By Meghan Hall
Final designs for a new, 272-unit apartment building in Seattle’s Othello neighborhood are finally taking shape. Pitched by OZ Navigator and designed by Neiman Taber Architects, the 272-unit project seeks to fit well within its mid-block site and the character of one of the City’s most diverse districts. The project faced the Southeast Design Review Board on Tuesday night, and with backing from the Board, the meeting was its last public appearance before designs are finalized.
The project is located at 7324 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S. In all, the building will have 143,419 square feet of building area and will rise eight stories. Of the units, there will be a single SEDU, 270 one-bedrooms and just one two-bedroom unit. About 2,700 square feet of ground floor retail and a small amount of below-grade parking are also part of the project plans.
The development team describes the neighborhood as one of the most diverse in the city. For more than 100 years, Othello has been known as a welcoming landing spot for immigrant and refugee communities. Today, more than 40 languages are spoken in the neighborhood, including Amharic, Mandarin, Spanish, Tagalog and others. While Othello has grown more slowly than other Seattle neighborhoods, it is now seeing a “burst” of development, including 7324 MLK Jr. Way S.
As a result, OZ Navigator and Neiman Taber hope to create financially attainable housing that will fit well within the changing neighborhood. The design strives to provide as much access to natural light and fresh air as possible while maintaining privacy. The design is human-scaled in order to activate the street and add to Martin Luther King Jr. Way S’s growing commercial core.
The project team’s preferred option is called “Donut” and incorporates multi-story openings on the east and west sides to provide views into various courtyards and improve access to amenity space. The large voids in the massing help break down the overall scale of the building’s two largest massing forms and will allow for an outdoor plaza that connects to the pedestrian realm.
Commercial spaces at ground level have been designed with a high level of transparency. An art program will help to anchor the courtyard, while landscaping will be utilized to create a buffer between vehicle and pedestrian areas.
The facade will be further enhanced by a mixture of materials and organizational practices. According to the project team, window arrangement, window grouping, balcony style and other factors will help to further modulate the facade. The project team elected to move forward with a simple materials palette to emphasize the difference between the void and portals and other facades. The portals are a warm white to reflect light into various units, while the main facades are a darker gray.
“The palette we’ve come up with is a fairly subtle, restrained design reflecting the project’s role as a mid-block fabric building,” explained Neiman’s Patrick Taylor.
Overall, the Review Board was impressed with the development’s design progression. It did spend some time debating the composition and materiality of the project, and asked questions about the accuracy of the renderings given their darker nature. The Review Board wondered if a pop of color would liven the facade and help the project fit in with other buildings that took a similar approach.
The Board also debated between the use of Juliet balconies and simple glass for fenestration. They did agree that either way, the features added horizontality to a building that had a lot of verticality already designed into the architecture. At the end of the meeting, the Review Board felt that the project was strong, and while it offered limited guidance, felt that the development was ready for the next phase of the entitlements process. The Board voted to move the project forward, thus allowing Oz Navigator and Neiman Taber to proceed with their plans.