By Jack Stubbs
There are several developments underway in Seattle’s Northgate neighborhood, but one mixed-use project will not yet proceed to the next stage of the city’s design review process.
On Monday, August 6th, a 235-unit development slated for the north Seattle neighborhood was denied approval at an Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting, with the board citing unresolved design issues relating to the building’s massing and pedestrian circulation around the site. At the meeting, applicant Grouparchitect presented preliminary plans to the northeast board on behalf of developer Goodman Real Estate. Landscape architect LA Studios LLC is also on the project team.
The 7-story project, called Northgate Apartments Phase II and located at 10700 5th Ave NE, will look to build upon the existing urban fabric in the Northgate urban center. The development will include 182 below-grade parking stalls, a central resident courtyard and residential lobby, and 4,200 square feet of retail space along 5th Avenue.
Beginning the applicant’s presentation, Grouparchitect discussed the neighborhood context and under-construction developments around the site and discussed the primary objectives for the project. A 7-story project immediately north of the project site, called Northgate Phase I, is the applicant’s other 134-unit development currently under construction.
The applicant emphasized how the development would look to activate 5th Avenue through appropriate street-level uses; successfully incorporate open space features into the project plans; create a positive pedestrian experience along the streetscape; and successfully relate to the adjacent Northgate Phase I building. The applicant also discussed the pros and cons of the three proposed massing options, and explained how the preferred option would most successfully integrate the lobby and courtyard areas into the submitted plans.
Most of the board’s clarifying questions focused on how the applicant planned to incorporate the courtyard area into the development and how the building would relate to the adjacent under-construction Northgate Phase I project. Board member Anita Jeerage asked for more information about the design and programming of the central courtyard area, while board member Brian Bishop asked for more detailed plans about the landscaping elements along the streetscape. The board also requested that the applicant elaborate on the design of the parking lot, and asked the applicant specifically how would it would ensure effective pedestrian circulation and access to the building. Additionally, the board inquired whether the massing and design of the structure—especially the orientation of the units—would relate to the Northgate Phase I building.
During its deliberation period, the board talked at length about how the project would fit the evolving neighborhood context. The board explored the pros and cons of the applicant’s three massing options and ultimately decided that more work would need to be done to better relate various features of the development—particularly the street-level building entrances—to the Northgate I project. Finally, the board emphasized the importance of ensuring effective pedestrian circulation around the building, especially given its proximity to the under-construction Northgate Light Rail station, which is scheduled to open in 2021.
The proposed project is located within blocks of NE Northgate Way, where there is another large-scale mixed-use development in the works that is set to change the fabric of Northgate. In early March 2018, Simon Property Group announced its plans to overhaul the mid-20th century, 55-acre Northgate Mall property. Simon Property Group aims to retain significant existing retail space in its redevelopment of the mall, but also plans to cut the retail space, which currently totals approximately 1 million square feet, to between 500,000 and 700,000 square feet. The redevelopment also calls for between 500,000 and 750,000 square feet of Class A office space, several hundred units of housing and a hotel.