By Jack Stubbs
The latest phase of a four-building Master Planned development in South Seattle—which will include nearly 440 units of mixed-income affordable housing, workforce housing and homeownership units—on Tuesday, June 12th, was approved in the first stage of the city’s design review process at an Early Design Guidance meeting.
At the meeting, project applicants SKL Architects and Weber Thompson presented preliminary plans for the latest phase of Othello Square (which will include 67 units of homeownership units) to the board on behalf of non-profit housing developer HomeSight. Weber Thompson is the landscape architect for the project.
The 67-unit development, located at 7343 MLK Jr. Way S. near the Othello Light Rail Station, calls for the construction of a 5-story building that will include one level of mixed-use commercial space and one level of below-grade parking. 100 percent of the private homeownership units will be affordable to families earning 80 percent area median income and below.
The project is Building D of Othello Square, a larger four-building development that will include the HomeSight Opportunity Center (which will comprise 200 units of mixed-income housing, a multicultural community center and gathering hall and post-secondary education space); The Rainier Valley Leadership Academy (RVLA) building, which will house a public charter high school for 450 students; and Building C, which will include a community healthcare clinic and 175 units of workforce housing. Activities on the four-building campus will contribute to more than 300 living wage jobs at Othello Square.
Othello Square is a collaborative effort between developer Barrientos Ryan, Spectrum Development Solutions, Washington Charter School Development, NAC Architecture, NBBJ Architects, and various community and non-profit organizations.
The recent EDG meeting marks the latest chapter for the Othello Square redevelopment project. On March 16th, HomeSight announced that it had signed the Purchase and Sale Agreement with the Seattle Housing Authority for the four parcels that comprise the 3.2-acre site, which is Rainier Valley’s largest undeveloped space, according to the press release. And on May 22nd, Building C of the project, a 7-story, 175-unit development, was approved at an EDG meeting. The first groundbreakings are expected to begin in 2019.
Beginning the applicant team’s presentation, SKL Architects discussed the neighborhood context around the homeownership building, and how the project would fit into the larger Othello Square development. The applicant presented its three proposed massing options to the board, and also empathized the importance of the central courtyard area to the rest of the project plans. SKL Architects also emphasized how it had worked on incorporating the proposed commercial space into the building in relation to the adjacent streetscape along MLK Jr. Way South. The applicant team is requesting two departures relating to the building’s setback along the street and the orientation of the street-level units on MLK Jr. Way.
The majority of the board’s clarifying questions focused on how the applicant team planned to program various elements of the project. Board member Chris Colley asked for more information about how the building would relate to MLK Jr. Way S,, while board member Anjali Grant asked the applicant to elaborate on its plans for the street-level commercial space. The board also asked for more information about the project plans for the landscaping and central courtyard area, specifically how these elements would relate to the proposed amenity space. Finally, the board requested that the project team elaborate on the community outreach efforts that had been made to the surrounding community regarding the larger Othello Square development.
There were three public comments articulated during the meeting, all of which conveyed overwhelming support for HomeSight’s development. One neighborhood resident, a representative from the Othello Station Community Action Team, expressed her approval of the development, especially since it addresses a distant need of affordable housing in southeast Seattle. Two other comments—voiced by a representative from the Multicultural Coalition and a member from the SHA, respectively—expressed support for the larger Othello Square project, especially in terms of the extensive community outreach that developer HomeSight had conducted throughout the planning process.
During its deliberation period, the board echoed the comments made by the public, especially emphasizing its approval of the way that the 67-unit homeownership building successfully fit into the larger Master Planned development. The board approved the applicant’s preferred massing option and also recommended various design guidelines—relating to the building’s ground-level uses, landscaping plans, and pedestrian circulation around the site—for the team to incorporate into the project plans before the next design review meeting.