Home AEC Design Review Board Approves 5-Story Apartment Building Subject Design in Eastlake

Design Review Board Approves 5-Story Apartment Building Subject Design in Eastlake

Seattle, Eastlake, PUBLIC47 Architects, Shilshole Development, Karen Keist Landscape Architecture
Rendering Courtesy of PUBLIC47 Architects

By Bekka Wiedenmeyer

Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood is a multi-use urban space that connects Downtown Seattle to the University District, with connections to Lake Union and other public amenity spaces in the area. Historically, the area has been known for its maritime use, including dry docks and marinas. In more recent years, Eastlake is a recreation area sprinkled with rowing and yacht clubs and floating homes. In an effort to increase connectivity and community access to the shoreline, PUBLIC47 Architects, Shilshole Development, LLC and Karen Keist Landscape Architects received approval with conditions from the East Design Review Board in October to move forward from the recommendation phase with the design for a 5-story apartment building, currently unnamed project, at 3138 Fairview Ave E. 

The site, which is owned by Shilshole Development, LLC, is currently developed with a single-story office building on the south side constructed in 1964, with connections to a two-story light manufacturing structure on the south side. The single-story portion will be demolished to make way for the proposed development, and the 2-story portion will be kept and repurposed into offices. The north section of the site is unimproved. To the east of the site are commercial and mixed-use buildings along Eastlake Ave E, with additional single-family homes along the alley. To the south are a combination of multi-family and single-family homes, and to the west are a mix of commercial and single-family buildings of maritime use along the waterfront lots. Interstate 5 overhead caps the north direction of the site.

According to project documents, the 24,931 square foot lot area will include 5 stories of 103 residential units and 37 parking stalls, plus the existing office space. Commercial space will total 10,658 square feet. Amenities for the project include a combination of studio, 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom apartments, as well as a hill-climb stair north of the property to connect Eastlake’s commercial area to Good Turn Park on Lake Union, a new public plaza at the bottom of the stair and covered bike parking. A common roof terrace will provide views extending out to the lake, further connecting residents to the surrounding area and re-emphasizing the maritime influence of Eastlake.

In project documents, PUBLIC47 describes the modulation and form of the building as stacked, modulated squares, composed of corrugated and flat metal panels. In the revised project for the second early design guidance meeting in November 2018, the architectural team proposed 5 different alternatives for the redevelopment of the site. The 5th alternative supported the preservation of the southern portion of the existing building on the property, introducing the idea of the new hill-climb stair north of the property as well as new construction to replace the northern two-thirds of the property. PUBLIC47 also proposed the ideas of bike storage, an amenity room and a green roof with a deck to offer views of the lake. This alternative was generally supported by the Board at the conclusion of the meeting.

The Board expressed some concerns about the project, however, which PUBLIC47 addressed in the recommendation meeting. One such concern was the height of the building. While the Board supported the “stacking block” design of the scheme, they suggested the team explore the possibility of the project taking on a terraced form upward to the north, without affecting shoreline variance.

In response, PUBLIC47 pointed out that the proposed height is already at zoning height limit and is therefore unable to be revised. The Board acknowledged the effort and recommended approval of the design.

Another original concern was the massing of the building. While the Board supported the complement of the height of the second story of the building in relation to the commercial building to the south, described as “slim and somewhat elegant” in project documents, they suggested the proportions could be expressed with an added setback or reveal along the north-facing facade for improved continuity.

In response, PUBLIC47 revised the project with added recessions at levels 3 and 4 and a cantilevered element in the upper story. While the northeast corner of the building is not recessed, it is coplanar and will allow for a better transition for the metal material to wrap at the corner. While the Board expressed disappointment at the cantilevered element of the upper level, they however applauded the modulation and proportionality of the scheme.

Other concerns included the integration of the rooftop amenity area and more details on public engagement with bioretention features of the space. PUBLIC47 addressed both of these concerns during the recommendation meeting. The refined proposal forces the southeast corner of the building to extend up to connect with the amenity room, with windows that will add relief to the south party wall and east elevation. Furthermore, bioretention basins will be further integrated to the hill-climb stair and surrounding landscape with retaining walls that will be terraced up the hill. According to meeting reports, the Board described the bioretention update as “exemplary.”

After seeing the site and hearing the revisions made during the recommendation meeting, the four members of the Board recommended approval of the subject design of 3138 Fairview Ave E, with a few conditions. They recommended further education on the bioretention features of the project and that the team explore more ways to use those features within the context of materials, detailing and landscaping of the space. They also recommended PUBLIC47 work with a credentialed professional to formulate a tree protection and preservation plan for one of the trees located on the adjacent property near the northeastern corner of the building.

With limited design approval secured, PUBLIC47 Architects and Karen Keist Landscape Architects will work through revisions to meet the conditions set by the Board to move the project one step closer to its end goal of unifying the neighborhood by improving connectivity and community access to the maritime amenities Eastlake has to offer.