Home AEC 193-Unit Mixed-Use Project By Storybuilt Moved Forward by Seattle Design Review Board 

193-Unit Mixed-Use Project By Storybuilt Moved Forward by Seattle Design Review Board 

Seattle, Columbia City, Jet Landscape, Seattle Southeast Design Review Board

By Catherine Sweeney

A 193-unit mixed-use project is moving forward in Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood following a recent meeting with the City’s Southeast Design Review Board. The project is being developed and designed by Austin-based Storybuilt and will include residential units, live/work units and commercial space. 

“Storybuilt designs, develops and serves as general contractor for most of our projects and we often try to manage our projects once they are built,” said Schuyler Castello, an architect with Storybuilt. “We have an in-house design studio with just over 30 architects and designers in our office in Georgetown, just about 10 minutes from the project site.” 

The project, which would be located at 5201 42nd Avenue S., was first submitted to the board for early design guidance at the tailend of 2020. At that time, Storybuilt presented its initial plan to develop the 163,647 square-foot property across three buildings ranging from four to six stories. In addition to the standard living units, Storybuilt’s project also includes four live-work units, 2,090 square feet of commercial space and a two-level parking garage. 

The project would front both 42nd Avenue and Rainier Street, with a breezeway connecting the buildings along Rainier. The project team’s preferred design scheme also includes consolidated massing to allow for added outdoor courtyard amenities between the buildings.

While designed for residential use, Storybuilt also presented plans to connect the project to the wider public through the project’s commercial uses while still providing privacy for residents. For instance, ground level units along pedestrian pathways would be buffered with landscaping at entryways and private patios. Additionally, live/work units along Rainier Avenue would be designed with active transparent facades and building storefronts would include additional  signage. 

Materiality is also being used to differentiate residential and public portions of the project. Upper floors will be built with a mix of metal and aluminum, with large windows in each of the residential units. Other materials include a mix of wood paneling, brick veneer and a mix of metals, including charcoal metal paneling throughout as well as red metal canopy detailing over building storefronts. 

“At the upper level, we are introducing a contrasting shifting window pattern that conveys a sense of dynamism and movement that is more attuned to the context of a primary urban corridor. Larger windows maximize access to light,” Castello said. “…At the opposite end of the project along 42nd Avenue, the design is a quieter and calmer composition and palette with light box rib aluminum panel and warm brick as the primary materials.” 

The design also includes open space for residents, with a rooftop terrace and amenity terrace. The amenity terrace would serve as a gathering place for residents, with landscaping, barbecue areas, firepits, flexible seating and meeting spaces. The terrace would overlook the groundlevel courtyard space, which would be developed at the east end of the site. According to the design proposal, the courtyard would primarily include open lawn space for recreation as well as some  seating and grilling areas. 

Past the courtyard, the site sits next to a designated wetland zone. As per City requirements, the design must include a 60-foot wetland buffer. However, in adding a landscaped buffer, plans also include boardwalk spaces that would allow the public to move between the wetland zone, the buffer and the courtyard.

“One of our goals is not only to create movement through that wetland buffer by using boardwalks that would sit above the wetlands and allow for plantings to flow underneath and connect to the buildings themselves directly, but also to create moments where we can celebrate and educate what the wetlands and the buffers are doing for the ecology of the urban environment here in Seattle,” said Todd Bronk, principal architect with Jet Landscape, which is in charge of the project’s  landscape design. 

Overall, the board showed its unanimous approval of the project and ultimately moved it through in the permitting and building process. However, several conditions were noted for Storybuilt to consider in moving forward. 

Primarily, the board expressed the need for more distinction in the building’s materiality. Particularly, the board suggested varying the building’s facade and adding clearer signage so as to make the public portions of the project more obvious.  Likewise, the board also suggested clearer signage in the breezeway to help with public accessibility. Lighter materials were also recommended in the breezeway so as to provide a more welcoming and inviting environment.