By Jack Stubbs
“I’m excited about this project…it could be the new iconic high-rise building in the neighborhood,” said board chair Curtis Bigelow about a new 204-unit condo development in Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood, which was recently given the green light to proceed at an Early Design Guidance meeting.
At the meeting, held on Wednesday January 10th, the applicant team—Chicago-based architecture firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz and Seattle-based design consultant Compton Design Office—presented the preliminary project plans on behalf of Melbourne, Australia-based Caydon, the developer of the project.
Located at 615 8th Ave., the development calls for the construction of a 28-story 324-foot residential high-rise tower. As well as 204 residential condo units, the proposed development also includes six levels of below-grade parking and a rooftop indoor/outdoor amenities area. Three existing buildings currently occupying the site—that all provide uses for the adjacent Trinity Church—are set to be demolished as part of the development.
While the board unanimously approved the development, it also articulated several conditions for the applicant team to refine before the next phase of the design process, including the development’s integration into the First Hill neighborhood context, the relationship between the development and Trinity Church, and the material choices for the high-rise.
Kicking off its presentation, the applicant team focused on the project’s neighborhood context. The proposed development will co-exist on the same block as the historic Trinity Church—the project plans include a ground-level garden area and three-story glass connection to connect the two buildings. Additionally, the first three stories of the new tower will provide various uses for the Trinity Church, including a lobby, art gallery, meeting and support spaces, and a new location for the church’s parish hall.
A representative from Compton Design Office articulated the applicant team’s main objectives and design elements to consider for the development, which include the proximity of the Trinity Church, preserving 8th Ave. as a green street, encouraging pedestrian circulation and walkability along Cherry St., preserving the existing open space and natural elements, and encouraging street-level interaction with the development in the First Hill neighborhood.
In its presentation, the applicant team particularly emphasized the development’s relationship with Trinity Church: the project plans include an expansion the memorial garden attached to the Church, which plays a key role in the transition between the development and the surrounding neighborhood.
When asked to provide clarifying questions about the development, all of the board members’ queries related to the relationship between the proposed high-rise and the adjacent Trinity Church. Board member Andrew Haas asked about applicant’s proposed expansion of the memorial garden, also expressing a concern that the surface connection might not be an entirely necessary element. Board member Barbara Busetti echoed these design questions, asking about the proposed uses for the memorial garden. Busetti also asked the applicant to clarify the location of the development entrances, also citing potential issues with circulation and accessibility throughout the development. Finally, board member Kenny Pleasant asked the applicant to elaborate on the requested additional height for the building, questioning the impact that this design choice could have on the memorial garden and surrounding neighborhood context.
There were two public comments expressed at the meeting, both of which related to the relationship between the development’s design and the surrounding neighborhood. James Erickson, a member of the First Hill Improvement Association, asked the applicant team to pay special attention to certain design elements, including pedestrian accessibility to the site, potential safety and security issues, and the exterior materials used for the building. The second comment was made by a resident of the First Hill neighborhood, who expressed his appreciation for the project, highlighting the applicant team’s proposed expansion of the memorial garden and the increased building height as positive design choices.
During its deliberation period, the board expressed its approval of the development’s height, bulk and scale, also discussing several design elements including the prominent memorial garden, the location of development entrances, accessibility and circulation throughout the site, and the development’s relationship to the existing Trinity Church.
While the board ultimately gave the project the green light to proceed, it also articulated several design conditions for the applicant to integrate into the project. These conditions included making the development more engaged at street level and reducing the size of the proposed connection between the development and Trinity Church. Additionally, the board asked the applicant team to provide more information about the proposed uses and changes to the memorial garden and submit more detailed plans about how the development would ultimately serve as a public benefit for the First Hill neighbrohood. Finally, the applicant team will also need to provide more detailed project plans about how it intends to preserve the “green street” and other open spaces adjacent to development.
Having been approved to proceed to the next stage of the design review process, the applicant team will now submit a Master Use Permit to the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection for review.