By Kate Snyder
Plans for a podium-style mixed-use tower in Seattle’s University District were met with approval by the city’s Northeast Design Review Board during a recommendation meeting on Monday.
The project developer is Nicola Wealth Real Estate in partnership with Seattle-based architecture firm Hewitt. At a previous early design guidance meeting, the board approved and supported the developer’s preferred design option, which according to project plans, “presented the most compelling breakdown of the height, bulk and scale of the tower.”
Located at 1107 NE 45th Street, the project is a 28-story, 340-unit apartment building with anywhere between 3,000 and 3,500 square feet of retail space as well as below-grade parking for 92 vehicles and an open plaza for the public. Also included in the plans is parking space for 292 bikes – 270 long-term and 22 short-term bike stalls. The site’s existing building is to be demolished.
The building is a podium-style design with the goal of creating a street level that would offer just as much experience and prominence as the tower above, according to the design team. The project site would incorporate landscaping and similar design elements from nearby streetscapes to blend in with the overall design of the neighborhood as well as draw pedestrians into the building.
“The existing immediate context around the site is varied in size, character and use,” said Julia Nagele, senior principal at Hewitt. “These two site conditions suggest two architectural contexts, one for the tower and one for the podium. The podium takes its design cues from the urban pattern and form in the rational grid, most notably along University Way Northeast, where the tower’s form is taking some of its spacial qualities and experiences of what you might see in the campus plazas.”
Along with highlighting the two distinct designs between the tower and podium, Nagele also presented details relating to the tower’s uses. While mainly a residential tower, the podium space would come with a variety of experiences and amenities for pedestrians, such as public open space and walkable areas, and that a residential tower would add to the diversity of the non-residential surrounding area. Nagele also noted the request for three departures, all of which were related to a certain lack of overhead weather protection along the outside of the building and surrounding spaces.
The design team has characterized the University District neighborhood as “rational and romantic,” according to project plans, and recognized the site’s immediate, local context as a subset of the broader rational and romantic context.
“The project is rooted in the indelible characteristics of the neighborhood that we call rational romantic,” Nagele said. “The tower is organized to target views and call upon some of the positive qualities that you would see in campus plazas, while the podium takes its cues from the urban pattern and form of the avenue. We believe that this project expresses the values contained in the citywide neighborhood guidelines.”
The project plans noted that “tall buildings can have a reputation for being isolating and disconnected from the positive attributes of the city or create a negative impact on the surrounding neighborhood.” However, the plans also include arguments in favor of such buildings, like the views offered to residents as well as the potential for such a tower to become a city landmark.
The board was pleased with the design, and members appreciated the design team taking the previous comments into consideration from the EDG meeting. Board members discussed the project’s “positive” approach to the streetscape and supported the project’s signage, landscaping and seating. The board also wanted to see a study on enhancement possibilities for the project’s retail court. Ultimately, the board voted to move the project forward.
“The project was really well received at EDG and moved on, and since then, the applicants further developed the building and have done a good job,” said Tim Carter, board chair.
Another mixed-use tower designed by Hewitt in partnership with Onelin Capital Corporation is planned to be constructed directly across the street from the project site, to be located at 1013 NE 45th Street, according to previous reporting from The Registry. That project is slated to be 27 stories with 365 total units, most of which will be a mix of studio, one- and two-bedrooms. About 9,500 square feet of office and shared workspace is planned, as is 1,687 square feet of commercial space, plus neighborhood open space. That project was approved at a design recommendation meeting last year.