By Jack Stubbs
Events transpired on Wednesday night that will influence a portion of Seattle’s Yesler Terrace neighborhood, a 30-acre site that is now recognized as the city’s first publicly-subsidized housing community developed by the Seattle Housing Authority in the early 1940s.
On September 27th, an Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting was held at Seattle University for Blocks 5.3 and 5.4 of the Yesler Terrace project. The applicant, Lowe Enterprises, who was represented by architect Gary Oppenheimer of Ankrom Moisan Architects and landscape architect Siteworkshop, presented preliminary plans to the East Design Review Board. The proposal is for the development of two projects: a 318-unit complex located at 209 12th Avenue South and a 192-unit project located at 1020 South Main Street.
Phase 1 of the proposal, the 318-unit complex located at 209 12th Ave South, was approved to proceed to the next stage of the design process, wherein the applicant will submit a Master Use Permit application (MUP) to the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection (SDCI) for review. Phase 2 of the project, located at 1020 South Main Street, was not approved by the board at this time and will be returning for a second EDG meeting in the future.
The total project, a 510-unit multi-story mixed-use 605,000 square foot development, also includes a 16,700 square foot park directly adjacent to the west of the Phase 2 building. Phase 1 is a nine-story building contains above 6,000 square feet of ground-level retail space, while phase 2 is an 8-story building that contains an additional 108 parking spots provided below-ground. The units for both phases are comprised of mix of 2-bedroom, 1-bedroom and studio apartments.
The project site is currently occupied by 35 units of two-story rowhouses originally built in 1941 for the SHA. The property site will be cleared and redeveloped by SHA prior to the sale of the property to the developer, according to the applicant’s submitted plans.
Lowe Enterprises has agreed to pay $32.2 million for the land, with the deal expected to close in November 2018 according to a report by the Puget Sound Business Journal. Lowe did not respond to several requests for comment about the details of the transaction.
The Recommendation Review phase of the design process will occur after the applicant has submitted a MUP for both of the project phases. According to the staff member from SDCI, it is up to the discretion of the applicant whether he returns with updated plans for Phases 1 and 2 concurrently, or whether he addresses the two phases at different points in time. According to the development proposal, the two phases are completely independent of each other, although the advancement of approvals is tied to a joint review.
SHA first developed Yesler Terrace in the early 1940s to address a distinct shortage of housing in the neighborhood. Roughly a decade ago, in 2006, when it became evident that large-scale infrastructure changes were needed on the property, SHA began the redevelopment process by conducting extensive public outreach with local neighborhood residents and neighbors, and Seattle’s city officials—this process was the beginning of SHA’s vision to transform Yesler Terrace into a model community, according to the organization’s web site.
In 2013, SHA officially began implementing their revitalization plan to replace the 561 aging housing units on the property for families who earned no more than 30 percent of the area’s median income. In addition to replacing the outdated housing units, SHA also plans to create up to 1,1000 low-income housing units at Yesler Terrace.
The applicants articulated three primary development objectives for their two-phase project: the provision of market rate and affordable housing for the Yesler Terrace neighborhood; creating buildings with an inviting residential scale; and honoring the unique history and vibrancy of the Yesler Terrace community.
The board’s primary feedback focused on the necessity for the applicant to respect the long-standing history of Yesler Terrace and the potential incongruity between the two proposed buildings. Board member Andrew Haas noted that “since [Yesler Terrace] has many layers of history,” community outreach would be an especially important component of the project moving forward. Oppenheimer acknowledged this comment and agreed to address the concern by implementing art programs and other community-oriented amenities as well as conduct outreach to the Yesler Terrace Community Council.
Other feedback focused on the height, bulk and scale of the two projects, their compatibility with the surrounding streetscapes and the elevation of the adjacent park in relation to the proposed structures, as well as security and on-site water management and traffic concerns. In all cases, the application agreed to follow through with the recommendations.
No community members provided feedback during the public comment section of the meeting.
The board approved Phase 1 to move forward to the next stage of the design process: For this phase of the development, the applicant will submit a MUP for SDCI to review. The board did not approve Phase 2 of the project for the next stage of of the design process, instead asking that the applicant return with updated development plans for a second EDG meeting to occur on a yet-to-be-determined date.