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350-Unit Residential Tower Planned for Seattle’s University District is Moved Forward by Design Review Board

Seattle, University of Washington, Seattle Northeast Design Review Board, Hewitt, Nicola Wealth Real Estate

By Catherine Sweeney 

After meeting with the Seattle Northeast Design Review Board for guidance on a 370-unit residential project, Nicola Wealth Real Estate in partnership with Seattle-based architecture firm Hewitt returned to the Board for early design guidance on an adjacent project site. Receiving the green light from the board, the site could soon feature a 350-unit mixed-use building with ample parking and ground floor retail. 

Located at 1107 NE 45th Street in Seattle’s University District, the project would include a mix of studio, one-, two-, and three-bedroom units. The project also would include up to 3,000 square feet of street level retail, 80 parking spaces in a below-grade parking structure and an open plaze for public open space. 

Previously, the design team met with the review board in July to propose a 26-story mixed-use tower at 1013 NE 45th Street, which is directly across the street from the 1107 NE 45th Street project site. In designing the new project, the team examined the similarities between the two sites as well as how the existing design and other existing buildings would inform the new design concept.

“1107 NE 45th Street’s adjacent context is more varied in size, use, character and has more potential for future development. It is located closer to taller existing and proposed development on all sides. This aspect of the site became a significant feature of the design concept. It suggested that the site’s features had a smaller, more local subset to consider,” said Julia Nagele, Principal Design Architect for Hewitt.

In comparing the two designs, the project team also took into consideration the existing buildings and overall neighborhood conditions that could be incorporated in the design scheme of the project. In doing so, the team noted the importance of outdoor plaza space in the neighborhood, specifically at the University of Washington. 

“Like the campus’ open spaces, the nearby context has a spatial quality within the neighborhood street grid. The campus plazas also featured openings along their edges. These openings between buildings provided views, vistas and visual connections beyond,” Nagele said. 

The residential portion of the mixed-use building would also be designed to include these elements. According to Hewitt, units would be arranged to offer views diagonally through the north and south directions as opposed to a rectangular arrangement that is typical of many apartment buildings.  

“To maintain zoning floor area requirements, and create a unified tower form, the sides of the rectangle were pinched and its corners chamfered. The massing and model studies revealed this tower form provided relief in bulk and scale from adjacent context, facade modulation and tall slender corners fronting the streets and alley,” Nagele said. 

“Furthermore, the units all have facades that deflect away from rather than front their neighbors. Like the open spaces in the campus, the tower’s shape allows for corner units without zigzagging corridors to a corner living room space with a column in the corner obstructing the view, but a direct line of sight from entry to distant views to offer a variety of foreground, middle ground and background of the targeted scenery.” 

The street level was also an important feature in the design scheme due to its location along University Way, which is a main retail hub just off the University of Washington’s campus. The podium-style building would be set apart by a variety of nearby buildings that offer a diverse mix of materials and styles. According to the design team, the goal would be to create a street level that is just as prominent as the unique design of the diamond-shaped tower. To do this, 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. 

“It reflects the past, present and future qualities of the neighborhood that guides 1013 NE 45th Street but in a targeted manner based upon the differences of its site conditions, context and program. Expressing neighborhood qualities in the design concept is to express the values contained in the City and Neighborhood Design Guidelines, a charter for a successful design review process,” Nagele said. 

Overall, the board approved the project’s design with no need for further design review meetings. The Board noted its approval for many aspects of the project, including the multifaceted composition of the tower and the team’s overall focus on the rest of the neighborhood’s design. 

The Review Board also approved of the attention to pedestrians at the street level, but noted some recommendations as well. Moving forward, the Board suggested the widening of sidewalks and additional pedestrian activity studies to make sure design and landscaping elements don’t interfere with traffic along the crowded street. Further, the Board suggested additional lighting and art elements to provide a sense of safety and aid in the team’s goal of drawing pedestrians into the building.