Seattle’s Mount Baker neighborhood is an eclectic mix of sleepy suburbia and modern living, with new developments finding a home around Rainier Ave S, the light rail station and the Metro bus transit center. Against this city tapestry, Seattle-based Caron Architecture and owner Gary Bodenstab presented a revised proposal for a nine-story mixed-use building to the Southeast Design Review Board at the end of July. At the conclusion of the meeting, the Board voted to move the project forward to master-use permit (MUP) application with conditional approval.
The site, which is owned by Gary Bodenstab from Paine Property LLC and located at 2203 23rd Ave S, is currently occupied by a single-story brick building with a wall mural, with surface grade parking on three sides of the building. The existing structure will be demolished to make way for the new project. 22nd Ave S and S College St border the site from the west and south and take on a residential character. 23rd Ave S and S Walker St to the east and the north are commercial-oriented. Several mature trees can be found on the site, and three are considered exceptional. A variety of nonprofit and humanitarian organizations are near to the site, along with neighborhood parks and religious buildings to the north and the east. Single-family neighborhoods can be found to the south and the west. The site is also located one block west of S Rainier St, a major arterial route with several bus routes, and the neighborhood has dedicated bike lanes and greenways. Caron Architecture is the architect of record for the project.
According to project documents, the 272,232 square foot proposed development consists of a nine-story mixed-use building with on-site parking, as well as 9,838 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor, 272 residential units and residential amenity areas. Amenities include a rooftop space with a view. The building is oriented around a courtyard to provide solar exposure. The applicant has proposed to preserve one exceptional tree on the southwest corner of the site. Due to the site residing in a parking flexibility area, there is no minimum parking requirement, but a limited number of parking spaces will be provided for residential and commercial use to be accessed from S Walker St. Residential entrances are located at the northeast corner of the block and on 22nd Ave S. The three commercial spaces can be accessed along 23rd Ave S and 22nd Ave S.
During the recommendation meeting, the applicant proposed a refined version of the massing option preferred by the Board during the second early design guidance (EDG) meeting. The building’s upper mass will still provide partial shade to the podium courtyard, with the upper levels stepped to reveal the natural grade of the site. The revised massing option provides space for 106 parking stalls and more than 200 bicycle stalls, both short-term and long-term. Per the Board’s request in the previous meeting, the applicant has agreed to preserve the exceptional big leaf maple at the border of S College St and have incorporated it into the landscape design.
In agreement with the Board’s comments, the applicant also maintained the 30 foot brick datum line across the facade, which was introduced during EDG. This will help mitigate the bulk and scale of the project.
“That datum line also is strengthened by providing a break, which is an homage and reference to the original office building on the site,” said Radim Blazej, principal at Caron Architecture.
During EDG, the Board suggested the applicant explore additional ways to tie in the new design to embody the cultural character of the neighborhood, or the existing structure, and the team has proposed to feature a brick veneer in the design that is similar in color to the existing structure. They have also included more secondary elements such as opaque canopies and black storefront mullions. During the recommendation meeting, the applicant also proposed a new mural wall along S Walker St as a nod to the mural on the existing building. While the full design is still being developed, the applicant has discussed partnering with local artists.
In response to comments made by the Board to add more distinction between the residential and retail facades of the project, the applicant amended the northeast corner to more closely resemble the ground-floor fenestration patterns of the residential parts of the site. The team also added a corner brick pilaster to the open corner storefront design, which resembles a pilaster similar to that of the existing building, along with a more human-scaled canopy and facade expression.
During the recommendation meeting, the applicant also went into depth about the material board. Fiber cement panels of varying grays will be incorporated into the design, as well as high-pressure wood laminate panels, brick veneer and concrete masonry.
The applicant proposed four design departure requests during the recommendation meeting. The first is to allow for two blank facades to exceed the maximum length of 20 feet along S Walker St and 22nd Ave S. The second, related to the first, is to allow for the overall percentage of blank facade to exceed the maximum 40 percent along the two streets, as well as S College St. The third departure requests tree street-level street-facing units along S College St closer than 10 feet to the sidewalk. The final departure requests an overhead canopy on the Level 9 along 22nd Ave S to project more than the 18 allowed inches into the site’s upper-level setback.
During the deliberation portion of the recommendation meeting, the Board expressed their support for the applicant’s use of brick and wood materials. They supported the creation of space for art and encouraged the applicant to develop it further. The Board said they would be supportive if the applicant decided to partner with the original artist for the creation of the new mural. The Board was supportive of the streetscape improvements and retainment of the big leaf maple tree, and they encouraged the applicant to explore ways to make the communal space as accessible as possible. The Board appreciated the differentiation of residential entrances from the retail entrances, as well as the use of wood in the project revisions. They encouraged the applicant to explore using landscape material like planters or trees to help further differentiate. The Board also supported all four departures as requested.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the Board unanimously voted to move the project forward to MUP application, with a condition that the applicant place the new mural in an area where it will receive exposure.