By Meghan Hall
Large scale development is slowly inching its way south toward the University of Washington, where traditionally, mid-rise residential and educational facilities were the predominant character in the neighborhood. However, with housing now at a premium, large scale development has worked its way closer and closer to the university in an effort to capitalize on proximity to UW’s student population, public transportation and vibrant commercial corridor. Seattle-based Lee & Associates, along with d/Arch LLC have proposed a 24-story, 230-unit apartment building, that if approved, would be the southernmost high-rise in the district. The project underwent its first Early Design Guidance meeting in September.
Located at 4131 and 4135 Brooklyn Ave. NE., the project would be constructed on two parcels totaling 20,610 square feet. Along Brooklyn Ave. NE., numerous projects of varying sizes have been recently completed, including: The Parsonage, an 84-unit development, DXU Apartments, which will total 98-units, the August Apartments on Roosevelt Way NE, which will total 214 units and the Hub U District Apartments, which will have 111 residences. All of the developments listed will rise seven stories in height. The neighborhood west of the UW campus is also home to several notable buildings, including UW Tower, the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, and College Inn.
Current proposed development is much larger, according to project documents, rising more than 20 stories in height. Such projects include the 4126 12th Ave. NE tower, just adjacent to the project site. The tower will include 227 units and rise 21 stories. 4220 12th Ave. NE., just a block north, will be 24 stories and incorporate 446 residential units. 4800 Brooklyn Ave. NE will also be 24 stories when completed and have 227 residences.
Design documents indicate that the massing concepts presented to the design review board in September were largely driven by how the podium will respond to existing architecture, the creation of a connection to open space and the design transition between podium and tower. The development team presented four widely varying design options to the board, but did not highlight a preferred option. The board ultimately chose to evaluate the development team’s fourth option, expressing surprise that no preferred scheme had been called out in design documents.
The fourth option would total 215,900 square feet and include 3,2000 square feet of ground floor retail as well as 70 parking spaces. The plane elements of the massing increase gradually, with the north end of the tower carrying from the top of the structure to the bottom. A recessed entry at the north as well as a retail edge will connect to additional open space on the project site, while the south podium will be designed in an urban manner and provide additional modulation to better respond to the current, mid-rise character of the neighborhood.
However, the board quickly recommended that the project return for a second early design guidance meeting, stating in review documents that, “the collection of materials presented for Early Design Guidance provided insufficient contextual analysis, site planning options, and ideas for program organization.” The board stated that it preferred the design team refine option four because of its “relative simplicity…and quietness of composition,” as well as the balance and scale of the building when compared with other surrounding architecture.
The board encouraged the applicant to present two strong options at a second early design guidance meeting for the project that further elaborated on the architectural language of the project, in addition to providing further details on materiality and secondary design elements. The board did appreciate the design and development precedents highlighted in the project materials and suggested that the development team continue to pursue an approach that captured a modern interpretation of the neighborhood’s historic assets in the future design of the project.