By Jack Stubbs
“For the next Design Review meeting, we’d like to see how the building further connects to its surrounding neighborhood context and other surrounding developments,” said west Design Review Board chair Christine Harrington at a recent Early Design Guidance meeting, approving a 175-unit hotel project to proceed to the next stage of the design process.
Often synonymous with the explosive number of commercial office projects being erected at a rapid pace, Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood has a significantly-sized hotel project in the works. On Wednesday November 1st, the applicant team—architect Johnson Braund, Inc. and civil engineer KPFF Engineers—presented preliminary project plans to the West Design Review board at an Early Design Guidance meeting. The owner and developer of the project is White-Peterman Properties, Inc.
The development proposal is for a 10-story 175-unit hotel building with a one-level below-grade meeting space that will include additional back-of-house and supporting facilities. There are 21 units planned for each of the first eight stories and 7 for the 10th story. The development includes a ground-level lobby and coffee shop, as well as a rooftop amenity service area. There are no parking spaces proposed for the new development; valet parking will be off-site. The total size of the project is 88,099 square feet.
Located at 117 Yale Ave. N on a 9,569 square-foot site, the proposed development is located off Denny Way, one block from REI’s South Lake Union hub and one mile south of the lake. The applicant emphasized the development’s surroundings, with the area having been recently shaped by several other large projects, including Amazon’s headquarters. The neighborhood also has many recent developments of new mixed-use apartments and condominiums.
The development objective is to create a unique hotel experience that is inspired by clean modernism, abstract art, European-inspired food service and innovative spaces and amenities tailored to business travelers, according to the project plans. The applicant also hopes to integrate the surrounding streetscape by creating a main floor lobby that is transparent and welcoming to members of the surrounding neighborhood. The existing two-story retail building on the site will be demolished as part of the proposed project; however, some of the interior tiling design from the existing building will be incorporated into the proposed development.
The applicant team articulated several priority citywide and South Lake Union neighborhood specific guidelines that it hopes integrate into the building’s design. Some of these priories included the natural site features, the building’s architectural context and character, and the transition from the development to the streetscape. Additionally, the applicant emphasized the exterior elements and materiality of the hotel project in relation to the South Lake Union neighborhood.
The applicant is not requesting any departures from the city’s design guidelines.
When presented with the opportunity to provide clarifying questions about the proposed development, board member Patreese Martin asked the applicant to clarify the development’s overall design vision and integration of visual artistic elements. Brian Walters asked about how the applicant planned to integrate the adjacent alleyway with the project design and the building’s entrances at street-level. Board chair Christine Harrington highlighted potential art and landscaping opportunities for the proposed ground-level courtyard area. Member Homero Nishiwaki asked the applicant to clarify the chosen location for the courtyard area and whether the building height was within zoning limits. Finally, Harrington posed a more conceptual overarching question, asking the applicant to describe the most unique and exciting elements of the development’s design.
There was only one public comment added to the discussion, with one audience member noting that the development offered a unique opportunity to consider zoning requirements and a through-block connection to increase accessibility throughout the development and the surrounding South Lake Union area.
The board voted unanimously to advance the project, also articulating several priority design guidelines for the applicant to consider moving forward. Concerning the building’s massing, the board urged the applicant to make the overall massing less symmetrical in order to activate the pedestrian experience with the development at street level.
In relation to the building’s architectural context, the board recommended that the applicant pay special attention to matters of accessibility and circulation in the street-level lobby moving forward. The board supported the chosen location for the rooftop amenity area and suggested that the applicant integrate light wells and other secondary features into the development at street level to enhance the pedestrian experience.
With its preliminary project plans having been given the green light to proceed by the board, the applicant team will now submit a Master Use Permit to the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection for review.