By Jack Stubbs
Changes are coming to Seattle’s Othello neighborhood as the first stage of a new three-part Master Planned development was recently given the green light in the city’s design review process.
On Tuesday, May 22nd, a 175-unit development was approved at an Early Design Guidance meeting. At the meeting, project applicant Weber Thompson presented preliminary plans to the Southeast Review Board on behalf of Spectrum Development Solutions, the project developer.
The board granted approval to Building C, a 7-story, 174-unit development located at 3939 S. Othello St. The project, which will provide neighborhood housing over commercial space (occupied by a community medical clinic), will include a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom units.
The project is the first of three parcels slated for redevelopment as part of the larger Othello Square master plan. Stakeholders for the project (which include developers, future tenants, community organizations and designers) are currently working to establish guiding principles for future development of the other two adjacent Othello Square parcels.
Othello Square began as a grassroots movement formed by members of the Othello community, and the hope is that it will be a location where residents of Southeast Seattle of all economic and cultural backgrounds can access employment opportunities and opportunities for higher education, according to the submitted project plans. Specifically, Othello Square will include small business assistance and an entrepreneurship center; affordable commercial space for neighborhood businesses and cultural organizations; and affordable market-rate rental and low-income ownership housing.
Some of the objectives of the master plan vision for the project include reflecting the history and traditions of the Othello neighborhood; creating a long-lasting campus for the Rainier Valley and surrounding community; and create a space at the ground-plane that connects Othello Square with the surrounding community.
One of the core features of the project is the hope that it will tap into the culturally diverse context of Othello. There are various active community organizations in Othello: some of these listed in the applicant’s project plans include East African Community Services; Filipino Community of Seattle; Mercy Housing Northwest; Othello Neighborhood Association; and Othello Park Alliance. There are 144 known languages spoken throughout the neighborhood (47.3 percent speak a language other than English); and 35.4 percent are a foreign-born population, a figure that is double the rate in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metro area, according to the project plans.
At the meeting, the applicant discussed the neighborhood around the project site; discussed the relevant Othello neighborhood design guidelines; and presented the three massing options for the project. The applicant team is also requesting two Departures regarding the height of the loading berth and the transparency of the building’s street-facing facade.
The board approved the applicant’s preferred massing option for the building, according to Bryan Stevens, customer service manager and media relations at the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections. The board ultimately decided to advance the project, and also requested more detailed project plans before weighing in on the applicant’s requested departures before the next design review meeting.