By Jack Stubbs
On Tuesday, January 30th, a a 95-unit affordable housing project in Mount Baker was unanimously approved at a Design Review Meeting. The project is being developed by Mercy Housing Northwest, a nonprofit housing organization committed to developing affordable housing in Seattle for homeless and low-income families.The Mount Baker Family Housing development will be operated by Mercy Housing Northwest in partnership with the Paul G. Allen Foundation and the City of Seattle.
At the meeting, Brian Runberg, principal of Runberg Architecture Group, and Colin Morgan-Cross of Mercy Housing presented updated project plans to the southeast board, which previously reviewed the project at an Early Design Guidance Meeting in September 2017.
Located at 2870 S. Hanford St., the 8-story mixed-use project will include 95 residential units, a 8,200 square foot family resource and education center and 5 parking stalls. Around 50 percent of the units in the development will be allocated to families with a history of homelessness through a Coordinated Entry Program.
Beginning the meeting, Morgan-Cross articulated one of the main goals of the development—to strive to address the crisis of homelessness and lack of affordable housing throughout Seattle, with a particular emphasis on the Southeast of the city.
Mercy Housing aims to “create stable, vibrant and healthy communities by developing, financing and operating affordable program-enriched housing for families, seniors and people with special needs who lack the economic resources to access quality, safe housing opportunities,” according to its mission statement. Mercy also developed Othello Plaza, completed in Spring 2017, and the Columbia City Station Apartments, completed in 2012.
Continuing the applicant team’s presentation, Brian Runberg discussed the primary changes the team had made to the project plans since the last EDG meeting. At the previous meeting, the southeast board had expressed concerns with the development’s massing and main facade, the design of the proposed upper-level exterior courtyard, the pedestrian experience along the streetscape and the solar features on the rooftop.
In response to the board’s comments, the applicant team further refined the building’s massing by adding visual elements to the exterior, added windows to the northern facade to increase natural daylight and worked on improving the design of the exterior courtyard by integrating various landscaping elements. Additionally, the applicant team enhanced the relationship between the project and the adjacent streetscape by further integrating the Family Resource Center and residential lobby entrance along the street.
Most of the board’s clarifying comments focused on the integration of the development within the Mt. Baker neighborhood. Board member Carey Dagliano-Holmes asked whether there were any other developments planned from the parcel to the north of the project sites, also inquiring whether the applicant team had considered integrating local community artwork on the building’s exterior facade. Additionally, board member David Sauvion asked about the exterior design of the development, asking the applicant team to clarify its plans for the proposed materials.
There were two public comments expressed during the meeting, and both expressed support for the project’s current design. The comments also voiced approval of Mercy Housing’s collaboration and community outreach with Mt. Baker neighborhood residents and urged the applicant team to clarify its efforts around sustainability moving forward.
During its deliberation period, the board generally agreed that the applicant team had responded well to the recommendations since the last EDG meeting.
However, the board also expressed concern with the development’s overall massing and facade design. Specifically, the board conditioned that Mercy Housing integrate large-scale artwork or murals from local neighborhood organizations into the development’s facade and work further on reducing the building’s overall scale from the pedestrian perspective. Additionally, the board suggested that the applicant team work further on refining the proposed materials and design of the building’s exterior.