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Facing Tough Community Feedback, Pinnacle and Plus Capital’s 524-Unit Condominium Development Near Pike Place Market Must Return for Additional Design Review

Pinnacle Plus Development, Plus Capital Partners, Seattle, Pike Place Market, Julia Nagele, Hewitt, Haight Building, Pike Place Market, Fischer Studio Building
Rendering Courtesy of Hewitt Architecture

By Meghan Hall

After more than a year, one of Seattle’s largest residential projects is wrapping up the design review phase. With the Downtown Design Review Board signaling its approval at this week’s recommendation meeting Tuesday night, Bellevue-based Pinnacle Plus Development and Plus Capital Partners still have some work to do before the project can formally move forward with their plans to construct two towers at 1516-1526 2nd Ave. in Seattle, blocks away from Pike Place Market, Westlake Park and other attractions.

Designed by Hewitt Architecture, the development will include 524 condominium units as well as 3,900 square feet of street-level retail space, reduced from the initial proposal of 6,500 square feet. At a previous design meeting, the development team’s preferred scheme included two towers, called Mama and Baby, at 160 feet and 484 feet in height, respectively, with the smaller tower serving as a transition between lower-density and smaller-scaled structures in the surrounding neighborhood. The taller tower would reference newer high-rises going up throughout downtown Seattle and would be situated on the northern portion of the site.  A gap between the two towers between levels one and 22 would continue through the podium to reduce the massing of the project. This massing the Board largely backed, and Tuesday night’s meeting presented updated plans based on prior recommendations and community feedback.

“All of the larger concepts that we presented back with the EDG that had the consensus and support of the Board, are there. The concerns of the community were addressed,” stated Julia Nagele, director of design for Hewitt. “The podium has three separate identity pieces, but they work together as a whole composition to reinforce the  scale, proportion and rhythm of [the project’s] neighbors.”

The building’s updated massing now includes a larger, recessed slot between the building’s podium and tower to provide additional massing relief between the nearby Haight Building. The eased transition allows the Haight Building’s cornice line and profile to have more exposure, and thus will not be hidden by the new development. The lower section of the podium was also raised up one level to further this effect. Additional development of the podium façade through both vertical and secondary horizontal patterns were also added. The “basket weave” used is drawn from neighboring buildings, and the design team anticipates that it will add variety and movement to the street façade as well as help the project better relate to existing development surrounding the site. The interlocking rooftop form with spandrel and vision glazing remained the same from the previous design review meeting.

The project plans also strive to update an adjacent alley via bicycle connections and an adjacent lobby and covered passenger drop off.

The ultimate design goal, according to project documents, is to pull from the City’s iconic attractions to create a cohesive development that belongs in one of Seattle’s most visited neighborhoods. With the Westlake Park to the East, Pike and Pine Streets to the North and Pike Place to the West, the 1516 2nd. Ave. development will be highly visible upon completion. The nine blocks in between Pike and Virginia Streets attracts about 10 million visitors per year, according to a Pike Place fact sheet released by the City of Seattle. When built, Pinnacle Plus, Plus Capital Partners and Hewitt hope that the development will both add to the neighborhood and rise as an attraction in its own right.

“Oftentimes towers are seen as statement pieces,” said Nagele. “They are symbolic statement pieces and the relationship between the Mama, the Baby and the open space reflect its surrounding area…It is an expression of its neighbors, and therefore it is an expression of the values that are contained in the design guidelines.”

However, while the Board was generally supportive of the project’s massing and design, the local community was vocal in their opposition to many of the development team’s project choices. Neighbors of the project site stated that the building will only be 16 feet away from adjacent residences, while the Fischer Studio Building Condominium Owners Association stated that the design of the towers would significantly limit light for both the project and surrounding development, that there was little privacy and the scale of the project was too large. Other community members pointed out that there needed to be better planning regarding an adjacent alleyway from which the project’s 269-stall parking garage fed into, feeling that auxiliary and parking services should not feed into the same, constrained space.

On many of these points the Board was constrained on the feedback it could offer, as considerations for some of the massing needed to also be evaluated by the Seattle Preservation Board due to the project’s proximity to City landmarks, while issues regarding the alleway needed to be addressed by the Seattle Department of Transportation. However, regarding privacy, the Board did ask the project team to conduct a privacy study, evaluating how the project’s windows would align with adjacent current development.

Given the amount of community feedback and the fact that other Seattle departments had yet to weigh in, the Board unanimously recommended the project return for an additional design meeting to work out the community’s concerns.