By Jack Stubbs
Over the last several years, Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood has experienced widespread changes in both the commercial and residential markets. In the coming weeks, however, one of the neighborhood’s biggest developments will begin to take shape.
Last night, on October 11th, the project was approved by the East Design Review Board at a second Design Review Recommendation (DRR) meeting to proceed to the next stage of the development process, pending the applicant’s consideration of the board’s conditions. There will not be another Design Review meeting for the project. The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection will now publish a Master Use Permit decision for the development.
The approval process for the development has been a long time in the making. In December 2016, an Early Design Guidance meeting was held for the project, and updated development plans were presented at the first Design Review Recommendation (DRR) meeting on August 16th, 2017. The purpose of the second DRR meeting was for the applicant to present to the board alternations that they had made to their development plans.
The applicant team for the project consists of Portland, Oregon-based Gerding Edlen and Capitol Hill Housing as developers, architects Schemata Workshop and Hewitt, and landscape architect Berger Partnership.
The development is a four-building site located just north of Cal Anderson Park in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, adjacent to the Capitol Hill Light Rail station. Site A, located at 118 Broadway E., is a 7-story 150-unit residential building with 22,865 square feet of ground-level commercial space and 140 below-grade parking stalls, with 31 of the units designated as affordable. Site B-North, located at 923 E John St., is a 7-story building containing 110 units—all of which will be designated as affordable—with a 1,400 square foot community room on ground level. Site B-South, a 7-story 73-unit structure with 3,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space and 55 below-grade parking stalls, is located at 123 10th Ave E. Site C is located at 1830 Broadway, and comprises a 7-story 94-unit project (20 of which will be affordable) with 11,960 square feet of combined daycare and commercial space at ground-level, with an additional 21 parking spaces.
Hewitt will be designing sites A and C (the Broadway and Station sites, adjacent to the light rail station entries along Broadway St.). Schemata Workshop is responsible for sites B-North and B-South. The project plans also call for a plaza and public space between those two sites, which will be done by Berger Partnership.
Beginning in 2006, the City of Seattle and Sound Transit began engagement with the Capitol Hill community to plan for the TOD. In 2013, the City of Seattle and Sound Transit entered into a Development Agreement for rights to develop the four project sites. More recently, in April 2015, Sound Transit announced that they had selected Gerding Edlen as the developer or the project. In August 2016, Gerding Edlen signed a 99-year ground lease with Sound Transit for around $19 million. This is Sound Transit’s largest ever housing development project
Capitol Hill Housing (CHH), an affordable housing developer, assumed the rights to develop the project on Site B-North. Through an extensive collaborative process, Sound Transit, Gerding Edlen and CHH aim to create a site design aimed at “building community, encouraging transportation alternatives, creating vital gathering spaces and pedestrian opportunities, and realizing the TOD vision established by the Capitol Hill community a decade ago,” according to the project plans.
In their discussion of the current project plans at the second DRR meeting, the members from the applicant team addressed several concerns that the board had raised during the first DRR meeting in August 2017.
The board articulated concerns with the massing and forms of the four buildings. The board expressed concerns that the “lantern” elements—glass detailing and columns on the corners of the buildings—should be explored further and should resemble “glassy boxes” that highlight the buildings’ architectural character. The board also expressed that the materials, color palette and external detailing should be further explored, as well as provide more emphasis to the structure’s residential character and how it fits into the context of the larger development, among other things.
During the public comment section of the meeting, several members of the Capitol Hill community spoke out in support of the development. Those who voiced their concerns were members of The Capitol Hill Champion, a group that has been actively advocating for various community-oriented goals to be integrated into the Capitol Hill TOD development. The community group has been an integral component of the project’s review process, according to Julia Nagele, director of architectural design at Hewitt. “They’ve been really helpful for us in organizing community open houses … and focus meeting groups … to chime in about the project. They’ve played a pivotal role in this process,” she said.
The Champion Group’s active involvement has reflected engagement on behalf of the larger Capitol Hill community, according to Nagele. “They want this project to reflect positively in the community to better the neighborhood. They’ve very much been an advocate for the development,” she added. Nagele also emphasized how the community has largely been in support of the project from the beginning. “We had an expectation that [the community] wanted to be listened to…pushback from larger community groups has not been a complexity in this project,” she said.
Public comment at the meeting reflected this sentiment. One member from The Champion Group, a 10-year resident of Capitol Hill, noted how the development met the community’s desire for a daycare—one of the community group’s primary concerns—adding “I urge you to accept the developer’s design.”
Chris Curtis, director of the Seattle neighborhood Farmer’s Markets and a member of the Champion Group stated that he “wanted to congratulate the designers for a successful project.” Another community member voiced support for the project, especially with its inclusion of affordable units. One member from Sound Transit expressed their “admiration and support for where the development is today,” one that “achieves the goals of the community.”
During the board’s deliberation period, primary topics were the material choices on buildings B-North and South, the street-level uses and activation for Building A, and the need for the applicant to utilize quality materials in the prominent location along Broadway Street to enhance the pedestrian experience. The board also recommended that the applicant explore increasing the window sizes of the buildings. Other concerns included how the drop-off and pick-up process would work along the street for the daycare, and how transparency of the daycare at street level was necessary.
Following the second DRR meeting, the development is now moving forward, and SDCI will review the applicant’s Master Use Permit application.