By Meghan Hall
Seattle’s southern neighborhoods such as Mt. Baker are known for their residential, tree lined streets and diverse populace, but they have also grown tremendously throughout this cycle alongside the rest of Seattle. While the neighborhoods’ transformation might seem slower than highly sought-out parts of the City in the U District, downtown and Capitol Hill, numerous new projects—such as a 168-unit mixed use development located at 1801 Rainier Ave. S.—are continuing to make their way through the pipeline. The 1801 Rainier Ave. S. project, proposed by MAS Architecture LLC on behalf of the property owners, Mercer Island-based Jabooda Homes, was given the go-ahead by the Southeast Design Review Board to continue to the next phase of the approvals process at the beginning of December 2018.
The proposed project would be a six-story mixed-use development, a building of significant scale when compared with the single-story retail, commercial and warehouse developments that immediately surround the project site and that line Rainier Ave. S. In addition to housing, up to 12,384 square feet of commercial area will also be added, as well as 68 below-grade parking stalls and 57 bicycle slots.
Based on early design review guidance, the project team presented three massing options to the board, although the board had expressed interest in in the second of two u-shaped options, which had the residential entrance located on South Grand St. and a single level of below-grade parking. In previous design review meetings, the board focused its feedback on the articulation and massing on the various street-facing facades. At that time, the board also requested more information on key design elements that would be incorporated into the ground level commercial and retail spaces and warned that a second Design Review Meeting would be necessary if these concerns were not addressed at the most recent review.
The massing for the third, preferred option would situate the main entrance off of S. Grand St. and provide a large cantilever for weather protection. A large outdoor space along S. Holgate Street would be included in the project plans, and the project team applied a “shifting floor plate offset” to all exterior façades in order to create a better-articulated building.
“The design intent for the building was a reflection of the street patterns in that neighborhood, because it is a full block site,” explained Seth Hale, an architect at MAS Architecture working on the project. “The offset plate language is really addressing the irregular grid pattern created by Rainier Ave., and then on the south and west side facing facades are much more regular—or stacked plates—as the grid is much more formal heading to the south and west.”
The exterior designs for the building also include a stacked metal-clad façade, which is articulated via fenestration and white panel patterns on various levels of the building in response to the street grid patterns. The panels are arranged randomly, while storefront glazing, entry glass canopies and durable concrete board form materials were included per the board’s guidance to help separate the commercial and residential facades.
“A big component of this building is once you’re above grade, a lot of the view of the building is from vehicles,” said Hale. “A lot of the simplicity of the design was to keep it clean and simple, because it was going to be viewed at a relatively high speed. As well, the offsetting plate language, to work well in the design, those plates have to be very clean and sleek.”
However, further design review won’t be necessary for the project, since the design review board was supportive of the team’s updates to the project’s design. According to Hale, the board did not even have any major conditions moving forward with the project. The boards only comments, said Hale, were concerning pedestrian safety in regards to vehicle versus bicycle parking and the types of trees to be planted in the development’s internal courtyard.
“They were in favor because they allowed us to proceed,” said Hale. “When we had first come in for our early design guidance meeting, we had a bunch of different massings at that time. But they were very much in favor of the design decisions we have made and were pleased we stuck with the same design intent.”
Now that the development’s design has been approved, the project team will wrap up the formal paperwork and permitting process. According to Hale, the team already submitted for building and master use permits, and the developer anticipates breaking ground in a few months. This means that Seattle’s Mt. Baker residents can anticipate another new building rising on Rainier Ave. S. in just a couple of years, contributing to the district’s increasing activity.