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429-Unit Development in Seattle’s Central District Asked to Return for Second Design Review Meeting

Seattle, Lake Union Partners, Berger Partnership, Weinstein A+U, Africatown Community Land Trust, Capitol Hill Housing, Early Design Guidance
Rendering courtesy of Weinstein A+U

By Jack Stubbs

A 429-unit mixed-use development slated for Seattle’s Central District will not yet proceed to the next stage of the city’s design review process. Last week on Wednesday, July 18th, the board requested that the project team—which is comprised of developer Lake Union Partners, Berger Partnership and Weinstein A+U—return for a second Design Review Recommendation (DRR) meeting. The project was originally reviewed at an Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting in late January 2018.

The board voted unanimously for the project to return return for another design review meeting and requested additional information about the applicant team’s departures and how the project plans would better meet the intent of the neighborhood Design Guidelines, according to Wendy Shark, public relations specialist with the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections.

The mixed-use mixed-income development, named “Midtown: Public Square” and located at 2301 E.Union St., calls for the construction of a 7-story apartment building containing 429 units and resident lobbies and amenity spaces. The full-block development has been broken down into four separate sections through the incorporation of “gateway” elements that provide access to a 16,000 square foot public courtyard within the development. The project will also include a 12,000 square foot drug store along Union St., an additional 26,000 square feet of commercial/retail space and 258 underground parking stalls.

Lake Union Partners is co-developing the project with Africatown Community Land Trust—an organization that acquires and develops land assets to support the cultural and economic growth of the African diaspora community in the Central District—and Capitol Hill Housing.

As part of the redevelopment agreement, Lake Union Partners purchased the entire block and is working with Africatown to jointly develop the Southern portion of the development site, according to the Memorandum of Understanding for the project. Lake Union Partners sold the southern portion of the site, 20 percent of the block, to non-profit land conservancy group Forterra, who is developing the parcel on behalf of Africatown. In accordance with Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA), 10 percent of the units in the development will be affordable units, according to the submitted project plans.

There were several public comments expressed during the meeting, according to Shark. Public comments emphasized how the applicant team should further refine the portals of the development and also move the James Washington Fountain to a more prominent location on the site, such as at the corner of 23rd and E. Union St. Public comments also emphasized how the current design of the project did not adequately reflect the character of the neighborhood or the heritage of African American culture. The community also requested more input on the architectural character and facade design of the project. Additionally, the Central Area Land Use Committee supported the current design of the proposed development.

Following the public comment period of the meeting, the board recommended that the applicant team further develop the design of the building portals in order to encourage more pedestrian interaction between the shared central courtyard area and the interior retail space, and also requested more information about the applicant’s departures. Giving further guidance, the board also requested that the applicant team further develop the architectural and landscape concept for the project and strength the application of the “Afro-centric” architectural patterning and color of the project. The board also emphasized how the project team would need to collaborate with the surrounding community on the overall architectural concept moving forward in the design process.