By Jack Stubbs
One proposed development in downtown Seattle will not yet proceed to the next stage of the design review process.
On November 7th, an Early Design Guidance (EDG) Meeting was held for a 520-unit project in Seattle’s Downtown neighborhood. The applicant team— design architect James K.M. Cheng Architects and landscape architect PFS Studio—presented preliminary project plans to the downtown Review Board on behalf of the project owner, Bosa Development, who is also the developer of the proposed project.
The project was not allowed to proceed to the next stage of the design process. The Downtown Review board highlighted several design concerns with the development, including pedestrian and vehicular flow on the site, the open space concept, and the overall massing of the building itself. The applicant team will now be tasked with incorporating and refining those design elements into the project plans and will return for a second EDG meeting on January 2nd, 2018.
Located at 601 4th Ave, the 61-story, 520-unit development will also include 640 below-ground parking stalls, as well as approximately 9,963 square feet of street-level retail. The project site, which is currently a construction site due to the abandonment of a previous project, has an area of approximately 57,000 square feet. Historic buildings near the development site include the Dexter Horton Building, Seattle National Bank and the Chamber of Commerce, among others.
The proposed development is an evolution of Seattle’s 1999 Civic Center Master Plan, which provided the framework to create a new heart for the city’s urban core downtown. The plan aimed to activate public space, maximize sunshine, recognize the site’s steep topography and prioritize public views towards the water and the mountains, according to the applicant team’s project plans. One of the applicant’s primary objectives was to respect the 1999 master plan—preserving the green terraces along James Street—but also help expand on it by adding new features.
These include an enhancement of the city skyline, promoting pedestrian interaction on the adjacent streetscape on 3rd and 4th Ave., enhancing the visual impact of the building with landscaping and providing an inviting and usable open space as part of the project.
The development occupies a central location in the city’s downtown urban core—the site comprises an entire city block and is bordered by 3rd Ave. and 4th Ave. as well as Cherry and James streets. The development site also sits in a prominent area and is bordered by a number of significant buildings, most notably City Hall on 4th Ave. and the King County Court on James St., according to the project plans. Additionally, the project takes design cues from surrounding buildings in the neighborhood and reinforces a public corridor along James St.
Ultimately, the applicant’s goal is to provide an outdoor gathering space to complement City Hall, which will be open, permeable and accessible, promoting pedestrian interaction. In all three of the proposed massing options, the applicant team aims to integrate open space contexts through Seattle’s downtown neighborhood.
During the board’s deliberation period, the board members discussed design priorities including circulation throughout the site for pedestrians and vehicles, the development’s open space concept and the building’s massing option. The board highlighted the open space concept as a primary design element, suggesting that the applicant team refine its open space concept by studying other open spaces in the surrounding neighborhood, such as Pioneer Square and Occidental Square. Regarding circulation throughout the site, the board felt that there needed to be a clearer distinction between both open space versus public space as well areas designated for residents of the development and those for the members of the public. Regarding the building’s massing, the board felt that the development created issues around views, suggesting that the building would limit the views of surrounding structures and from the street. Finally, concerning the building’s massing, the board recommended that the applicant continues to work on refining the building’s transition from street-level to the skyline before returning for a second review at the start of the new year.