By Jack Stubbs
The Columbia City Apartments, an 80-unit development, was given the green light this week to the proceed forward at the second Design Review Recommendation (DRR) meeting held for the project, with four members of the Southeast design review board voting to advance it.
On Tuesday, December 12th, the applicant team—comprised of Rutledge Maul Architects, P.S. Inc., GHA Landscape Architects, and civil engineer Sitewise Design PLLC—presented updated project plans on behalf of the owner and developer of the project, The Stratford Company. The initial project plans were originally presented at an Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting in June 2015, and most recently at the first DRR meeting in June 2017.
Located at 2950 S. Dakota St. in Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood, the development calls for the construction of a four-story, 80-unit apartment building with a partial basement level and a rooftop area. In total, the development will comprise 46,212 net square feet.
According to the submitted project plans, the three overarching goals of the project are to enhance the Columbia City neighborhood by creating vital transit-oriented housing near the Light Rail Station, incorporate sustainable architecture into the development’s design and deliver a housing development that conforms with other multifamily designs in the neighborhood.
Kicking off its presentation, the applicant team discussed various design guidelines that the design review board had highlighted for improvement at the previous DRR meeting in June, which included the relationship between the development’s ground-level units and the adjacent streetscape on MLK Jr. Way S., and also how the materials used on the building’s exterior needed to better conform to the neighborhood context.
Specifically, the applicant team discussed how it had further refined the design of the buildings entrances to encourage more pedestrian street-level interaction by adding landscaping elements around the building’s entrances. Additionally, the applicant team articulated how it more successfully integrated the proposed interior courtyard garden area into the rest of the development by adding several resident amenities.
In response to the board’s prior comments expressed at the last meeting held for the project, various way finding elements—such as feature lighting and glazing—were also incorporated into the design of the development’s entrance on MLK Jr. Way S.
There were no public comments voiced during the meeting, and the board’s deliberation period and clarifying questions raised several design elements about the applicant team’s updated project plans.
When given the opportunity to ask clarifying questions about the updated project plans, the board focused on the location of the below-ground units on MLK Way. Additionally, board member David Sauvignon highlighted potential safety and code regulation issues with regards to the overall size of the rooftop area and also asked about the materials used for the stairway and its potential uses. Board member Carey Dagliano-Holmes asked about the applicant team’s plans for landscaping at the building’s primary entrance, suggesting that it needed to be better integrated into the streetscape and neighborhood.
The board also focused on how the development’s overall architectural design and materials fit into the surrounding neighborhood context. Although the board expressed its approval of the project’s overall massing, it was still not entirely satisfied with the applicant’s placement and design of the ground-level units, recommending that the applicant address this design issue. Additionally, board member Sharon Khosla pushed back on integrating the stairway element and entrances with the development’s overall scale by adding exterior landscaping elements.
Summarizing its main concerns highlighted during the deliberation period, the board placed two main conditions for the applicants to consider before the next phase of the design process, including a need to refine the design of the stairway element and consider the treatment of the development at street-level.
Even with the two conditions, the board ultimately decided to advance the project. The applicant team will now await a decision from the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection on its submitted Master Use Permit.