By Brittan Jenkins

Developed by Terry Care Group and designed by Ankrom Moisan, the 24-story senior living tower in Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood gained unanimous approval from the Seattle Design Review Board in a Wednesday night meeting on February 8th at Seattle University but residents of the building next door brought to life some issues they had regarding the functionality and facade of the building.

In a room of about 30 people, nearby residents of the 24-story senior living tower at 620 Terry Ave. expressed their concerns over the alley side of the new building, citing the fact that the alley serves as the main entrance for many residents of Old Colony, which sits just next door to the senior living tower. Since the alley is used as a primary entrance, residents said the look of the building’s facade is important.

As the plans were presented, the alley side of the building looks different from the other sides of the project and includes other materials such as weathered steel, dark grey and minimal light brick. One woman who has been a resident of the Old Colony for 25 years said her unit is on the bottom corner of the building and directly faces the alley. She said she doesn’t want to see the weathered steel and dark grey facade of the new building from her window every day, urging the architects to consider what kind of impact that will have on future residents next door for the next 30 years.

Another resident of the Old Colony focused his comments around alley improvement as well saying he would like to see a green element in the alley and a traffic calming function such as specialty pavement to help improve the pedestrian experience in the alley and to alert drivers that this space is shared with pedestrians. He had a similar concern over the weathered steel as well but his focused more on the potential for vandalism and that material only facilitating it further. “We’ve spent about $3,000 this year with removing graffiti,” he said. “Even if you remove the graffiti, I doubt it will ever look how you want it to again.”

After hearing from the public on their feedback and concerns of the building’s facade, especially those of the residents next door, the board suggested the architects remove the weathered steel in the alley and replace the darker grey material with the lighter brick.

Several Old Colony residents were also concerned about the exhaust pipe from the garage that spills out into the alley. All the residents who voiced their concerns were in agreement on wanting to move or adjust the exhaust pipe in the garage. As the plans currently indicate, the exhaust pipe would blow out into the alley which is concerning due to the high level pedestrian activity and proximity to residents’ windows. They wanted to see the exhaust angled to blow out towards Cherry St. or moved all together.

While board members were sympathetic to their concerns, they decided the sidewalk and public realm takes precedence over the alley. “It’s a unique alley and is used often but it’s an alley for a reason,” said board chair Natalie Gualy. She also credited the architects for setting back the building on the alley side to create more space and said it’s better for an exhaust to have 20 feet to disperse in the alley rather than 5 feet into the sidewalk saying there’s more of a buffer in the alley.

While not as stressed with community members, board members were at a crossroads with some of the color choices and materials of the building. One of the unique attribute of the towers and podium is the incorporation of vibrant pops of color inspired by the views surrounding the region. “Inspired by Mt. Rainier and the Puget Sound, the greens and blues give a pop of color to the Seattle skyline in an otherwise grey atmosphere,” said Jennifer Sobieraj Sanin, architect with Ankrom Moisan.

In total, the project has 25 different materials featured throughout the exterior of the building, leaving the board was torn between the incorporation of the blues and greens and the weathered steel.

Board member and architect Curtis Bigelow was a proponent of the color saying, “The towers are really well thought out with an interesting play of color,” he said. But other board members weren’t quite as sold. Board member and architectural historian Christina Orr-Cahall thought the colors were overall, too much. “It’s way too much and makes for an erratic, contradictory building,” she said.

Since the building already has an abundance of materials and colors, Bigelow said, “I think there’s just one too many materials we don’t need and it detracts from their overall concept,” said Bigelow. “I feel like we could subtract one,” he added, suggesting the weathered steel go. Board member Sarah Saviskas agreed saying, “Overall, there’s too much happening with the depths and materials.”

The vibrance of the blues and greens weren’t unanimously loved between board members and members of the public but ultimately, the board decided the bright colors weren’t a deal-breaker. In terms of the weathered steel, board members seemed to be more unanimous in eliminating that material all together.

Even with concerns of materials and colors, the board agreed that overall this is a strong project. “I commend them for the tower facades,” said Barbara Busetti, board member and architect. “It’s elegant and playful and each of the towers has similar language but different personalities,” she added. Board chair Natalie Gualy echoed Busetti’s thoughts agreeing that this is a really strong project. Ultimately the board was unanimous in approving the design of the senior living tower. The project now needs to obtain a master use permit before construction can begin.

All in all, the 24-story senior living tower at 620 Terry Ave. will include 243 senior living residential units consisting of independent living, assisted living and memory care. Plans include a cafe space on the first level, an art studio, game room and art gallery. On the fourth level, there is the memory care terrace and the on the fifth level is the primary amenity terrace for residents that includes a dining area, dog area and opportunity for resident gardens. At the very top of the tower, residents can see nearly 360 views of the city on the sundeck. Plans also include two levels of below-grade parking but since the original proposal to the design review board on May 25th, 2016, the number of stalls has decreased from the original of 190 to about 130.