Home AEC 9-Story High-Tech Office Development Denied at Early Design Guidance Meeting

9-Story High-Tech Office Development Denied at Early Design Guidance Meeting

Seattle, Perkins+Will, Unico Properties, South Lake Union, Early Design Guidance, Saint Spiridon Orthodox Cathedral, Capitol Hill
Rendering courtesy of Perkins+Will

By Jack Stubbs

While Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood has seen a flurry of new developments coming online, one new proposed office project in the works will not yet proceed to the next stage of the city’s design review process.

On Wednesday, January 17th, an Early Design Guidance meeting was held for a 9-story high-tech office building located in Seattle’s bustling South Lake Union neighborhood. At the meeting, the applicant, architect Perkins+Will, presented preliminary project plans on behalf of the developer, Seattle-based Unico Properties.

Ultimately, the board did not allow the project to proceed to the next stage of the city’s design review process, citing specific concerns about pedestrian accessibility and circulation throughout the site, and how the development’s massing and scale was too imposing in relation to the neighborhood context and surrounding buildings. The applicant team will now work on incorporating the board’s design conditions into its project plans before returning before a second EDG meeting, which will be held on a to-be-determined date.

The development, located at 330 Yale Avenue N., calls for the construction of a 9-story 200,000 square foot high-tech office building with ground-floor retail and 56 below-grade parking stalls. The project is located at the northeastern edge of South Lake Union, at the intersection of several prominent neighborhoods in the downtown urban core including Uptown, Belltown, Denny Triangle and Capitol Hill.

Kicking off its presentation for the project, the applicant team articulated its two main development goals: to create an elegant building design that provides efficiency and flexibility for a speculative high-tech office user and to provide an active, vibrant ground-level retail and lobby space that enhances the pedestrian experience at street level.

Other buildings in the immediate vicinity of the project site, which inform the design of the proposed project, include the recently-renovated Pemco building, Block 11, a new housing development currently under construction, and Saint Spiridon Orthodox Cathedral on Yale Ave. The applicant emphasized how it had paid particular attention to where loading areas and building entrances would be located in order to encourage pedestrian interaction at street level.

Most of the board members’ clarifying questions focused on how the proposed development would conform to the surrounding neighborhood context and relate to the existing buildings in the nearby vicinity. In particular, board member Stephen Porter asked the applicant team to clarify how parking areas would be programmed. Board member Patreese Martin suggested that the proposed location of the building’s entrance presented a conflict with the existing church across the street, also asking how the proposed retail uses and landscaping elements would activate the adjacent streetscape. All of the board members expressed concern about the building’s massing, indicating that it was too imposing and large relative to other buildings in the vicinity, in particular the church and the adjacent Pemco building.

During its deliberation period, the board’s discussion once again focused on the building’s massing, which is currently too large-scale for the surrounding neighborhood context. The board also emphasized concerns about how the development would activate the public realm with pedestrian amenities. Ultimately, the board decided that it would like the applicant team to return for a second EDG meeting with updated project plans addressing these design elements.

The board recommended that, moving forward, the applicant team work on reducing the overall scale of the development to allow it to further conform with both the city’s design guidelines, and the neighborhood’s residential and warehouse character. The board also asked the applicant team to provide more information and studies about how the project would influence the surrounding public realm and ground-level uses. Specifically, the board encouraged the applicant to give more consideration to the pedestrian experience along Harrison Street and revise the planned location of the driveway entrance. Finally, the board noted that before the next EDG meeting it would like the applicant team to work on refining the building’s exterior materiality and integrating the project with the church across the street.