By Jack Stubbs
Changes have been occurring in the University District in recent months, and another development located adjacent to the University Village shopping center is on the way.
On Monday, March 26th, a 98-unit development was given the green light to proceed at an Early Design Guidance (EDG). At the meeting, applicant Runberg Architecture Group presented preliminary project plans to the northeast review board on behalf of barrientos RYAN, who is developing the project. The project team also includes Red Barn Engineering, landscape architect Hewitt and surveyor Barghausen Consulting Engineers.
The development, located at 4600 Union Bay Pl NE., calls for the construction of a 5-story building that will include approximately 2,000 square feet of ground-level retail, 8,000 square feet of residential amenity space and 42 parking stalls. The project site is currently occupied by an interior design company and a motorcycle repair shop, both of which would be demolished as part of the applicant team’s redevelopment plans.
The development sits adjacent to the University Village shopping center, a prominent retail destination in the neighborhood, and is also roughly one mile from the Burke-Gilman Trail and the edge of Union Bay. The applicant’s plans describe the project site as an “edge” neighborhood that is in transition, with new buildings that are beginning to replace industrial warehouses and new zoning that will draw inspiration from the nearby University Village.
Kicking off the applicant team’s presentation, Brian Runberg of Runberg Architecture Group articulated how the proposed project hopes to take advantage of its proximity to the nearby University Village Village and Burke-Gilman trail and also conform with the scale and aesthetic of more modern residential buildings in the neighborhood. Runberg also articulated how the applicant team intends to successfully activate the streetscape through retail uses and landscaping, emphasize the open space features of the project and enhance the pedestrian experience along the street.
Runberg also explained how the the proposed project will be influenced by the citywide up- zones to support Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) and Housing Affordability and Livability (HALA): the new zoning in the neighborhood is being targeted for September 2018 and the applicant team plans to comply with whichever zoning is adopted by the city.
Most of the board’s clarifying questions focused on how the project would conform with the surrounding neighborhood. Board member Ivana Begley asked the applicant team to elaborate on the community outreach efforts that it had conducted with the surrounding neighborhood organizations, also asking how potential retail options would activate the streetscape along Union Bay Pl NE. Board member Erik Blank asked for more information about the relationship between the development and the Burke-Gilman Trail, while board member James Marria inquired how the project would conform with the existing neighborhood context and pedestrian experience.
There were several public comments expressed during the meeting, most of which expressed concern about various impacts that the project would have on the surrounding neighborhood. One neighborhood resident expressed concern that the development would impact views from the Burke-Gilman trail, while another neighborhood resident highlighted issues with the massing and scale of the building. Another comment expressed a desire to see more landscaping elements and public seating along the adjacent streetscape and urged the applicant team to work further on improving vehicular and pedestrian circulation around the project site. Other public comments emphasized the way in which the development would negatively impact views of pedestrians and homeowners around the Burke-Gilman Trail and streetscape.
During its deliberation period, the board ultimately decided that the applicant team had sufficiently fulfilled the design requirements to be advanced to the next stage of the design review process. In particular, the board expressed its approval of how the applicant team’s project plans paid specific attention to the history of the surrounding neighborhood. The board also recommended that, considering the rapid growth and development occurring in the neighborhood, the applicant work on further reducing the massing and scale of the building to address the concerns brought up by the public about obscuring views in the neighborhood, especially from the Burke-Gilman Trail. Additionally, the board recommended that, moving forward, the applicant team continue collaborating with the surrounding neighborhood and community groups to work on reaching a compromise about the pedestrian environment and streetscape conditions around the development.