By Jack Stubbs
On Wednesday, June 27th, a 91-unit project slated for Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood was denied approval at a Design Review Recommendation meeting. At the meeting, applicant Skidmore Janette presented updated plans to the east board on behalf of developer Johnson Carr LLC. The development was last reviewed at an Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting held in November 2017.
The board asked the applicant team to return for another design review recommendation meeting, citing concerns around the project’s exterior materiality and fit for the neighborhood context.
The development, located at 1103 Summit Ave., calls for the construction of a 7-story building that will include 91 units of workforce housing, a roof deck and an entry plaza. There is no parking included in the applicant’s plans. The proposed project is roughly six blocks from the Pike/Pine corridor and Cal Anderson Park and just two blocks from the Swedish First Hill Medical Campus.
Beginning the applicant team’s presentation, Skidmore Janette discussed the neighborhood context around the site and the primary design changes that had been made to the project plans since the previous EDG meeting. At the last meeting, the board had requested that the applicant team refine the scale and massing of the building; work on further incorporating exterior materials and landscape features into the site and revise the location of the building’s entrances along Summit Ave.
In response to the board’s guidance, the applicant team reduced the scale and massing of the building and set the structure back from the adjacent street; incorporated brick, glass and other materials to further detail the building’s exterior facades; and added various landscaping elements to activate the streetscape from a pedestrian perspective. Additionally, the applicant emphasized how the updated design plans for the project would allow the building to better conform with other existing residential developments in the First Hill neighborhood.
Most of the board’s clarifying questions centered around the applicant team’s choice of materials for the building’s exterior facades. Board member Melissa Alexander asked for more detailed information about the exterior material palette, while board member AJ Taaca asked the applicant to elaborate on the lantern and glazing concepts at the corners of the building. The board also asked the applicant to provide more detailed plans about how the different materials it planned to incorporate into the facades would impact the project.
During the robust public comment period of the meeting, several First Hill neighborhood residents spoke up about the building’s fit with the neighborhood context, with several voicing concerns about the materials that the applicant was proposing to implement into the project. A member of the First Hill Improvement Association—representing several members of the audience—urged the applicant to create a ‘warmer’ building by incorporating lighter materials, and several other comments echoed this suggestion.
One neighborhood resident asked for more information about the building’s proximity to the adjacent Tuscany Apartments, while another expressed concern with potentially disruptive uses of the proposed roof deck. Another neighborhood resident urged the applicant team—and the east review board—to more fully consider the First Hill neighborhood context in the project plans, especially in relation to proposed materiality and landscaping elements.
During its deliberation, much of the board’s discussion once again focused on the applicant team’s choice of materials. The board recommended that the applicant work further on incorporating lighter and warmer materials into the building’s facade, and ensure that the landscaping elements would fit the neighborhood context. The board also emphasized how the building should be further set back from neighboring buildings in relation to the alleyway.