By Meghan Hall
The City of Seattle’s design review process can be lengthy, with projects returning for multiple early design guidance or design review meetings throughout the application and approvals process. One project, however, has secured early approval from the Central Area Design Review Board to apply for a Master Use Permit after its first EDG meeting mid-January. Located at 500 Broadway and proposed by Neiman Taber Architects on behalf of Bellevue, Wash.-based property owner S&S Broadway Inc., the project would construct a seven-story mixed-use structure with 85 residential apartments, a hotel with 18 units and 1,652 square feet of commercial space.
The project site sits on the border of the First Hill neighborhood, which is comprised of a mixture of mid-rise and high-rise apartments, medical buildings, hospitals and historic homes. Many buildings in the neighborhood are larger in scale. The neighborhood, located adjacent to Seattle’s downtown retail core, is easily accessible via Interstate 5 and is close to major attractions, such as Pike Place Market.
Neiman Taber said in its design documents that the goal of the finished product is to create a structure reflective of the neighborhood’s diverse array of commercial and residential buildings. While materials have not yet been selected, Neiman Taber said 500 Broadway would also ensure that the building provides for an attractive, pedestrian-oriented streetscape through the use of material such as masonry.
The project team’s preferred design proposed a massing scheme characterized by a plinth and an upper level setback that is consistent with the adjacent buildings. A large public lobby, which will service the hotel, will be located at street-level on Broadway and will continue along E. Jefferson St., along with storefronts for the commercial and retail spaces. Balconies are included in the proposed plans in order to enhance the façade’s texture and create public way interaction. A deck on the seventh floor was relocated to the southeast to provide for better light and views.
The Review Board was overall supportive of the massing schemes presented at January’s meeting and believed that the team’s preferred option was a good start for further design refinement. The Board did suggest breaking down the massing at the roof on Broadway in response to the site’s neighbor to the North, and they also asked Neiman Taber and S&S to create opportunity for more interaction with East Jefferson St. In order to enhance activation along Jefferson, the Board provided guidance to relocate the ground level common area to the southwest corner of the building.
Only one departure was requested during the meeting: The applicant proposed a two-foot setback along all portions of the alley façade instead of the required minimum 15-foot setback. Neiman Taber justified the request, saying that the reduced alley setback allowed residential units to stack, resulting in a more regular building plan and a more uniform massing scheme. The Board indicated initial support of the request, stating that it would allow for a stronger massing response along Broadway and would not result in significant impacts to the existing structure across the alley.
At the end of the Early Design Guidance Meeting, the Board recommended the project proceed with applying for a Master Use Permit, a step that typically occurs after several early design guidance or formal design review meetings.