By Jack Stubbs
On Tuesday September 26th, the 85-unit Othello Apartments project was granted approval to proceed to the next phase of the design process at a Design Review Recommendation (DRR) meeting in Seattle’s Columbia City.
The applicant—developer Parkstone Properties and architect Jackson Main Architecture—presented updated project plans to the Southeast Design Review board, incorporating feedback that they had received at the previous Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting.
The project was given the green light to continue, with board member Carey Dagliano-Holmes saying, “we support it advancing, with the developer having responded to guidelines from the previous meeting.” However, the board allowed the development to proceed contingent upon various conditions that they set forth, including a redesigning of the project’s basement units by increasing their size, a revision of the project’s community space—by providing additional interior amenity space for the residents—and the necessity to revise the building’s color scheme. The board also approved the applicant’s two requested departures, which concerned residential uses of the property along the front of 43rd Avenue and a desire to reduce the size of the required amenity area. The board approved the second departure under the condition that the applicant add the additional interior shared amenity space.
The development, located at 7339 43rd Avenue South in Seattle’s Othello neighborhood, is comprised of 85 units in total (22 one-bedroom units, 8 lofts and 55 studios). The applicant reduced the proposed height of the project from an 8-story development to a 6-story development, incorporating one of the board’s recommendation from the previous EDG meeting. The first level will be comprised of a residential lobby, commercial space, residential loft units and amenity space, with levels two through six being devoted to residential units. The rooftop will be comprised of amenity space.
One of the key features of the project is its modular construction, which will reduce the neighborhood’s disturbance by construction noises by six to eight months, according to the developer. “The project is modular, which is an efficient way to build…we’re prioritizing speed and value in construction,” he said. The site is currently occupied by a vacant, single-family residence, which would be demolished as part of the project proposal.
When the board members asked the applicant clarifying questions about the proposed project, several reservations were expressed. Stephen Yamada-Heidner voiced uncertainty about how the building’s community and amenity space would be shared between the residents and members from the public. The board and the applicant came to a consensus that the developer would have to manage and balance the demand by the residents and surrounding community members. Regarding the topic of the building’s color scheme, Dagliano-Holmes directed the applicant to look for opportunities to add additional color accents throughout the building, adding that the applicant would have some discretion in responding to this condition.
David Sauvion cited concerns over the basement units, suggesting that the applicant consider a different orientation of the units. Panel member Dagliano-Holmes queried to what degree the developer had conducted outreach efforts to the surrounding community and neighborhood, with the applicant responding that they had held several meetings at Hello Othello, a local community outreach organization.
During the public comment section of the meeting, one neighbor also expressed a comment about the restricted location of the three basement units. However, she also expressed her approval for the overall project, saying, “I love the building, the color, and shape and the access to the balcony.” Another neighbor responded to one of the board member’s earlier comments about the applicant’s community outreach efforts, saying that “they were very involved with us in the community and have been to several meetings.” However, the neighbor also voiced her concern about the building’s color scheme. “I appreciate the Othello color palette, but I’d like to see more,” she said. The final public comment focused the way on the degree to which the development is integrated with the surrounding community. “This is an innovative design that reflects collaboration with the community,” he said. The neighbor also cited the project’s proximity to public transit as a key concern. “Access to the light rail station is a huge factor, and this is a real need in our neighborhood. I’d like to see this work,” he added.
After the public comment section, Dagliano-Holmes noted how the development had “returned from EDG addressing all requests in a comprehensive and harmonious way.” The board granted the applicant approval to continue in his design process, pending a consideration of the board’s proposed conditions.