the existing development across the north property line.
With Early Design approval secured, Continental Properties and Johnson Braund will move forward to the Design Review Meeting phase, in which the team will present updated plans that consider the Board’s feedback, and provide greater details on massing, schemes and materials palette. The end result, stated the Board, will produce a development that encompasses the Uptown neighborhood’s character while adding its own unique stamp to Roy Street.