Home AEC Five-Story Affordable Housing Project in Seattle’s Green Lake Neighborhood Met with List...

Five-Story Affordable Housing Project in Seattle’s Green Lake Neighborhood Met with List of Conditions from Design Review Board

KNIT Studios, Project S33 LLC, George Webb, Seattle
Courtesy of KNIT Studios

By Meghan Hall

An affordable housing project in Seattle’s Green Lake neighborhood has narrowly cleared design review after the Northwest Design Review Board gave the development team a laundry list of follow-ups to complete at a recent Design Recommendation Meeting (DRM). The project, located at 8300 Aurora Ave. N., will total 127 units.

The project is proposed by Shoreline, Wash.-based Project S33 LLC, affiliated with George Webb, and KNIT Studios. The development will replace several existing commercial buildings on the site that were originally built in 1945 and 1948. 

Of the units, 117 will be reserved for purely residential purposes, while the remaining will be 10 live/work units. Units will largely be a mix of one- and two-bedrooms. No parking will be provided, as none is required by code for affordable housing developments.

“The project intends to respond to the diverse neighborhood character of its past, present and future. With the new and planned developments, Aurora Ave corridor is transforming from vehicle centric to walkable pedestrian-oriented street,” design documents state. “The proposed project intends to reinforce such transformation with the street-activating live-work and the affordable residential units with no parking that respectfully transitions to the existing single-family [neighborhood.”

Since the project’s previous design review, the height and width of the massing has been reduced along the adjacent single-family zone to the east. The east edge will now also be screened by a decorative wooden fence, brick wall and landscaping, while the southwest corner has been updated. Its massing will now include a roofline variation, larger base massing, accent facade, and widow patterns. This corner will provide an architectural hierarchy, according to design documents, and will activate the street at ground level.

Facades will have a single-wall cladding type and will be further broken down via a staggered window pattern. A mix of tan and gray fiber cement panels will be utilized for the upper levels, while at the ground level, thin-brick and glazing will create a more transparent and open feel.

The Board appreciated the updates to the design since the project’s previous design review, and overall recommended the approval of the proposed massing scheme. The board noted that it appreciated the development of the design specifically in response to the east, and that the massing successfully mitigated the size and scope of the building. 

The review board also had several concerns about the design scheme. It questioned the “complicated and contrasting” facade articulation and materials palette proposed, and asked the project team to simplify the facade along Aurora Ave. N. It also evaluated the southern mass of the building and asked for the project team to provide more depth. 

The board also had a number of questions about street level uses and landscaping, and asked questions about the project site’s circulation. During its deliberation, the board had a “hard time” understanding how various spaces were interconnected and would be used, and conditioned a study to better evaluate its concerns. 

The Board listed a number of conditions to resolve its design concerns but asked that the project team return for an additional Design Recommendation Meeting (DRM). Because the project was not requesting any departures, however, projects are typically capped at a maximum of three design review meetings. Only the Director of the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections may condition a second meeting. Given these parameters, the board expressed that it expected the applicant to work with its planning team in order to resolve the design issues expressed during the meeting.