Home AEC Canal West’s 122-Unit Residential Project in Seattle’s Ballard Neighborhood Approved by Northwest...

Canal West’s 122-Unit Residential Project in Seattle’s Ballard Neighborhood Approved by Northwest Design Review Board

Canal West, Seattle, Ballard, Northwest Design Review Board, AXIS/GFA Architecture + Design, Seattle Public Library, Ballard Farmers Market, Nordic Museum, Ballard Locks, Gilman Playground, Puget Sound

By Kate Snyder

A proposal that would bring a new apartment building to Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood was moved forward by the Northwest Design Review Board during a recommendation meeting on Monday. The project is a 122-unit residential complex from developer Canal West and designer AXIS/GFA Architecture + Design.

Located at 5206 17th Ave., the project is positioned near the heart of Ballard, across from Ballard Swedish Hospital campus. The current neighborhood is a mix of some older single-family houses, low-rise multifamily, commercial, medical and newer mid-rise multifamily developments, according to project plans. The site is surrounded by major commercial avenues such as NW Market Street two blocks north and 15th Avenue NW one block east. The historic Ballard business district is to the west, which hosts a number of landmarks such as the Ballard branch of the Seattle Public Library and the Ballard Farmers Market as well as movie theaters and restaurants. Further west is the Nordic Museum and Ballard Locks. Gilman Playground, one of the neighborhood’s largest parks, is located three blocks east of the site.

The project is an eight-story multifamily residential structure that totals approximately 94,210 square feet with 72,469 square feet of residential space and 4,930 square feet of amenity uses. The development will provide 122 units of various sizes from levels one through seven. The apartments face all three streets and a few on the side of the building face the adjacent property to the east. No commercial space is proposed on site. 

Plans include 26 in-structure vehicle parking stalls and upper-level amenity spaces. Parking access is located along NW 53rd Street at the south end of the property. Community spaces include an entry courtyard on the southwest corner, which would provide an abundance of natural light, as well as two upper-level terraces – one at the southwest corner and the other at the northeast corner – and a landscaped buffer area for ground-level residential units.

Aaron Blaha, associate at AXIS/GFA Architecture + Design, presented details about the project to the board. He highlighted the surrounding neighborhood of Ballard and how the design pulls from the historic context of the community.

“The community also has a rich history that dates back further than most neighborhoods,” he said. “It is reflected in its historic buildings and masonry architecture. These cues were taken into consideration with the proposed design.”

During an early design guidance meeting last year, the development team presented a slightly different design. At that time, the completed development was slated to total 97,642 square feet with 30 vehicle parking spaces and 5,000 square feet of amenity space. The project was also planned to include five more residential units, to make for a 127-unit apartment building. The current massing scheme is a modification of the preferred concept from the previous EDG meeting.

At the most recent meeting, the board discussed several aspects of the design. Members were pleased with the updated massing concept, believing that the recommendations from the previous EDG meeting were merged into the design really well. Also appreciated was the selection of high-level materials that works well with the project. The board also was happy to see changes to the north entry, which previously felt “quashed” rather than celebrated in the design, said board Chair Brian Johnson. 

One recommendation was for the development team to include small shade trees in the landscape plan along 17th Avenue to provide shade. Board members discussed the fact that the site is so close to power lines that any shade trees would be difficult to incorporate but that it would be nice to see some shade along the 17th frontage. Despite the recommendation, several members also noted that the landscaping feels cohesive and should be a nice addition to the site once it’s fully established.