By Meghan Hall
Tucked between Portage Bay and Lake Union, Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood is an eclectic mixture of single-family residential, low-rise commercial and multifamily development. Just off of Interstate 5, the community is a major thoroughfare as it sits just south of the bustling University District and north of the rapidly expanding South Lake Union and Capitol Hill neighborhoods. Now, the Eastlake neighborhood is beginning to see its own wave of redevelopment; 2517 Eastlake LLC, a Bellevue-based entity associated with Carl Pollard, presented plans to build a six-story, 200-unit apartment complex at 2517 Eastlake Ave. E., replacing the single-story commercial businesses that currently reside on the site.
The project team, which also includes Seattle-based HEWITT Architecture, presented its plans to the East Design Review Board at an Early Design Guidance meeting Wednesday night. According to project plans, the goals of the development are to provide a greater variety of pedestrian street-level uses with its 2,500 square feet of ground floor retail and bring additional housing to the neighborhood. Project documents also indicate that two grades of below grade parking and more than 200 bike storage spots will be included in the development. Indoor and outdoor tenant amenity spaces are also planned, although project documents do not indicate precisely how much space will be dedicated to common uses.
The massing options presented to the Board all strove to ease the transition between the new development, which will be six stories in height, and surrounding multifamily uses, which range from one to three stories in height. The eventual development, states project documents, will likely propose a building with a larger-scaled context along Eastlake Ave. and a smaller-scaled context to the west, to mimic the residential structures that are adjacent to the site.
“[Our preferred option] parallels the intentions of the city-wide design guidelines. It provides us with design cues that [explain] how we got to where we are today,” said HEWITT’s Director of Design-Architecture Julia Nagele. “We look forward to working with the Board on what we consider these events and how they shape our project. We think we have the right number of pieces and the right scale and shape of things that can have different characters around the site that will be accommodating to the existing conditions.”
However, the design team does note that all of the surrounding structures predate zoning changes planned by the City via the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) process, meaning that the size and scale of future and surrounding development is likely to change as Seattle and Eastlake continue to grow.
2517 Eastlake LLC and HEWITT presented several massing options to the Board, all of which have a relatively equal amount of total gross square feet and rentable building area, limit or eliminate standard departures requests and refrain from any curb cuts on Eastlake Ave. The development team’s preferred scheme — called “Overlapping Blocks” — would be composed of a variety of masses to form a composition of smaller building elements to relate to the neighborhood’s character.
“This is our preferred alternative, because it best represents our edge events idea,” explained Nagele. “We have these interlocking blocks for a lower-scaled element that is inserted into this corner piece that is a clear mixed-use expression at the street intersection.”
The blocks would be broken down into four components: a corner anchor, at which the project’s retail space would be located along Lousia and Eastlake, a Parkview frame, which seeks to add modulation and use open space to enhance the façade’s location across from Rogers Playground, an arborway edge along Eastlake Ave. E. that will front Rogers Playground across the street, emphasizing the residential entry, and residential bays on the west end of the site. Outdoor terraces on the sixth floor and roof will also provide additional modulation.
The Board had several clarifying questions for the project team, asking about the proposed schemes’ relationship to the neighborhood and whether or not there was enough variation presented between concepts. The Board remarked that the proposed massing options were more of a progression rather than an evolution and wanted more of an evolved design, and asked for clarification on details such as the materiality and proposed treatment of the south facade and the purpose of the modulation of the Parkview frame, which intended to capitalize on views of Rogers Playground across the street.
The Board, generally supportive of the preferred scheme, voted 5-1 to move the project forward to the next step in the design review process. In the coming months, the project team will refine 2517 Eastlake’s design before presenting it another time to the East Design Review Board. And, once entitlements are secured, the project will serve as a design and scale precedent for a neighborhood just beginning to realize its development potential.