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Despite Board Approval, Developer of 156,000 SQFT Mixed-Use Project Near Seattle Center Requests Additional Review

Rendering Courtesy of Perkins + Will

By Sasha Vasilyuk

The Uptown Urban Center of the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood is a dense mix of turn of the 20th century and 1950-60s buildings, including multifamily housing, commercial and institutional properties. Nearby are restaurants, theaters and hotels as well as the Seattle Center, which has been bringing locals and visitors alike since World’s Fair of 1962. The neighborhood is defined by its active pedestrian traffic, and any new structures would need to support that overall feel.

That is what the proposed corner 6-story office building with an underground parking garage by Seattle developer Martin Selig Real Estate and designed by Perkins + Will is trying to accomplish. However, first, some changes would need to be made before the project advances in the design review process.

Located just a block west of the Seattle Center, at 401 Queen Anne Ave North, the development would offer six levels of office space, ranging from 23,000 to 26,000 square feet, as well as four below grade parking levels, with up to 297 parking spaces to serve the building tenants as well as visitors from the nearby Key Arena. The garage would be accessible to car traffic from the alley, while pedestrians would enter from Queen Anne Avenue.

The building would be 85-feet tall, a maximum allowed by the zoning. The preferred massing has a 3-story expression along Queen Anne Ave and a 3-story upper volume that frames around an open plaza with seating at the south side of the building. The project team hope the form of the plaza will create an opportunity for public art, such as a sculpture that would strengthen a sense of place. A rooftop terrace would create an additional amenity for future tenants. The proposed design would also widen the sidewalk of Queen Anne Avenue North to further enhance the pedestrian experience.

The existing structures, including a one-story building, a three-story building, and associated parking lot would need to be demolished.

Despite its general support of the project at the early design guidance meeting, the Board expressed some concerns with the proportions of the upper and lower volumes. According to the records of the meeting, the Board called it “looming” as it appeared to reinforce the bulk, height and scale of the building, rather than mitigate it. They also questioned whether the plaza would be inviting to the public or mainly serve the private use of the building’s tenants. The Board requested that additional setback be used to enhance the public realm and activate Queen Anne Avenue.

Two departures were requested at the meeting. The developer and Perkins + Will requested a departure that would decrease the percentage of open space open to the sky. The board gave preliminary support, assuming their guidance on public accessibility and activation of the open space is resolved. The applicants also requested a departure that would set back the property at 3 ft 6 inches rather than 10 feet above 64 feet. The board did not support the reduced upper level as they had concerns about the bulk and scale of the building’s upper volume.

No public comments were given at the meeting. Despite its critical feedback on several issues, the board was generally supportive of the direction of the project and recommended moving forward to the Master Use Permit application. However, in an unusual twist, the applicant requested an additional early design guidance meeting to get more feedback from the board about the proposed massing. The next meeting is scheduled for October 2.

As of this writing, Martin Selig Real Estate had not yet returned The Registry’s request for comment.