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Design Review Board Recommends 167-Unit West Seattle Apartment Project Move Forward to MUP Application

AAA Management, Clark Barnes Architecture, DESC Interbay House, Seattle
Rendering Courtesy of Clark Barnes Architecture

By Bekka Wiedenmeyer

The Interbay neighborhood of Seattle is characterized by industrial buildings and minimal architectural design. Structures are low-rise, roofs are flat and the Interbay Golf Course and P-Patch break up the manmade infrastructure with intermittent greenery. As part of a recent growth movement, single-family homes have been replaced by multifamily residential buildings, and there are several projects currently either under review or construction in the area. The area is also transitioning from industrial to metropolitan with more public amenities. In November, AAA Management, LLC and Clark Barnes Architecture presented a proposal to the West Design Review Board during its first early design guidance meeting to develop a 6-story apartment building with below grade parking at 2222 15th Avenue W. At the end of the meeting, the Board recommended the project move forward to MUP application.

The site, which is owned by AAA Management, LLC, is currently developed with multiple buildings in three different tax parcels. The first parcel contains two single-family residences built in the early 1900s and a shed, the middle parcel houses a single-family residence from 1918 and the third parcel has a one-story service structure from 2014, a shed and a parking lot. These existing buildings are to be demolished to make way for the new project. The site itself is located in an abandoned landfill area, making it environmentally critical. The eastern portion of the site is steeply sloped, with a potential slide zone at the northeast corner. Surrounding the site are multifamily residential and commercial buildings, with one single-family residence to the north and one to the east. The DESC Interbay House has a multifamily residence structure to the south.

According to project documents, the 31,534.5 square foot site will house a 6-story apartment building with 167 residential units and 164 below grade parking stalls. There will be designated amenity areas, which may include space for roof gardens, balconies, decks, swimming pools and other public and private amenity space. As outlined in the project, all residents will have access to at least one common or private space. Additionally, the design team proposed space for both long-term and short-term bicycle parking. Overall, the goal of the project is to seamlessly blend into the transitional nature of the neighborhood and create a new development that will inspire other projects in the future.

The Board unanimously supported the second massing option of the project: Option B, “The Shift.” Because the site has a large street frontage, they agreed the massing elements, scaling, asymmetry and hierarchical ordering would be the appropriate option to manage the size of the project. Within this scheme, there is a residential entry “beacon” and a larger setback that the Board agreed would help maintain the privacy, light and air of the area as it relates to the buildings to the east of the site. While the Board did not recommend the team move forward with any of the other options, they did appreciate the roof level trellis of Option C and suggested the team explore this feature and add it to the beacon element of Option B.

Other comments made by the Board during the meeting included consideration of adjacent sites, the architectural composition along 15th Avenue and vehicle and pedestrian circulation at the street frontage. The Board agreed that the project should heavily consider the proximity of the surrounding buildings and mitigate the impact as much as possible through window location and bulk. Concerns included the impacts on privacy and solar access, and the Board suggested the design team explore options to accommodate. 

Because of the vehicular nature of 15th Avenue, the Board recommended the team use heavy-duty exterior cladding materials for the industrial aspect and larger scaling to incorporate the size of the project with the nature of 15th Avenue W. The Board unanimously supported the efforts to implement a vehicle and pedestrian hybrid design at the street frontage, but required a more thorough explanation as to how it would be fully put into effect. The Board requested to see more information at the recommendation stage on how the street frontage would accommodate a multi-combo use that would include but is not limited to bicycle and parking access, pedestrian activity, drop off and pick up, move in and move out and package delivery, with pedestrian safety as the main focal point.

Finally, the Board requested two development standard departures for parking space and parking location access, again with a primary focus on pedestrian safety.

At the conclusion of the early design guidance meeting, the Board recommended the project move forward to MUP application. AAA Management, LLC and Clark Barnes will review the guidance given by the Board during the meeting and revise the project to address some of the concerns raised. With this decision, the team moves closer toward the project’s overarching goal of blending with the architectural character of the Interbay neighborhood and uniting industrial features with pedestrian-centric elements to develop a building that will inspire others, as the design team outlined in the project documents, to “build upon in the future.”