By Meghan Hall
A proposal submitted by Encore Architects and Vulcan Development to construct an eight story, 272-unit apartment building with 170 parking spaces at 1000 East Yesler Way in Seattle was asked to return for further review by the East Design Review Board after an initial review at the end of October 2018. The project is one of several in the works with the potential to change the landscape of Yesler Terrace—a community which developed post World War II in response to a need for housing and is known as the first racially integrated housing development in the United States.
The development is replacing a previous set of mid-20th century low-rise affordable housing apartments, which were part of Seattle’s oldest public housing project, according to a report issued by the City of Seattle evaluating the project. Those buildings have recently been demolished, and the lot is currently vacant.
The project team presented several massing options to the board, in which the massing of each option revolved around a central courtyard. In the team’s preferred third option, the massing of the building mimics the strong north-south and east-west masses that stack along both sides of Boren Ave., while the interior courtyard is set at a higher level and has a larger footprint than the other massing options. An increased setback along 10th Ave. would provide additional area for planting and provide a buffer for residential stoops against pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
The design team also requested four departures for its preferred option of the proposed project. The first would increase the façade length along Boren Ave. in an effort to emphasize what the team called the “gateway character” of the building’s façade. The team also sought to adjust the setback of the entrance of the residential lobby on the corner of Yesler and 10th and also decrease the height of setbacks along Yesler. In its final departure request, the development team also asked to eliminate the private amenity space for a single unit on Fir Street, as it would be the only exterior amenity space on the Fir Street façade.
The board, in its deliberations, evaluated a code compliant option in addition to three separate massing options, but commented on the similarity between the proposals. According to the board’s report, “Though the Board acknowledged efforts made to identify historic Yesler Terrace design elements such as interconnected green space and simple bar forms, the Board was not convinced these design characteristics were reflected in the triangular massing options.”
The board recommended that the design team move forward with the first option presented—the code compliant option—as they felt that the compact form of the development better broke down the scaling and edges of the building. The board appreciated the simpler, bar form of the code compliant option and thought it responded in a better manner to the neighborhood’s green space that runs throughout Yesler Terrace.
As a result, the board recommended the project team return for a early design guidance meeting with a more refined code-compliant option after additional studies of the building’s massing along Boren and 10th Ave. were completed. The board held off on commenting extensively on the proposed departures until the final board meeting.
The project will return for a second EDG meeting during the next couple of months to present updated plans to the board, at which time the board could approve the project to apply for a Master Use Permit.
As of this writing, Vulcan Development did not return The Registry’s request for comment.