By Meghan Hall
Seattle’s Yesler Terrace neighborhood is gearing up for two major additions in the coming years as two new residential towers near the end of Seattle’s design review process. Proposed by Su Development, the towers will rise 21 stories and 23 stories, totaling more than 327,000 square feet and 354 residential units. The goal of the project, according to design documents, is to create a gateway into Yesler Terrace, one that encourages openness and diversity.
Located at 803 S. Washington Street, the property is currently owned by the Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) but is authorized to Su Development per a letter of intent dating to December of 2018. In addition to the residential units, the project will include 12,810 square feet of commercial space and 237 parking spaces. Bohlin Cywinski Jackson is the design architect and SKH is the architect of record for the project.
The two towers will be presented as split and slender architectural forms, allowing for ample light and air to pass between buildings. The buildings, state project documents, are designed to respond to the surrounding environmental context, including the project site’s location directly next to Interstate 5.
“The sculptural tower forms have been generated by responding to views from the surrounding context, and through the layout of interior spaces maximizing access to daylight and views, creating a dynamic addition to the Seattle skyline,” explains the design team. “From I-5 and the west, the tower massing is divided into large simple planar elements which have a formal clarity from a distance and while traveling at high speed along the freeway.”
Saw-toothed and angular bay windows will work to reduce the towers’ visible scale, and the facades will take advantage of a three-floor repeating pattern, made visible by thin floor slabs clad in aluminum grilles. Vision glass and full height spandrel glass in a light gray color will be featured on the exterior, as well.
The buildings will sit on a podium, folded underneath the towers in a fashion that will connect Yesler Tower Park to the development. The aforementioned commercial space will include a community meeting room, which will act as a grounding and centering space for the project. The space will be used for both private and community events. Along the east portion of the façade, retail spaces will occupy the lower two levels. A central plaza, located at ground level, will be open with the park and will be available for public use.
“Designed as a flexible multi-use environment, the plaza is available for small and large gatherings, extending the park activities to the edge overlooking the Puget Sound,” states design documents. “A central rolled curb allows food trucks to access the plaza for community gatherings and celebrations. The tower lobbies face onto the plaza providing eyes on the space and increased activity, while retail along the west edge will draw people deeper into the space. Conceived as a woonerf, the plaza is designed primarily as a pedestrian area with access provided for resident move-in/move-out, car sharing, and food trucks.”
Since the project’s previous design review in the fall of 2019, the project team has worked to make several updates, most of which intended to add detail to the towers. The project team worked to refine the uppermost balconies on the south tower to produce a more elegant massing. Sloping mechanical screens emphasize the edges and provide contrast between balconies and the tower. Additionally, upper level balconies were added to the north tower in an effort to unify the two towers.
The project team also worked to refine the soffit design, ensuring that the soffits will be visible from Interstate 5 and be composed of materials in jewel tones and tensile fabric. Phasing of the project has also been revised; the first phase will now include the full parking garage and podium.
The project is just one development part of a massive redevelopment happening currently in the Yesler Terrace neighborhood. According to the SHA, there are 24 projects in the neighborhood at varying stages of development. Other projects recently completed include Anthem on 12th, a 120-unit project, Cypress, a 237-unit development and Modera First Hill, a 290-residence development. Almost all of the residential projects in Yesler Terrace include affordable units in an effort to keep the community accessible to existing residents. Future phases of office and other middle-income housing developments are also planned.