By Jack Stubbs
Seattle’s up-and-coming Beacon Hill neighborhood will soon have a new addition to its architectural landscape with a 7-story, 67-unit mixed-use project recently approved at a Design Review Recommendation meeting. Responding to priority design guidelines articulated by the Southeast Design Review board at an Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting in March 2017, the applicant team—Seattle-based architects and urban designers Weinstein A+U and Karen Kiest Landscape Landscape Architects—presented updated project plans. The developer for the project is Pacific Housing Northwest.
The proposed project site is at 1405 S Bayview St. in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood, in close proximity to the Beacon Hill Light Rail Station on Beacon Ave. S. The building will total approximately 57,650 square feet, comprising of 67 residential apartment units and an additional resident lobby area and amenity space, an outdoor landscaped terrace and roof deck, an on-site leasing office, street-level commercial space, parking for 21 vehicles and a below-grade level for building services and storage. The residential units will be a combination of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments.
The aim of the project, according to the project plans, is to provide a high-quality living environment for residents, create a lively environment for urban residents, including accommodations for retail and commercial space, and develop a project that conforms to the character and culture of Beacon Hill.
The main design concerns that were raised at the EDG meeting in March included the building’s overall mass and scale, the transition between the proposed commercial space and street-level interaction and the necessity for the project to adequately reflect the extensive culture and history of Beacon Hill and the neighborhood context. The applicant articulated how the building’s exterior facade design, landscaping plans and proposed retail plaza would further ingratiate the building’s architectural style with the surrounding neighborhood. The neighborhood surrounding the site is in the early stages of growth, with underdeveloped parcels undergoing transitions to higher density, multifamily and mixed-use developments, according to the project plans.
In response to the applicant’s updated project plans, the board focused on several design- related questions about how the retail space would be broken up, asking questions about potential tenants who might occupy the space. Board members Carey Dagliano Holmes and Julain Weber highlighted specific concerns about the building’s external appearance and color scheme. The board also emphasized the need for the applicant to continue to conduct extensive community outreach moving forward, and to what degree the proposed landscaping would conform to the surrounding streetscape.
The public comments expressed by members of the neighborhood community echoed the board’s desire to see a development that accurately reflected the specific character of Beacon Hill. One neighbor, a resident of the neighborhood who lives a couple blocks from the proposed development, expressed her support for the open retail plaza and landscaping plans. However, she also urged the applicant to consider the unique character of Beacon Hill, which is not yet as built up as other Seattle neighborhoods. “Beacon Hill is not yet South Lake Union; there are lots of family and kids around…the street frontage should engage with the family context [of the neighborhood], which [would] be a nice way to integrate the project on the street.” Another member of the neighborhood expressed his desire for the development to more accurately reflect the demographic context of Beacon Hill, with the proposed four two-bedroom units insufficient to adequately support the demand of neighborhood residents.
During the board’s deliberation period, the main concerns expressed by the board included the proposed ground-level uses for the development, the treatment of the blank facade and the exterior appearance of the project in its neighborhood setting. Board member Weber said, “That’s a challenge, and it’s still a beautiful building, but it doesn’t look like a Beacon Hill building.”
The board encouraged the applicant to explore other materials for the building’s exterior to help it further conform to the neighborhood. Additionally, the board recommended that the applicant explore the landscaping as a more pronounced design element and to explore the addition of a canopy outside the building at street-level. Finally, the board highlighted the blank facade, recommending that the applicant engage with the local arts community when considering potential design directions.
With the project allowed to advance to the next stage of the design process, the applicant team will now await the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection’s decision on their submitted Master Use Permit.