By Meghan Hall
A mixed-use project spanning a full city block at the center of the University District returned for additional design review Monday night, receiving support from the Northeast Design Review Board and the greater community. Located at 4732 Brooklyn Ave. NE., Jackson Main Architecture presented updated plans on behalf of a Los Angeles-based private developer. The plans would include 188 residential units and a new Safeway grocery store.
At the project’s previous design review meeting in May of this year, the Board recognized the challenges of developing a full-block site and generally backed the original proposed massing scheme, which featured a single building massing to provide for a contiguous grocery store. Repeating C-shaped courtyards were also included in the initial plans, creating outdoor space while providing simple and effective modulation. However, the Board still asked the project team to consider the programming configuration of the ground level, specifically how the building related to the project’s planned open space and residential entry.
Since the prior EDG meeting, Jackson Main architecture has taken over as the architect for the project.
The proposed seven-story mid-rise will respond well to surrounding development, states design documents, as the neighborhood is home to a mix of one-story commercial to residential high-rises. The project will retain its 6,800 square foot neighborhood park, which will serve as an amenity and mid-block connection for the community. However, in response to Board feedback, the project team updated the façade along Brooklyn Ave., breaking up the 430-foot long frontage by adding additional façade modulation. Additionally, the courtyard expression, reflected in the higher levels of the building, was pulled down to ground level at the mid-point entry of the grocery store and at the transition from the grocery store façade to the site’s open space.
“What we’re doing is really opening up the site on the south portion, focusing the Safeway on the first floor to the north and with the open space down below combining with the existing M Tower…” said Matthew Laase, principal at Jackson Main Architecture.
The project’s storefront will be clad in anodized aluminum and clear glass, while the upper levels will feature deep red metal panels, dark gray panels, light grey fiber cement and vertical woodgrain panels. The materials will be notched or ribbed, according to design documents, adding additional modulation and fenestration.
“This…is an early idea of what we are planning. This is EDG so it’s really about the massing and how the building fits in with the neighborhood, the context, how the uses work,” said Robert Murphy, another architect from Jackson Main. “We do have some ideas…and we would really like to get some feedback.”
The Board appreciated the development team’s efforts to respond to previous design guidance, but had hoped for the team to present more evolved plans to the community. The Board felt that the massing and materials made progress, but seemed clunky. The Board also asked for more creativity and clarity regarding the building’s massing at the corners near 50th Street. Specifically, the Board hoped to know how those corners will add to the overall design of the building.
The Board did like, however, that the development team improved on how the commercial and residential spaces within the development connected to the planned open space, but asked that the development team clarify more directly how the spaces will serve the community. The Board also suggested keeping the open space flexible, building in the ability to alter it down the line as community needs continue to evolve.
The Board unanimously voted to move the project forward to a final Design Recommendation Meeting in the coming months.
The project site is at the nexus of a rapidly evolving part of the University District and is just blocks away from “The Ave.,” the neighborhood’s main commercial center. Shops and restaurants nearby include Sharetea, Starbucks, Urban Outfitters and Thai Tom. In recent years, development has taken off in the neighborhood, bringing an increasing number of residents and higher demand for commercial retailers and shopping centers. The development team hopes that once the project is completed, the new Safeway and residential units will better serve the needs of current and future U-District residents.