By Jack Stubbs
Seattle’s University District has several developments in the works, but one mixed-use project will not yet proceed to the next stage of the city’s design review process.
On Monday, May 21st, a three-building, 268-unit development was denied approval at a Design Review Recommendation meeting. At the meeting, applicant Weber Thompson presented updated project plans to the northeast board on behalf of developer Phoenix Property Company. Site Workshop is the landscape architect for the project, which was last reviewed at an EDG meeting in August 2017.
The development, called “Trailside,” consists of three adjacent 7-story buildings that along with 268 residential units will include 258 parking stalls, 27,300 square feet of amenity/lobby space and 2,400 square feet of retail space. The project will also include a landscaped roof deck and an outdoor arrival/courtyard area called the Trailside Commons.
The three-building student housing development, located at 4801 24th Ave NE., sits adjacent to the Burke Gilman Trail, directly north of the University of Washington and east of the University Village shopping mall. The main objectives of the project are to provide housing further connect students with the northeast end of campus; successfully connect to the adjacent Burke Gilman Trail; and activate the adjacent streetscape through retail uses.
The project site and surrounding parcels are slated for the proposed Housing Affordability and Livability (HALA) up-zone. The applicant team is currently waiting for the city to pass the legislation of the HALA Environmental Impact Statement, which is expected in third quarter 2018. Although the proposed HALA rezone will allow buildings up to 85 feet, the proposed building will only be 75 feet. The project team is also seeking a street vacation permit, which will likely be approved by City Council in third quarter 2018, according to the submitted project plans.
Beginning the applicant team’s presentation, Weber Thompson discussed the neighborhood context around the site and how the development would visually relate to the adjacent Burke Gilman Trail. The applicant also articulated the primary changes that had been made to the design plans since the last EDG meeting. In response to the board’s feedback, the applicant team worked on refining the architectural concept of the buildings in relation 24th Ave. NE by adding various lighting, landscape and way-finding elements and refined the exterior facades of the residential units.
Additionally, the applicant further integrated the open spaces into the development to mitigate safety and security concerns and worked on differentiating the overall design and exterior materiality of the three buildings. The applicant also worked on differentiating the massing of the buildings and incorporated three “lantern” elements into the project plans to unify the adjacent structures.
Most of the board’s clarifying questions focused on how the applicant team planned to program various project elements and how the three-building development would relate to the adjacent streetscape. Board member Anita Jeerage asked for more information about the applicant’s plans for fences around the project site, also asking the applicant to elaborate on the relationship between the residential lobby area and the adjacent streetscape along 24th Ave.
Board member Katy Haima asked whether the applicant had considered any issues relating to parking, traffic and circulation around the project site, while board member James Marria asked for more details about the design of the rooftop. The board also requested the applicant to clarify the relationship between the three buildings and the various open spaces, and inquired how the development might relate to any potential future residential projects in close proximity to the site.
During its deliberation period, the board talked at length about how the three different buildings would relate to each other as part of one unified project. The board expressed particular concern with a lack of cohesion of the overall architectural expression of the development, highlighting how more work would need to be done to create a student housing complex that adequately fit the neighborhood context of the U-District. The board agreed that the materiality and exterior expression of the three structures would need to be refined to create a more cohesive three-part project in relation to the adjacent streetscape along 24th Ave.