By Meghan Hall
Seattle’s Uptown neighborhood — also known as Lower Queen Anne — is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Seattle. Located at the base of Queen Anne Hill, the district is located to the north and west of downtown, and Uptown’s residents are some of the most active and involved when it comes to infill development in Seattle. One particular project — a 93-unit building proposed by Jackson Main Architecture on behalf of property owner Roystone On Queen Anne — recently received an abundance of feedback from the community, but the West Design Review Board recommended approval of the project’s design and departure with no conditions.
The project, located at 631 Queen Anne Ave. N., would construct an eight-story mixed-use building that in addition to apartments, would also include around 3,840 square feet of ground level commercial and 15 below-grade parking spaces. A fitness room, roof deck and bike storage are also called out in the plans. Most buildings in the Uptown neighborhood are two to three stories, with some single-story buildings throughout the neighborhood. The project site itself is flanked by traditional 1920s and 1930s-era brick and wood structures, with the Bungalows Apartment complex to the south and the Del Roy Apartments to the west. Two parks, Counterbalance Park and Kinnear Place Park, are also located nearby.
The building massing is comprised of two main masses along Queen Anne Ave. and Roy St., with a third mass articulating the corner. The two larger masses are characterized by strong brickwork, bays and pilasters. The pilasters, according to design documents, will take cues from other buildings in the neighborhood. Individual awnings are set in brick bays to provide additional character for retail businesses. Large recessed linear LED fixtures will adorn the east-facing façade at the intersection of Queen Anne Ave. and North & West Roy St.; the colors of the lights will be programmed to change daily.
Many of the public comments centered around the building’s height in relation to other structures immediately surrounding the proposed project; several residents stated that the massing of the building did not fit into the neighborhood, and its size would obstruct the views of other residences in the area or cast large shadows on neighboring buildings.
Another resident asked that the project team minimize ground-level commercial space, stating that such spaces were already abundant in the neighborhood and vacant storefronts do not contribute to street life. However, the site is just about four blocks from Seattle’s downtown core and is classified as a “Walker’s Paradise,” according to Walk Score, meaning that daily errands do not require a car and making the site well-poised for commercial activity.
Despite public commentary regarding the building’s massing, the Board agreed that the design of the building struck a good balance between fitting in with the current neighborhood context and what the neighborhood will look like in the future as it undergoes further development. The Board also supported the development team’s use of materials and even encouraged the team to be bolder and more playful when it came to lighting element on the corner tower.
At the time of the meeting, one departure was requested, which the Board unanimously granted. Building code typically requires new structures facing a Class 1 Pedestrian Street such as Queen Anne Ave. N. to provide a primary building entrance from the street. However, the application team proposed to position the primary pedestrian entrance from Roy St., in order to allow for more active and engaging retail spaces along Queen Anne Ave. N. The Board supported this request, believing it would better meet resulting design guidelines.
At the end of the meeting, the Board subsequently approved the project’s design, allowing Jackson Main Architecture and Roystone On Queen Anne to move forward with the entitlements process.