By Jack Stubbs
One hotel development in the works in downtown Seattle will not yet advance to the next stage of the city’s design review process. On Tuesday, February 20th, a 170-unit hotel development in Belltown was denied approval to proceed at an initial Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting.
At the meeting, Seattle-based architect Third Place Design Co-operative presented preliminary project plans to the downtown Review Board on behalf of Silver Cloud Inns & Hotels, the owner and developer of the project. Silver Cloud currently has four other hotels in Seattle in Capitol Hill, South Lake Union, the University District and the Stadium District.
The applicant team will be asked to return for a second EDG meeting. The downtown review board requested additional information about how the proposed hotel development would be programmed and expressed concerns that the development does currently conform with the surrounding neighborhood context.
The proposed hotel development, located at 2033 4th Avenue, will contain 170 hotel rooms, 10 residential units located on the top two floors and 15 bike stalls. The first floor, which will include a fully-glazed exterior to encourage maximum visibility between the development and the adjacent streetscape, will also contain a restaurant, bar space and hotel lobby area. The second floor will be dedicated to restaurant space, while levels 3 through 18, all hotel use, will also include a landscaped exterior deck and a gym. Levels 19 and 20 will be residential, containing studio and one-bedroom apartments, while Levels 21 through 23 will include a conference center, bar with outdoor seating and a rooftop deck and pool, according to the project plans.
Kicking off the applicant team’s presentation, Poppi Handy of Third Place Design Co-operative articulated some of the main goals of the development. The hope is that with the use of glazing and light, the aesthetic design of the building will conform with the existing historical buildings in the neighborhood, help fulfill the need for additional hotel use in the Downtown and Belltown neighborhoods, and encourage pedestrian interaction with the development with public amenities and artwork elements along the streetscape.
The applicant team also articulated some of the primary city design guidelines for the project, including a focus on refining the building’s massing and scale; emphasizing the structure’s unique architectural character in relation to existing buildings in the area; and creating a development that successfully activates the adjacent streetscape from a pedestrian perspective.
Most of the board’s clarifying questions focused on the programming of the building and how it would relate to the surrounding neighborhood context. Board member Aron Argyle asked the applicant to clarify the development’s street-level uses, while board member JP Emery asked the applicant to provide more information about the plans for the building’s exterior materiality and glazing. Board member Bradley Calvert requested that the applicant further elaborate on its plans for the outdoor seating area, while Grace Leong asked for more information about which of the surrounding properties in the neighborhood are residential.
Public comments expressed during the meeting largely echoed the board’s feedback, with four audience members asking the applicant team to elaborate on how its proposed development would fit into the neighborhood context. A neighborhood resident who lives two blocks from the development expressed concern that the development would encroach upon existing properties in the area. “I would like to see something more neighborhood-friendly,” she said. One audience member expressed concerns with the building’s proposed FAR, while another voiced her opinion that the proposed hotel did not successfully account for other existing residential buildings in the neighborhood. There were also comments expressed about specific design elements including the overhead weather protection element, a lack of landscaping in the development and concerns about the potential visual impacts of the hotel.
During its deliberation period, the board agreed that it did not yet have detailed enough project plans to advance the project to the next stage of the city’s design review process. Specifically, the board asked the applicant team to provide more studies about how the proposed hotel would relate to other residential properties in the neighborhood and also emphasized how various exterior elements of the building—the massing, glazing and canopy element—should be refined before the next EDG meeting. Additionally, the board recommended that the applicant team provides more information about the relationship between public and private space in the development along the streetscape, specifically how the building’s scale would be perceived from the pedestrian perspective at street-level.