By Meghan Hall
Seattle’s Yesler Terrace community is one of the most vibrant and active in the city, and recently the neighborhood has undergone a rapid revitalization as developers continue to propose a variety of projects to keep up with demand for housing. In January, Centric Partners LLC and Clark Barnes Architecture presented their plans for a new, 280-unit apartment complex located at the edge of the neighborhood, but was asked to refine the development’s design given the site’s prominent location in the neighborhood. Last night, the project returned for a second design review meeting to present its changes to the East Design Review Board.
“We discussed with the community that we would be developing the site as a cultural placemaker. We heard from the community that they wanted us to incorporate the multicultural history of the neighborhood into the site,” explained Brenda Barnes, partner at Clark Barnes Architecture. “We’re committed to integrating art, architecture and landscape as a cohesive pull and remains true to the neighborhood’s multicultural story.”
The massing of the building, located at 104 12th Ave., remained largely the same, with the seven-story building anchored by a focal point mass at the corner of 12th Ave. and E. Yesler, along with a large retail space at the ground corner accessed by a recessed entry. However, all ten originally proposed live-work spaces have been removed based on community feedback, and the retail spaces have been expanded along Yesler Way.
At its January design review meeting, however, the Board asked the development team to consider using higher-end materials as opposed to the vertical piers of brick and the horizontal vintage wood siding originally proposed. Specific requests to increase the amount of glazing, as well as to use a lighter materials palette, were also incorporated into the Board and community’s feedback.
In response, Centric Partners and Clark Barnes Architecture made a number of changes to the project’s design. In an effort to solidify the 12th and E Yesler St. corner and create a unique building identity, moveable screens were placed at each story, and the design for the panels will be a collaboration with a local artist. The screens will be semi-transparent glass or perforated cut metal and will create a dynamic element that can change over time. At night, filtered light will project through the screens and an illuminated corner lantern will act as a celebratory expression of the neighborhood’s art and architecture.
Additionally, the design team has removed the original brick piers and has proposed increased fenestration at the ground level. The upper stories of the building have been developed with balconies with large sliding glass doors to create additional visual interest. The architectural building now presents clean, modern lines with lighter material accents, inspired by local nearby institutions like Washington Hall and the Langston Hughes Center. Steel canopies with integral lighting and natural wood soffits are used to accent the 12th Ave. streetscape and help define the building’s retail spaces.
“We are working through ways to make [the facade] lighter, lift it up, make it more transparent,” said Mike Hatcher, the development’s project manager. “In our proposed iteration…you see much more modern articulation.”
In response to the community’s request to reference the diverse cultural history of the neighborhood, Centric Partners and Clark Barnes also hired Bill Gaylord, of Bonfire Architecture and Design, to help produce art for the development that will be reflective of the neighborhood. The art would be displayed at five keystone locations throughout the development: at the development’s main lantern, the plaza, the Yesler Way entry, the 12th Ave. terrace and the project’s 12th and Fir entry. For the completion of the art installments, the project team has set aside $350,000 and plans to hire between five to eight artists.
“This is an amazing opportunity. We have five integrated locations that we’re integrating artists from the community,” said Bill Gaylord, founder of Bonfire Architecture and Design and an original founder of GGLO. “…All of these artists have a history through their culture, or they’ve lived there, or their studios are there or they’ve worked in the central area.”
Overall, the Board and community were supportive of the changes made to the project’s design, feeling that the updates were a large step in the right direction. While the Board unanimously permitted the project to move forward, however, it did so with several conditions, as it felt that just a little more needed to be done in order to get the project across the finish line. The Board felt that the materials palette and art strategy were still slightly at odds with one another, and that the art strategy needed some refining, as well as the materiality of the massing. The Board also asked the design team to refine the height and design of the lantern that will anchor the corner of 12th Ave. and Yesler Way.
With design approval now secured, Centric Partners and Clark Barnes can now focus on making their vision of a gateway building in Yesler Terrace a reality.