By Meghan Hall
The edge of the University District by the Burke Gilman Trail and Blakeley Avenue is seeing an array of multifamily development, adding diversity of development to a neighborhood with an already-established mixed of single-family and commercial uses. Some of the district’s low rise buildings are being replaced with multifamily, which is what barrientos RYAN and Runberg Architecture Group are seeking to do at 4600 Union Bay Place N.E. The local developer has proposed demolishing an existing single-story commercial building and constructing a 98-unit residential development in its place. The project, called Union Bay Place Apartments, received approval from the Northeast Design Review Board last night at its latest design recommendation meeting, allowing the project team to move forward with its application for a Master Use Permit.
In addition to the residential units, the 94,000 square foot development also includes a 9,000 square foot residential amenity space, 2,000 square feet of ground floor retail and between 60 to 65 above-grade parking stalls. The units will be a variety of sizes, from open ones that are around 550 square feet, to one-bedroom and two-bedroom units that are around 700 and 900 square feet, respectively.
The massing and design of the building seeks to combine the differing scales of development found near the site, from larger-scale retail uses to the west and smaller scale residential to the east. The form of the building features a bend that creates a large at-grade area, providing a protected spill-out space for the development’s retail uses. Both the east and west facades will feature a bend; the west façade will respond to the historic rail spur line, while the east façade reflects the opposite bend of the Burke Gilman Trail.
The east façade of the building also is broken down into vertical bays to address the smaller building footprints it is facing, and balconies and window patterns will also be used to break up the massing. The height of the building will also step down incrementally, reducing the building’s perceived scale. The building’s residential lobby will be located at the center of the development, with retail spaces located at the north end of the development’s frontage. The building is setback as far as possible to facilitate the creation of a public realm, although no setbacks are required by code on the site.
Drawing from its location near a historic rail line, the building will be clad in corrugated metal siding, whose pattern will be reminiscent of tree rings. Wood and rail will be expressed throughout the design, including through the use of a large vertical trellis that will connect the lobby and the common room balcony on the upper level. Wood soffits will also be used and lit to provide contrast.
The Board found that the project team’s response to previous design guidance produced a well-balanced design that not only works well with the existing neighborhood context, but future development planned for the neighborhood. The Board asked that the bend in the west and east elevations of the massing be refined and reinforced through materiality. The Board also found that the club room element and its massing warranted more exploring, stated that the current trellis feature meant to accentuate the club room was not as effective as intended.
In order to move the project forward, the Board provided several conditions: first, that the club room element be incorporated into the building’s greater form; that the design team explore various colors and materials for infill panels around the windows; that the balcony layout be refined in a more intentional manner, and that further detailing will be added to the garage walls.
Overall, the Board was impressed with the refinements made to the design. It approved the project, allowing the development team to move forward with the permitting process and break ground in the near future.