By Meghan Hall
A new high-rise slated for Seattle’s University District core made its community debut on Monday night at an Early Design Guidance meeting and was met with promising feedback. Proposed by Washington Opportunity Fund and Studio 19 Architects, the project is expected to rise more than 20 stories above the city and include up to 220 apartment units and retail.
“Our design concepts are centered around three priorities: the treatment of the ground plane and the street level, the creation of outdoor public space and the modulation of the building to reduce the perceived mass,” explained Studio 19 Architects’ Jeff Walls.
The project site is located at 4212 Roosevelt Way NE. Two levels of below grade parking will be included in the plans, as well 3,805 square feet of ground floor retail. The retail will be accessible from both Roosevelt Way NE and NE 42nd street. A community courtyard is also part of the greater plans.
The project team intends to arrange the building massing to set back at the upper levels to provide solar access. The lower levels of the project will be broken into smaller volumes to respond to and complement the current neighborhood context and development. All design options presented will include large amenity spaces planned around the perimeter of the building and will allow for gathering spots within planned plazas. No residential units are planned for the lower levels.
“We really looked at trying to bring down the scale of the building by providing smaller podium level masses that would reduce the scale as well as massing ins and outs that would reduce the scale of the tower,” stated Walls.
The project team’s second massing option encompasses these points and proved to be most agreeable to the Review Board. That option—dubbed “The Stack—would place the public plaza on the south portion of the site to open up the street corner. The building would also be further setback at the ground level to further expand the sidewalks on Roosevelt Way NE and NE 42nd St. The design of the building itself would boast a dynamic and vertically modulated façade, balanced by a base anchored through a number of canted columns. Two stories of glazed facades would be included, facing south and west, to break the bottom mass. The residential entry would be highlighted at the corner as well.
The project team intends to produce a contemporary design, one that is further highlighted by high-quality materials. Accent colors will also be added to the lower levels to blend with other developments in the district and windows will be recessed to create depth. During the meeting, a mix of curtain walls, aluminum storefront systems, metal panels and punched openings were discussed. Concrete and masonry veneer could also be used at the pedestrian level.
The Board highlighted the project team’s second massing option—as opposed to the preferred scheme—because of its simplicity and future ability to relate to the surrounding neighborhood context. The Board felt that the other two options presented would be too busy and clash with the immediate surrounding buildings. One Board member commented that the preferred option presented “too many gimmicks of angles and bracing,” limiting the possibility of its success.
The Board emphasized the need to make the building a destination and in its guidance asked the project team to create a hierarchy of spaces and their uses, as well as how it will build off of neighboring businesses. The Board also asked the applicant to consider shifting the tower and potentially closing the mid-block connection, as well as shrinking the proposed lobby to account for more retail. As the project team considered how it would address the ground plane and open space, the Board also suggested incorporating weather protection into the building itself, as opposed to tacking it on, in an effort to create a more cohesive design.
The Board also stated that because the massing of the building is simple, materials with more interest can be brought into the design to give the building character and movement. As one Board member stated, “fewer massing moves, more inherent texture.”
However, while the Board’s guidance was discussed at length, the decision was made to move the project forward to MUP application. The Board overall felt that its guidance to the applicant team was clear and therefore would not require a second Early Design Guidance meeting. The development team will now refine its designs and present its updates at a Design Review Meeting in the coming months.