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25-Story Residential Tower Proposed for Seattle’s First Hill Neighborhood Asked Back for Further Review

Xenia Development, The Preston Partnership, First Hill, Seattle
Rendering Courtesy of The Preston Partnership

By Meghan Hall

First Hill, one of Seattle’s original neighborhoods is again leading the City’s development and has become a hotspot for new, high-rise proposals of varying product types. In an Early Design Guidance meeting at the end of last week, Seattle-based Xenia Development LLC and Atlanta, Ga.-based architecture firm The Preston Partnership, presented their vision for a new, 25-story residential tower at 1300 Spring St. While the development team hoped their preferred scheme would lead to the creation of a prominent neighborhood focal point once constructed, the East Design Review Board felt differently, and subsequently requested the project team return for another review.

“As we began the project, we started looking not just at the local neighborhood of First Hill, but the greater context of Seattle,” explained Adam Parrish, principal with The Preston Partnership. “One of the things we noticed about this site in particular is that while it is located in First Hill, there are a lot of views from and views to [other neighborhoods] …We feel it will be a prominent focal point once constructed.”

The tower is expected to include 352 apartment units, as well as a restaurant or retail space at the pedestrian level. The dominating theme of the building’s proposed design was “Nested Boxes.” The intention of the design was to provide interesting architectural moves with a simple mass and carved elements to mitigate the building’s anticipated height.

“My goal was not to express the verticality,” said Parrish. “I don’t want to make it feel like this massive building that was dropped into a corner site that doesn’t relate to the surrounding context.”

The design would make use of a rectangular grid on a tower shaft that represents the traditional base, body and crown motif of many structures throughout the building. Carves would reveal an inner layer, which could be emphasized further through the use of materials. The podium, or base of the tower, will stand four or five stories in height, consistent with other traditional residential structures in the neighborhood, and a plinth would be added in order to differentiate between the base and middle components of the tower. Level 25, or “the crown,” will be demarcated by a rooftop exterior amenity deck.

The base of the tower will be clad in brick in an effort to keep with the neighborhood context, while the upper levels of the building are expected to be finished in more modern materials. Specifically what materials will be used are still to be determined and will be narrowed down further into the review process.

While the Review Board thought the project team’s preferred option had potential, overall it felt that it needed to see the other two massing schemes fleshed out, particularly option A, which it deemed the most successful in responding to design guidelines. The scheme, called “Shifting Boxes,” the building would read as an uninterrupted tower along the alley. The form would be comprised of wrapping “L box stepped podium back” and would have its residential lobby access on Summit Ave. 

The Board based its decision on the fact that while the project team addressed the neighborhood’s current context, it did not address the number of future potential high-rise or high-density projects that First Hill could accommodate. The Board stated that in addition, the base-middle-separation and proposed mix of both traditional and modern materials seemed at odds with one another. The Board also asked that a zoning envelop analysis be conducted, and that additional context be given in terms of how the project will fare in the presence of other tall developments. As a result, the Board voted to have the project return for an additional Early Design Guidance meeting prior to submitting for a Master User Permit application. The project team will return in the coming months with all three design proposals fleshed out, before proceeding.