By Meghan Hall
The Space Needle is one of Seattle’s most iconic landmarks, and the Uptown neighborhood around it has undergone a slow and steady revival with the construction of new apartments and mixed-use developments throughout the area. One such project, located at 223 Taylor Ave. and planned to bring 226 units of housing and 20,000 square feet of office and retail space, received a green light from the city’s Design Review Board to advance its proposal into the next phase of review. It will help shape the burgeoning Uptown Urban Center neighborhood and the city along with it.
The development proposal was presented by Rob Deane, a Seattle-based senior associate with Encore Architects. The project’s owner, an entity called 223 Taylor Ave. North LLC, is a company associated with Seattle-based Flatiron Properties. Along with the housing and office components proposed by the city, the eight story development would also include 102 parking stalls and a 10,000 square foot office storage element.
The design team presented three different massing options to the board, although it was the third preferred option, called “Dual Core,” that the board deliberated and generally approved. The mass of the building, which is planned to be built out to its full height allowance of 85 feet, would be broken into three shifting forms along the site in order to break down the building’s lengthy façade. The office space would be located at the southern end near the intersection of Taylor Ave. and John St. on the first two floors of the structure, while retail is planned along Thomas St. A rooftop deck, private patios on the third and fourth floors, and exterior retail plaza with trees and seating along Taylor St. are also included in the plans.
The exterior design for the project will explore a contemporary style and use existing apartments in the area as its reference. The design team plans to use street level glazing, canopies and signs to create an enjoyable pedestrian experience.
Currently, the site is developed with a two-story office building dating to the 1960s and a surface parking lot. The existing building would be demolished to make way for the new development, but the office component would essentially be replaced within the new structure. The Space Needle Corporation, an entity that runs the iconic Seattle structure is a tenant in the existing building, and the organization is considering taking over the new office space, as well.
Across Taylor St. is a Best Western Executive Inn. A McDonald’s restaurant and the Aperture on 5th Apartments are also within the site’s immediate vicinity. The Space Needle is a block’s walk away and is easily visible from the property. The design hopes to connect the development to the Seattle Center and Arts district through its pedestrian-centric approach.
The site also sits along the Lake2Bay Corridor, a planned pedestrian-friendly pathway of green streets between Lake Union and Elliott Bay that is hoping to connect the two bodies of water surrounding the city. This corridor would also help activate the northern part of the property, where the retail component of the development is planned.
The board had some mixed feelings about the development, and its concerns primarily focused on the modulation the office portion on street level, as well as the relationship of office to grade. On the southern end of the development where the office is planned, the first floor would gradually disappear below grade, up to six feet in some instances. The board worried about how the execution of that would be presented in the final design.
The board also had additional questions about the northern massing of the building as well as the proximity of the building to Taylor Ave., which was designed to be rather tight to street, and its impact on the pedestrian experience. There was much consideration given to the orientation of the design and its massing, and the board wondered if the office component might be placed on the northern portion of the structure as well as exploring a vertical expression of the office space.
The board encouraged the applicant to explore different expressions of the Taylor Ave. experience and conduct a study and a recommendations that would show what that would accomplish if it were set back more or if it were to be maintained, what other explorations the applicant could do to improve the public experience and activation.
The board was not supportive of the proposed ground expression and sunken floor plate along John St. and Taylor Ave., which outlines the office space on the ground level. It requested to see additional resolution of those approaches, including how the project connects to the rest of the neighborhood, particularly the two residential projects south of the development.
In the end, however, the board felt comfortable enough with the proposed massing and decided to advance it to the next phase of review.
As the project continues to move forward through the planning and approvals process, it will add to the transformation of the Uptown neighborhood in light of the city’s approval for increases in zoning in parts of the district. The project application was submitted in September 2017, prior to the city’s decision to up-zone the neighborhood, so the project will not be required to meet the new affordable housing requirements in place.