By Jack Stubbs
“The applicant can proceed to the Design Review Recommendation meeting at their own risk. We would recommend that they advance but suggest that they show us various design options at the next DRR meeting,” said Anjali Grant, architect and chair of the Downtown Design Review Board.
On Tuesday, October 17th, a 59-unit project in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood was given the green light to proceed to the next stage of the Design Review process at a second Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting.
The applicant, Washington-based JEM Development, was represented at the meeting by Heliotrope Architects and landscape architect Site Workshop. The applicant provided updated project plans and was responding to the main guidelines expressed by the Downtown Review Board at the previous EDG meeting held earlier this year on August 15th 2017.
The development, located at 2218 1st Avenue, is set on a 6,570 square foot parcel. The project is an 8-story apartment building with a one-story basement, which will contain bike storage and individual storage units. The ground level contains commercial space and a common area totaling 2,450 square feet, while the remaining seven levels will be devoted to residential units. There will also be a rooftop amenity area; parking is not required or included in the project plans.
According to the project plans, architecturally the development aims to follow the traditions of existing buildings while integrating contemporary expression and elegant detailing. Additionally, the applicant considers the influence of light and shadow to be of particular importance in the project design,
The applicant addressed the main design concerns from the previous EDG meeting, which included the streetscape, with the board articulating potential safety and security issues; the alleyway, with the relationship between the development and adjacent alleyway presenting a potential privacy concern for adjacent buildings; and the development’s overall architectural concept.
When asked to present clarifying questions about the project, the board highlighted potential safety concerns in the adjacent alleyway and the material elements used on the rooftop amenity area. Another board member referenced the relationship between the streetscape and the proposed retail and amenity area with a potential conflict between residents and surrounding community members. The building’s massing was also discussed, with some of the board members suggesting a reduced massing of the upper levels.
During the public comment section of the meeting, primary concerns centered on the proposed elevation and height of the building. Steve Hall, a member of the organization Friends of Historic Belltown, cited SEPA and the city’s 2035 Environmental Plan, emphasizing how the building’s proposed height would severely limit the views of surrounding buildings. He noted that “it is important to us to build community through space, and the rooftop of the development is very important as well…even with zoning, views need to be considered,” he said, asking the applicant to consider a 7-story alternative to their project. Two other audience members, both residents of the advance Concept One Apartments complex, voiced their concerns. One of the residents echoed the concern about the building’s height, noting that it remained a pressing issue. “The Height of building will take away views of 35 apartment [units]; will destroy 70 percent of the views we have from the roof.” He also emphasized how the proposed height would affect the views of other surrounding developments and could set a problematic precedent for future developments in Belltown.
Central issues discussed during the board’s deliberation period included the building’s height and massing and the development’s setback distance from the adjacent alleyway. Ultimately, the board unanimously decided that the private views of surrounding neighbors couldn’t be protected in the case of this development.
The board gave the project the green light to proceed, also recommending that the applicant consider materials, how to increase the building’s distance from the alleyway and also to conduct shadow studies.
“The Downtown Review Board continues to support the look and feel of the building; it’s gone beyond EDG in terms of materiality and the ground-floor response,” Grant added.
The applicant will now apply for a Master Use Permit and submit it to the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection for review.