By Jack Stubbs
The ever-active University District in Seattle has a new project on the way.
On Monday, August 6th, a 227-unit project planned for the city’s University District was given the green light at an Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting, where applicant Runberg Architecture Group presented preliminary plans to the northeast design review board on behalf of developer Barrientos RYAN.
The 21-story development, located at 1200 NE 45th St., will include 227 units (a mix of studios, one- and two-bedroom units) as well as 3,250 square feet of street-level commercial space and 105 parking stalls.
Beginning the applicant’s presentation, Maria Barrientos of Barrientos RYAN explained how the project team had conducted extensive outreach with neighborhood residents and organizations to solicit feedback about the preliminary design plans. Echoing this point, Brian Runberg of Runberg Architecture Group discussed the neighborhood character of the University District and how the project site would impact the proposed plans, also articulating the relationship between various existing and under-construction projects located near the proposed tower such as Hotel Deca and UW Tower.
Runberg also discussed the three proposed massing options and emphasized how the preferred option would most successfully incorporate open space elements into the development and relate to the alleyway on the edge of the project site. The applicant also explained how the plans would look to activate the streetscape through various pedestrian uses and landscaping elements along 45th Street.
The project is also located near the under-construction University District Light Rail station near the University of Washington, which will be operational in 2021.
Most of the board’s clarifying questions focused on how the development would conform with the surrounding character of the U-District. Board member Anita Jeerage asked for more information about how the applicant would successfully activate the public realm along the streetscape, also asking the applicant to elaborate on outreach efforts that it had conducted with the community. Board member John Morefield asked how the tower would relate to the adjacent alleyway and asked how vehicular circulation would function around the site.
There were several public comments expressed during the meeting, mostly in support of the applicant’s current project plans. A neighborhood resident expressed approval of the project team’s community outreach efforts in relation to the adjacent alleyway and the U-District design guidelines. A student from UW echoed this general approval and also requested that the applicant reduce the number of parking stalls in the project plans. Another neighborhood resident requested that the applicant more fully consider issues relating to pedestrian safety and security around the project site.
During its deliberation period, the board’s discussion once again focused on how the proposed tower would relate to the surrounding neighborhood context. The board agreed that the applicant would need to work on incorporating the open space features into the rest of the development and resolve the programming of the parking spaces in relation to the alleyway. The board also encouraged the applicant to work on developing a project that would set a positive future development precedent in the U-District.
The neighborhood has been a hotbed of development activity in recent months, with several mixed-use projects having been discussed at design review meetings. On March 12th, a 7-story, 127-unit development—designed by d/Arch LLC and developed by Yuan’s H&H Property LLC—was unanimously approved at a Design Review Recommendation (DRR) meeting. On March 26th, 5-story, 98-unit development located at 4600 Union Place NE—which Runberg Architecture Group is also designing—was advanced at an EDG meeting. On April 9th, a 24-story, 227-unit development called ‘The M’—located at 4700 Brooklyn Ave. NE and designed by NBBJ—was approved at a DRR meeting as the first high-rise building under the U- District’s new zoning. And in mid-May, a three-building, 268-unit project called “Trailside,” which Phoenix Property Company is developing, was denied approval at a DRR meeting.