Home AEC Design Review Board Approves 2 Mixed-Use Towers in U-District Core

Design Review Board Approves 2 Mixed-Use Towers in U-District Core

University District, Seattle, University Temple United Methodist Church, American Campus Communities, GGLO
Rendering Courtesy of GGLO

By Bekka Wiedenmeyer

University Temple United Methodist Church (UTUMC) has resided in Seattle’s University District since 1901 and since grown from a singular tent to three different worship spaces. The district itself combines this history with the presence of the University of Washington, introducing an eclectic characteristic to the urban neighborhood. Within this context, UTUMC is partnering with American Campus Communities (ACC) to demolish and repurpose some of its existing structures to support community need through more housing and religious space dedicated to worship and missions. 

In October, UTUMC, ACC and GGLO Design received approval from the Northeast Design Review Board during an early design guidance meeting to move forward to MUP application with a proposal for a mixed use building comprised of a 22-story tower and a 12-story tower, located at 1415 NE 43rd Street.

The site, which is jointly owned by UTUMC and Larry D Erickson, is currently occupied by existing religious structures on the UTUMC campus, some of which will be demolished to make way for the new towers. GGLO Design is both the architect of record and landscape architect for this project. A portion of the site will be maintained as open space. A parking lot flanks the site to the north, with the Burke Museum to the northeast, University of Washington’s School of Law to the east and Parrington Lawn to the southeast. Along the south are a mixed-use residential development and religious institution, with the University Station Post Office and several commercial buildings to the west. The University of Washington campus extends further east. There is no set architectural style in the area. Neighborhood landmarks in the area include University of Washington Tower along Brooklyn Ave NE and Flowers Bar & Restaurant on University Way NE.

According to project documents, the project will house two residential towers with a 40,000 square foot podium and 135 vehicular spaces of below grade parking. The towers will be 240 feet and 140 feet tall, comprising of 159 resident hall units and 65 apartment units. Other amenities include 240 below grade bicycle spaces, a colonnade and entry porch with access to the centerpiece Sanctuary, an outdoor seating plaza and a seating amphitheater at the corner of the alley and 43rd Green Street. 

GGLO describes the design goals as three-fold: to create an accommodating presence in the space that caters to the multi-purpose use of the project, to create an overall composition with seamless features and to activate the community and surrounding space. Some of the more specific design features that the architectural team is using to achieve their goals include the 3-story podium, which will create a grounded base for the towers above with the addition of a masonry street wall. The articulated facade will feature vertically emphasized, glazed bays. The towers themselves vary in height to better complement the lower scale of the neighborhood.

GGLO proposes incorporating masonry features for the material of the podium, including brick and other highly-articulated materials. Metal panel and vision/spandrel glass curtains will be used in a wall-window-wall pattern to achieve a contemporary look for the towers.

The massing of the building will include an “interlock” scheme, with both towers recessing from the face of the podium at 15th Ave and away from the Sanctuary. An unbroken parapet helps achieve the design goal of composition, with dual orientation to 43rd and 15th and open tower spacing on 15th. The entry colonnade, Sanctuary and north entry porch are all primary components of this massing option along 15th Ave. The intersect terrace will wrap the corner at 43rd NE, and the ACC student center entry will wrap the NW corner to activate the alley space.

The Board supported this massing option and appreciated the emphasized components along 15th, along with the wrapping design at the corner of 43rd NE.

The Board also liked the “fun urban feel” of the design overall, and the emphasis on the height and stepdown features of the towers. One concern the Board had, however, was the concept of the colonnade. They suggested the architectural team revisit the concept to make it more inviting, perhaps by scaling back the landscaping and focusing on more specific design elements like lighting. 

Another concern mentioned during the meeting was better integration for the alley to add more activation. The Board suggested the team realign on some of the upper level elements or design features at the south end of the alley to achieve this, along with additional activities created by the church to further activate the space. 

The Board appreciated the initial look at the materials which will be used for the podium and towers, however, they suggested the design team provide additional support through diagrams in the next phase to provide context for the material choices.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the four members of the Board recommended moving the project forward to MUP application. With design approval secured, UTUMC, ACC and GGLO Design will partner to make the revisions suggested by the Board and move closer to achieving their design goals in the next phase of the project, bringing UTUMC one step toward their repurposing goal of meeting community need and blending seamlessly into the vibrant personality of the U-District.