Home AEC 276-Unit High-Rise in Seattle’s First Hill Neighborhood Denied Approval at Early Design...

276-Unit High-Rise in Seattle’s First Hill Neighborhood Denied Approval at Early Design Guidance Meeting

Seattle, MG2, Hewitt, First Hill, Early Design Guidance meeting, First Hill Improvement Association, 9th Avenue, podium, streetscape
Rendering courtesy of MG2

By Jack Stubbs

A mixed-use high-rise development will not yet proceed to the next stage of the city’s design review process.

On Wednesday, July 25th, a 276-unit development slated for Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood was denied approval to proceed at an initial Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting. At the meeting—where project applicant MG2 presented preliminary plans to the east review board on behalf of Medina, Washington-based developer 815 Investments LLC—the board ultimately agreed that the applicant team would need to return for a second EDG meeting with more detailed project plans, citing concerns with the development’s massing, street level uses and fit for the neighborhood context.

Located at 815 9th Ave., the development calls for the construction of a 29-story residential high-rise between Columbia and Marion streets. Along with 276 residential units, the project will also include a rooftop and private amenity space and 102 below-grade parking spaces. Landscape architect Hewitt is also on the project team.

Beginning the applicant team’s presentation, Ron Mitchell of MG2 discussed the neighborhood context around the site in First Hill as well as the primary project objectives. Mitchell also discussed the pros and cons of the applicant team’s three proposed massing options and articulated the various opportunities of the preferred third option.

The objectives are to reduce the perceived massing of the tower in relation to the adjacent in-the-works 30-story 800 Columbia residential project and the nearby St. James Cathedral, and successfully activate the adjacent streetscape. The preferred option also includes a departure to build to the edge of the street by reducing the setback of the tower from 9th Avenue.

Most of the board’s clarifying questions focused on how the programming of the proposed development would relate to the surrounding neighborhood context. Board member AJ Taaca requested more information about the plans for landscaping along the street, while board member Alastair Townsend asked for more detailed plans about how the FAR and building height would impact the different massing options. Board member Melissa Alexander expressed concerns about vehicular circulation around the below-grade parking garage, and also asked the applicant team to elaborate on how it would refine the conceptual design of the tower podium in relation to 9th Avenue.

Two representatives from the First Hill Improvement Association—and organization that looks to encourage positive development and growth in the neighborhood—voiced their support of the current project plans, also emphasizing various design elements for the applicant team to consider moving forward. Board member Jim Erickson expressed concerns with the tower’s proximity to 9th Avenue, also requesting the applicant team to give further consideration to the relationship between the tower and St. James Cathedral. Executive director Alex Hudson echoed Erickson’s sentiments about the project, also highlighting the importance of the tower conforming to the character of surrounding developments in the First Hill neighborhood.

During its deliberation period, the board highlighted how the current massing of the tower was not an appropriate fit for the First Hill neighborhood context. The board agreed that the applicant team would need to develop a clearer, more definitive overall design concept for the tower, and also emphasized how it would need more detailed project plans about the building’s exterior facade and materiality. The board also recommended that the applicant work on refining the relationship between the tower and the podium—and integrate appropriate retail uses along 9th Avenue—and suggested that, moving forward, the applicant work on designing a tower that would set a positive development precedent for the First Hill neighborhood.