By Meghan Hall
Much of Seattle’s development boom has been centered around the City’s urban core, with the majority of large projects located within close proximity to major transportation, employment and retail hubs. However, larger-scale developments are working their way through other parts of town, even in and around the Mann neighborhood, where a 433-unit mixed-use, mixed-income project called Midtown: Public Square underwent its design review at the end of December 2018. The development will need further review, however, before it can break ground and join the neighborhood.
Located at 2301 E. Union St., the project was proposed by a team composed of urban real estate developer Lake Union Partners, landscape design firm Berger Partnership, and design and architecture firms DLR Group and Weinstein A+U. Once completed, the project will contribute to an entire block of redevelopment at 23rd and Union alongside a second project called Africatown Plaza, which will include approximately 270 units of affordable housing. The two developments will be connected by an array of open spaces and retail uses.
According to Lake Union Partners Development Manager Newton Breiter, much of Midtown: Public Square’s massing and design was inspired by the development team’s response to the adjacent Africatown project.
“The site’s massing is defined by a network of open spaces that are anchored by a large central square, and a gathering space on the corner of 23rd & Union that celebrates the corner,” said Brieter. “The square is designed to accommodate a number of community uses, from large parties and concerts to outdoor markets and small gatherings, [and] the space is surrounded by retail spaces to help activate it throughout the day and has a stage on the east edge to support music, speakers and movies.”
The development is composed of multiple buildings — each designed with its own character and retail space — but connected by large windows and modulated lanterns. The exterior design of the building will also use cement panels, summit bricks in several colors and community murals on the building facades.
The 437,000 square foot project will also include between 250 to 260 vehicle parking spaces, and seven retail spaces, according to project documents. The project’s residential units will be a variety of studio, one- and two-bedroom units, with a handful of townhouses flanking the 24th Ave. A bike room, conference room, storage space and several amenity rooms will be included throughout the building. A rooftop deck is also part of the project plans.
Breiter said that the East Design Review Board was generally supportive of the proposed massing and design of the project. At the project’s previous design review meeting, the board questioned the character of the portals connecting the development to the main public square, and that these connecting walkways should feel open and inviting to connect street life with the square. The development team responded to these comments by eliminating bridges at the 23rd Ave. and 24th Ave. portal, widening them by five feet and increased the storefronts further into the Central Square. At the second design review meeting, the board liked these changes, as well as the breadth of the team’s community outreach.
“The DRB appreciated the response to initial concerns about the width and character of [the] main portal entries into [the] public square,” said Breiter. “All other details on the project aside from the location of a tree in the square have been approved.”
However, the board also had several concerns regarding the placement of a tree in the center courtyard and how an art program proposed by the development team would be implemented on site. Given these concerns, the board requested the development return for another design review in the coming months. Given the board’s decision, Breiter said that the timeline for the project’s delivery is still to be determined.