By Jack Stubbs
On Monday October 2nd, a project in Seattle’s University District was approved to proceed to the next stage of the design process at an Early Design Guidance meeting. At the meeting, the applicant—architect d/Arch LLC, landscape architect Lotus Landscape Design and land surveyor Terrane—submitted preliminary project plans to the northeast design review board, who voted unanimously to allow the residential development to proceed.
The 35,755 square foot project is comprised of 80 small efficiency dwelling units and 12 below-grade parking spaces. The proposed site— at 4048 7th Ave NE—is located within the University District, an area that is compared predominantly of single-family homes and townhouses, and mid-size apartment and condominium buildings. The site is within walking distance of University Ave., an active transit corridor in the area, and the University of Washington campus to the east. The site is currently occupied by two parcels under single ownership, each occupied by one single family residence—both structures would be demolished as part of the proposed redevelopment.
Although the project proposal was approved, the applicant’s preferred massing option was not, with the board members suggesting that the applicant return to the next meeting having created a new massing option that synthesizes elements of Options B and C. Option B included 74 units, a total floor area of 33,861 square feet. Option C included a structure that contained 80 residential units and 35,755 square feet of total floor area. Additionally, some of the proposed advantages of the preferred option included the strong street edge along 7th Avenue, and the layout of the units taking advantage of the street and surrounding open space. The proposed departure included a setback of the units from the street.
During the board’s clarifying questions, concerns centered around the applicant’s preferred massing option as well as the placement of the ground-floor units on street level. Member Eric Blank proposed that the applicant return with a hybrid scheme, by combining Option B with the proposed departure. When member James Marria queried the placement of the units on street level, the applicant responded that their setback from the street would allow for further landscaping opportunities.
The board’s primary concerns emphasized the applicant’s proposed massing options, with member Anita Jeerage remaking that, “while the second option is stronger aesthetically, the third option is stronger logistically.” The board also emphasized how they would like to see more transparency and more of an open content for the project on street-level. The project’s surrounding streetscape was also a topic of debate, with the board returning to the issue of the ground units’ placement and the proximity of neighboring properties, as well as the pedestrian experience on street level. Additionally, the board highlighted the building’s height, bulk, and scale and the interaction between pedestrians and vehicles is central issues.
Priorities proposed by the board included that the applicant consider the proximity of adjacent properties and that they resolve potential way finding issues with the building’s signage.
The board voted unanimously, giving the residential project the green light to proceed to the next phase of the design process wherein the applicant will submit a Master Use Permit for the board to review.