By Jack Stubbs
It seems that rarely a day goes by when Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood isn’t in the news, and another in-the-works project is officially on the way.
On Wednesday, June 20th, a two-tower project developed by BioMed Realty and slated for the ever-active neighborhood on the edge of Lake Union was unanimously approved at a Design Review Recommendation (DRR) meeting. At the meeting, applicant SkB Architects presented updated project plans to the West design review board on behalf of BioMed Realty. The development was most recently reviewed at an Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting held in November 2017. BioMed Realty, a prominent developer of life sciences projects in South Lake Union and greater Seattle, officially introduced its plans for the development in February 2018.
The two-tower, 14-story development, called ‘Dexter Yard’ and located at 700 Dexter Ave. N. in the heart of South Lake Union, will include approximately 495,900 square feet of high-tech office/life sciences and laboratory space, approximately 29,000 square feet of ground-level retail space and 471 below-grade parking stalls, according to the applicant’s submitted project plans. The plans also include a through-block connection between the two towers—which will provide access to more retail amenities, office elevator lobbies and open spaces—and a community amenity/open space called ‘The Fieldhouse.’
Beginning the applicant team’s presentation, SkB Architects discussed the neighborhood context around the nearly 60,000 square foot site—which is the smallest full-block site in South Lake Union that allows for two towers and a pedestrian through-block connection—and the primary changes that had been made to the project plans since the last EDG meeting.
At the previous meeting, the board had recommended that the applicant revise various design elements relating to the building’s overall height, bulk and scale and exterior facades, as well as issues relating to accessibility and circulation around the public realm and courtyard areas.
In response to the board’s feedback, the applicant team worked on breaking down the massing of the two towers and also worked on differentiating the design of the two buildings at ground level. Additionally, the applicant team refined the design of the exterior facades of the buildings by integrating different materials. Additionally, the applicant enhanced the through-block connection to improve the pedestrian experience at street-level; added various signage and way-finding elements; and worked on improving circulation and accessibility around the project site. Specifically, the applicant further incorporated the Field House and other open space and amenity areas into the rest of the development.
During the clarification period of the meeting, most of the board’s questions focused on how the project team planned to program various design elements of the two-building project. Board member Brian Walters requested more information about bike and pedestrian circulation and accessibility around the buildings, while board member Patreese Martin asked the applicant team to elaborate on how it planned to detail the facades of the project. The board also asked for more information about how the applicant planned to refine the massing of the two adjacent structures, and asked specifically about about the bridge element connecting the two towers. More generally, the board asked the applicant to clarify how various design-related elements of the development had been refined since the previous EDG meeting.
There were no public comments expressed during the meeting.
During its deliberation period, the board talked at length about how the programming and design of the two towers would ultimately create a cohesive project plan. The board also emphasized its overall approval of the way that the development’s scale and massing had evolved since the previous EDG meeting to better fit the neighborhood context and streetscape along Dexter Avenue. The board expressed its approval of the lighting and landscaping elements that had been added to the rooftop areas and open spaces, and also recommended that, moving forward, the applicant team work on creating a project that better reflected the industrial character and history of South Lake Union.