By Jack Stubbs
A new high rise development in Belltown is officially on the way.
On Tuesday, April 17th, a 285-unit mixed residential tower in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood was given the green light to proceed at a Design Review Recommendation (DRR) meeting. At the meeting, project applicant CallisonRTKL Inc. presented updated project plans to the downtown review board on behalf of China-based TeamRise International, who is developing the project. The development was previously reviewed at an Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting held in October 2016.
The project team also includes Studio19 Architects; landscape architect Weisman Design Group; structural engineer DCI Engineers; Coffman Engineers Inc.; Civil Engineer AHBL Inc.; and transportation engineer Transpogroup.
The development, located at 2302 4th Ave., calls for a 25-story mixed-use building that, along with 285 apartments, will also include parking for 178 vehicles, 6,750 square feet of street-level retail space and a rooftop garden. The proposed development sits adjacent to the historic three-story Franklin Apartments—that was built in 1918 and has landmark status—which is currently vacant. The location of the high rise tower is completely off of the Franklin building’s footprint; however, the developer does plan to utilize the roof of the Franklin as an outdoor amenity space for residents of the high rise tower.
TeamRise acquired the property for the project site—which includes the Franklin Apartments and the two adjacent parcels to the north—for $20 million in 2014 as the company’s first purchase in the U.S.
Kicking off the applicant team’s presentation, Brian Perkins of CallisonRTKL discussed the primary design changes that had been made to the project plans since the last EDG meeting. In response to the board’s guidance, the applicant worked on refining the architectural expression of the building’s facade and raised the podium elevation. The applicant also integrated different materials to better fit the character of the Belltown neighborhood and the adjacent Frankin Apartments. The applicant also altered the design of the atrium area and building entrance to better complement the pedestrian experience along 4th Avenue.
Since the prior EDG meeting, the applicant team also met several times with the city’s Landmark Preservation Board. Most recently, on Friday, April 13th, the Landmark Preservation Board gave the applicant positive feedback about the building’s massing and the applicant’s intention of preserving the Franklin Apartments.
Perkins also discussed how three of the historic exterior facades of the Franklin Apartments will be preserved and incorporated into the plans for the new mixed-use tower. The proposed project also sits adjacent to the Belltown Fire Station, which will be preserved as part of the applicant’s plans.
Most of the board’s clarifying questions focused on how the development would fit into the surrounding neighborhood context and how the applicant planned to program the building. Board member Aron Argyle asked the applicant to provide more information about the relationship between the street-level retail space and the Franklin Apartments, also asking for clarification on the building’s exterior materials. Board member Anjali Grant also requested more detailed plans for the proposed materials, inquiring how the top of the tower would be programmed. Board member Ed Palushock echoed this question, asking the applicant how the street-level landscaping elements would serve to emphasize the building entrance and atrium along 4th Ave. The board also asked the applicant to provide more detailed information about how the residential tower would be perceived from a pedestrian perspective along the streetscape.
There were two public comments expressed during the meeting, both of which expressed concerns with the development’s design and how the building would conform with the neighborhood context. The first comment expressed concern with the one-dimensional design of the top of the building which lacked “architectural interest and detailing.” The comments also expressed concern that the development would set a problematic precedent for future development in the downtown neighborhood context. The second comment voiced support of the overall design of the building, but also expressed concerns around a lack of lighting and subsequent safety issues in the adjacent alleyway between the building and the Franklin Apartments.
During its deliberation period, much of the board’s discussion focused on the massing and scale of the building and the applicant’s three different massing options. The board agreed that the applicant team would need to work on refining and softening the project’s exterior materiality—especially in relation to the Franklin Apartments—and also revise the design of the building entrance to better fit the downtown neighborhood context.