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Bode’s Proposal for 367-Unit Residential Complex in Seattle to Return for Second Early Design Guidance Meeting

Bode, Seattle, Southeast Design Review Board, GHA Landscape Architects, Columbia City, Othello, Othello Residential Urban Village, Puget Sound

By Kate Snyder

A proposal to create hundreds of apartments in south Seattle will take a little longer to move through the city’s design process. During a meeting on Tuesday, the Southeast Design Review Board voted to have a 367-unit project from developer and designer Bode return for a second early design guidance meeting.

Located at 5960 Martin Luther King Jr Way South, the project is a five-story apartment building that totals approximately 248,328 square feet with about 367 residential units as well as a matching number of bicycle storage stalls. There would be no on-site parking. Currently, the site comprises vacant land with no existing structures.

GHA Landscape Architects is the landscape architect.

Karen Biran, project manager for Bode, provided details about the project in a presentation to the board during the meeting. She highlighted the project’s location within the city’s Othello neighborhood.

“Our building will be one of the first new taller apartment buildings along this stretch of MLK, and we’ll establish a desirable context for others to build upon in the future,” she said. “The project site is located at the northern end of the Othello Residential Urban Village, approximately halfway between the Columbia City and Othello light rail transit stations. The neighborhood is undergoing a transformation from a low-density area to a transit-oriented zone. MLK is characterized by a mix of older low-rise buildings, many occupied by small businesses, and newer, taller mixed-use buildings focused on the blocks near the station.”

Three massing options were presented to the board during the meeting. The first concept was a figure eight shape with units organized around two central courtyards, creating consistent street frontage, project plans show. Advantages of that scheme included optimized development density and affordability as well as a residential entry location that relates to existing infrastructure, but it would entail a fully enclosed courtyard that limits access to light and air. The second scheme would be a “U” shape that provides a courtyard opening on the east side. That option would allow a strong design dialogue between the lower and upper portions of the building but would also reduce the number of units as well as affordability.

The development team’s preferred massing option is an “A” shape with a main residential lobby at the center of the west facade defined with a strong massing break at the upper levels. That scheme would create an opportunity for outdoor amenity space above the entrance, providing relief to the overall bulk and scale of the project. However, it would also mean less active spaces at the front street level facade and a reduced number of units.

Board members acknowledged that the project site is challenging, and some of the discussion focused on balancing livability with the developer’s focus on maximizing both the number of units and affordability. The board brought up creating opportunities for tenants to add to residents’ livability. One concern that was also discussed was that the three massing options presented were very similar to each other and that in terms of height, bulk and scale, certain design choices felt arbitrary. The board also would like to see studies done on the massing and how to break it up along Martin Luther King Way.

Earlier this year, Bode purchased the property site involved in the proposal. The all-cash acquisition of the 1.5-acre development site was recorded at $2.1 million, according to The Registry’s previous reporting. The Mogharebi Group arranged the deal.

Bode is a real estate investment, development and management company that owns properties and has projects in various stages of development throughout the Puget Sound region, according to the firm’s website. Bode has been based in Seattle since 1990 and has set a goal to develop 25,000 residential units by 2030. Bode owns more than 20 undeveloped sites, of which seven are currently in the design and permitting stages. For most projects, the firm uses its own in-house team of architects, engineers and drafters, and it acts as its own general contractor.