By Jack Stubbs
A residential mixed-use project located in close proximity to Seattle’s historic Yesler Terrace neighborhood, a 30-acre site that is recognized as the city’s first publicly-subsidized housing community developed by the Seattle Housing Authority in the early 1940s, is officially on the way.
On Wednesday, April 25th, a 6-story development that will include between 282 and 298 residential units was given the green light at an Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting. At the meeting, applicant NK Architects presented preliminary project plans to the east board on behalf of the developer of the project. According to the applicant, the developer is Centric LLC, an entity who is currently being represented by local brokers. Karen Kiest Landscape Architects is also on the project team.
The development, located at 104 12th Ave. E. within the First Hill/Central District neighborhood, will also include four street-level retail spaces totaling 12,410 square feet, a resident courtyard area and between 170 and 230 parking stalls. Eleven of the residential units will be designated as live/work units.
Kicking off the applicant team’s presentation, Steve Fischer of NK Architects discussed the zoning and neighborhood context around the site and the various community nodes in close proximity to the proposed development. Some of these include Swedish Medical Center’s Cherry Hill Campus/Providence Hospital, Seattle University and Squire Park. Fischer explained the priority city design guidelines for the project and also discussed issues relating to vehicular and pedestrian circulation around the site and articulated the three massing options.
Most of the board’s clarifying questions focused on various design-related elements of the project. Board member Alistair Townsend asked the applicant to provide more information about vehicular access to the site, also inquiring about the exterior materials and the importance of bike access to the development. The board also requested more information about the programming of the proposed courtyard/plaza area. Board member Andrew Haas also requested more information about how the large-scale development would fit into the surrounding neighborhood context, especially considering the building’s location at the prominent intersection of 12th and Yesler near Yesler Terrace.
There were several public comments expressed during the meeting that related to the overall massing, scale and programming of the project. One neighborhood resident expressed concern around the height of the building, specifically about how it might set a problematic precedent for future development around the Yesler Terrace area. Two members from the Central Area Land Use Review Committee asked the applicant to pay particular attention to certain design elements including the street-level retail, the orientation of the live/work units and the resident courtyard area. Another Squire Park neighborhood resident voiced concerns about pedestrian and vehicular circulation around the project site, also asking for more information about the proposed retail space.
During its deliberation period, the board focused on the pros and cons of the applicant’s various massing options—considering the prominent neighborhood context of the site—and agreed that more work would need to be done to break up the scale of the building. The board also recommended that the applicant further integrate the street-level units into the rest of the development to ensure that the project would set a positive development precedent in the neighborhood. Additionally, the board suggested that the applicant improve the design of the courtyard, revise the street-level landscaping plan and clarify its plans for the live/work units.