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400-Unit Residential Development in Seattle’s Belltown Neighborhood Asked to Return for Second DRG Meeting

Belltown, Seattle, Noya Hill Real Estate Development Company, Third Place Design Co-Operative, Seattle Department of Transportation
Courtesy of Third Place Design Co-Operative

By Jack Stubbs

A proposed 400-unit development in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood will not yet be advancing to the next stage in the City’s Design Review process. On Sept. 6, a DRG meeting was held for the project located at 2033 4th Avenue, wherein Seattle-based architect Third Place Design Co-Operative presented project plans on behalf of Noya Hill Real Estate Development Company.

Ultimately, the Design Review Board requested the project team return for another Design Review Guidance (DRG) meeting, and for it to provide more substantial details about plans for the building’s massing, its materials, facades and its relationship with nearby buildings.

Along with the 400 residential units, the development will also include 528 square feet of commercial space and 25 below-grade parking stalls with valet parking service.

One of the primary goals of the development, as outlined in the project submitted and presented to the Design Review Board, is to ensure that it conforms with the Belltown neighborhood.

“The proposed development seeks to enhance the eclectic community of the Belltown neighborhood by providing a contemporary building design inspired by the spirit of the Pacific Northwest, as well as much needed residential units within downtown Seattle,” the proposal states.

“With the use of light, glazing and screening, the design strives to create harmony between the historic buildings, vibrant existing buildings such as the Cinerama and the ultramodern developments proposed around this changing neighborhood.”

Kicking off the presentation, a representative from Third Place Design Co-Operative discussed the neighborhood context of Belltown and an overview of the changes that the project team had made since the last EDG meeting, emphasizing the work that it had done on the buildings’ materiality and landscaping elements.

Overall, the design plans have evolved significantly since the project was originally presented to the board at an Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting held in late 2021, according to reporting by The Registry. At a DRG meeting in February 2022, the design team presented several different massing schemes to the Review Board, and the preferred option, “Big Wave,” was selected.

Specifically, the scheme employs a modulated facade design, with various levels shifted in and out to break up the bulk and scale of the building. The tower itself will be “razor” thin, a contrast to the “forest of thicker buildings” in the surrounding neighborhood, the project plans state. The preferred scheme also showed a tower clad in a window wall and fixed glazing to create transparency.

At the meeting earlier this year, the Board also stated in its deliberations that it appreciated the design and the efforts made to create a useful development on a very narrow and slender project site. However, there were concerns raised by SDOT about site circulation, traffic through the alley, valet parking and vehicle loading, many of which were brought up again.

At the most recent meeting, the board’s clarifying questions mainly centered around the relationship between the building and the streetscape and neighborhood context, as well as a review of several comments that had been submitted by Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI).

There were several public comments – both spoken and submitted prior to the meeting – that emphasized a desire to see the design team refine the project plans further, which cited various issues relating to traffic circulation, pedestrian access, and the overall design of the project relative to Belltown.

In keeping with its formerly-articulated clarifying questions, and subsequent feedback from community members, the board ultimately decided to ask the applicant team to return for a second EDG meeting.

Specifically, the board requested that the team work further on refining the adjacent alleyway and pedestrian access, as well as a better correspondence between the project and the Belltown neighborhood design guidelines.