By Jack Stubbs
Changes are coming to north Seattle as a mixed-use development was recently given the green light at the first phase of the city’s design review process.
On Monday, April 9th, a 78-unit development slated for Seattle’s Roosevelt neighborhood was unanimously approved at an Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting. At the meeting, the applicant, architect Skidmore Janette, presented preliminary project plans to the northeast review board on behalf of Emerald Bay Equity, the developer of the project.
The 7-story undertaking, located at 815 NE 66th St., will include 78 units, 1,100 square feet of street-level commercial space and a courtyard area for residents. The proposed project is half a mile from Green Lake and several blocks from Ravenna Park. A gas station that currently occupies the site will be demolished as part of the project plans.
Beginning the applicant team’s presentation, Skidmore Janette discussed the current and future surrounding neighborhood context—including existing neighborhood amenities and open spaces, as well as the Light Rail Station set to open for service in 2021—and emphasized how the project’s design and exterior facade would take cues from other mixed-use buildings located in close proximity.
The applicant team also articulated the priority design guidelines for the project, some of which include creating a massing and scale that would be appropriate for the streetscape along 66th St.; enhancing the pedestrian experience along the streetscape with open space and landscaping elements; and successfully planning ahead for how the project might be impacted by the in-the-works Light Rail Station, which will be two blocks from the proposed development.
The applicant discussed the three proposed massing option and how the resident rooftop, courtyard areas and lobby would fit into the project plans, also noting how the project team had worked on breaking down the building’s massing to help it conform with the adjacent streetscape along 66th St. With its preferred massing option, the applicant team set the building back from 66th St. and emphasized the courtyard area to improve the pedestrian experience.
Most of the board’s clarifying questions focused on how the applicant team planned to program various elements of the building’s interior and exterior. Board member James Marria asked the applicant to provide more information about the location of the ground-level units and how the resident courtyard would be programmed. Board member Anita Jeerage requested more elaboration on how the bike storage and fitness area would fit with the rest of the building’s amenities. Board member Brian Bishop asked the applicant team how it would successfully activate the street-level commercial space, inquiring whether it had yet planned on any retail tenants in particular. The board’s other comments focused on the relationship between the proposed development and the in-the-works Light Rail Station and how the project would fit into the Roosevelt neighborhood context.
There were two public comments expressed during the meeting. The first comment, voiced by a resident who lives directly adjacent to the proposed development, expressed his concern that the building would eliminate views of the surrounding skyline, also articulating concerns that the exterior design and facade of the building did not adequately fit into the character of the Roosevelt neighborhood. Another neighborhood resident asked the applicant team to provide more information about the orientation and design of the courtyard area, also expressing his desire to see a different exterior facade and use of materials. The second comment also requested more detailed information about the applicant’s three massing options and plans for the street-level commercial space.
Much of the board’s discussion during the deliberation period focused on the applicant team’s three massing options and the current design of the proposed courtyard area. The board agreed that the applicant team would need to work further on successfully activating the streetscape through commercial uses and better incorporate the courtyard into the rest of the building before the next stage of the design review process. The board ultimately approved the applicant’s preferred massing option and emphasized how the project team would need to ensure that the design and massing of the building conforms with the surrounding mixed-use developments along 66th St.