By Jack Stubbs
“Congratulations to the applicant for creating a project that the neighborhood is so excited about,” said member Eric Blank of the Northeast Design Review Board, after the 229-unit development in Seattle’s University District was approved for the next stage of the design review process.
On Monday October 2nd, the project applicant—developer FH Brooklyn, architect NBBJ and landscape architect Thomas Rengstorf Associates—submitted their preliminary project plans for their proposed development.
Located at 4700 Brooklyn Ave NE and set on 16,462 square feet of land, the residential development contributes to the ongoing urbanization of the University District, according to the project plans. The proposal calls for the construction of a 24-story, 229-unit apartment building. Unit types will include studio, one- two- and three-bedroom units. The development will also include 5,575 square feet of retail/commercial space, one level of below-grade parking with 32 stalls, and 63 additional bike stalls.
There is currently a vacant, one-story Chevron gas station on the site that will be demolished as part of the proposed redevelopment.
According to the project developer, some of the key features of the project are its location—with proximity to the University of Washington and the under-construction University District Link light rail station to be completed in 2019 and will lie one block to the south of the site—and the way that the project will conform to the vibrancy of the surrounding community. Two of the applicant’s primary objectives are to “enhance the character” of the neighborhood and to promote “sidewalk activation,” intensifying the surrounding streetscape along 47th Street, an active transit corridor in the region.
Most importantly, though, the residential project “will help fulfill the growing housing demand in the University District and Seattle at large,” according to the project plans.
The applicant’s preferred massing option—which was approved by the board—emphasized, among other elements, the importance of street-level retail and the inclusion of a neighborhood open space park on the north edge of the site, which will create a street-level plaza for the residents and public. Regarding the architectural style, the applicant described the building’s design, as a “tall, elegant, skinny tower that maximizes daylight, air and views for adjacent properties and minimizes impacts to the street,” adding that the park to the north will “create a breathing space’ between the residential tower and the surrounding neighborhood.”
When the board asked clarifying questions to the applicant, their concerns focused on the neighborhood context of the project, especially the relationship between the height of the tower and the surrounding buildings. Additionally, one board member noted the fact that this project represents a unique challenge, since it is the first new tower proposed in the University District. Other concerns expressed by the board included issues of safety and security surrounding the proposed park on the northern edge of the site. To this particular concern, the applicant noted how the proposed larger park space—part of the preferred massing option—would benefit from higher use by members of the surrounding community.
During the public comment section of the meeting, many neighborhood residents expressed their approval of the project, especially with respect to how the proposed development addresses a distinct lack of housing in the University District. One neighbor noted her support for the design, saying, “I really like the pocket park; I’m less concerned about safety, and I like the multiple unit options, especially for families.” Another neighbor, who has been a resident of the U-District for 9 years, also expressed her enthusiastic approval for the project: “The building is really important, and is a keystone for future development. [It] is an example of density done right and will set a good precedent for future development in a neighborhood where housing is a critical concern,” she said.
Key elements of the project highlighted by the board members as priorities for the next stage of the design process included: the issue of public open space with the park to the north of the site; the safety and security of the park and how to enhance public safety within the park; the need for the project to integrate successfully into the surrounding community; and the height, bulk and scale of the project.
The board voted unanimously to move the project forward, and the applicant will now submit a Master Use Permit for the city to review at a forthcoming Design Review Recommendation meeting.