Chinese developer Plus Investments and MZA Architecture have their eyes set on a very interesting part of Seattle to build their eight-story, 91-unit apartment complex. The project, which is planned for the Cascade sub-market of Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, went through an early design guidance meeting this Wednesday, Jan. 18th in order to provide the city planners a vision and perspective on the development’s scale and design elements.
Every proposal has something unique in the plans, and this one is with no exception. Along with its location, which today houses a row of three old, single story wooden shacks, the lot is also in proximity to a very special housing facility called Pete Gross House. This facility is part of the nearby Fred Hutchinson Fairview Research Center, and it is a home to 72 studios and one-bedrooms that serve as a facility for patients who come to the center for treatment from out of town and need temporary housing.
Wanting to be sensitive to various uses of its neighbors, Steve Orser, Plus Investments’ Seattle-based development manager, said his firm has reached out to nearby property members to discuss the development of his new project.
“We reached out to our neighbors and some were not interested in the development of the project but Fred Hutchinson had feedback and together we developed an alternative way to developed our preferred design,” said Orser.
While discussing their proposal, Plus Investments and Fred Hutch worked together to redesign the preferred option for the property to establish a courtyard variation. With the initial preferred option, the the two units would be landlocked and have little light. The courtyard variation would provide light and air, which the architects said is a priority for the site.
“We feel that light and air is really important for our patients,” said Scott Rusch, vice president of facilities and operations at Fred Hutch. “We saw the courtyard scheme and think that’s a much better scheme for us, and we do want to continue to work with them (Plus Investments) on that to improve it to work even better for us,” he said. Rusch praised the concept by saying, “it’s definitely moving in the right direction.”
The proposed project sits on the corner of Minor Ave. N. at 1170 Republican St. and would include 91 apartments with 50 below-grade parking stalls. The residential square-footage would round out at about 80,000 square feet and 30,000 square feet would be dedicated to below-grade parking. Jerry Coburn, of Geyer Coburn Hutchins, is the landscape architect on the project. He said the site will feature five-foot wide planters that are generous in length and will meet Green Factor requirements with the preferred plan. Coburn also said they have incorporated specialty pavement on the entry of the building as a way to open it up. Additional plans would include green decks and green roofs with solar power compatibility.
According to the proposal, there are plans to create a green wall that extends up the building facade. They’d also like to incorporate graffiti on the building to honor the history of one of the previous tenants who lived in a home on the site. Brad Smith, MZA architect, said a spray painter who worked at the Ford factory on Lake Union used to live in one of the residences on the site and since the plan calls for the demolition of those structures, Smith felt this was a nice way to honor the plot’s history. The structures to be demolished include the Row House Cafe, which has occupied the three century-old houses since 2010.
The primary entrance to the building is along Republican St. and will feature a fitness and living room. Smith said they are really trying to put an active front on Republican St. “We really feel like this project is a transition from taller buildings on Fairview into more residential areas,” said Smith.
During the planning board’s deliberations, members requested the project come back for a second meeting to finalize some and clear up other questions they have regarding the use and appearance of the building. The board would like to see more streetscape and interactivity with the street on the lower levels but said the upper levels have been given significant detail, something they’d like to see integrated into the lower levels. Additionally, they would like to see more of a residential feel from the exterior that better serves the public realm.
The board was highly supportive of the courtyard concept but would like to see Plus Investments and MZA Architecture continue to work with Fred Hutch to improve that concept to work better for both parties.