By Meghan Hall
Much of Seattle’s high-rise residential development has been concentrated within the City’s downtown core, near major employers in neighborhoods such as the Denny Triangle and South Lake Union. However, developers are proposing high-rise residential in another part of town in a succession that will form a skyline in a new part of the City: the University District. Among those towers set to rise is one proposed by Charleston, S.C.-based Greystar. The 22-story, 227-unit story tower underwent an Early Design Guidance meeting Monday night, one that was guided by Greystar’s goal of creating a focal point anchoring the neighborhood’s rising skyline.
Called Lakeview Student Residences and located at 4126 12th Ave. NE., Greystar and Weber Thompson, the architecture firm hired for the project, expressed that the tower would seek to usher in a new era of development in the University District, one that includes increasingly taller buildings. Given its position towards the south of the neighborhood, the tower will anchor an array of projects set to rise parallel to “The Ave.,” the main commercial drag in the U-District. Nearby projects include Athens, Ga.-based Landmark Properties’ 535,000 square foot Standard Towers, also currently working its way through the design review process, and Bellevue, Wash.-based Evergreen Lodging’s 30-story mixed-use hotel and apartment complex on 11th Ave. NE. The development’s location, and the future tower, will be highly visible from all sides, stated Greystar and Weber Thompson at the EDG, and thus careful consideration needed to be given to the development’s future massing.
“This project aims to add to the eclectic, welcoming nature and intimacy of the University District,” states the design team in planning documents. “This is a tower in a neighborhood of smaller buildings – sensitivity to its context is critical.”
The project site itself is immediately surrounded by low- to mid-rise apartment complexes, such as The Maverick and Cedar Apartments. Villa Camini, a small, but well-known residential building on a nearby site, one that Greystar also owns, is just two-stories high and as a result will emphasize the dramatic difference between existing and future development on the block.
“It is super cute and we really love it,” said Austin Besse, senior associate at Weber Thompson. “We’ve nominated it as a landmark…We really wanted to hold onto that sense of history in the neighborhood and have this little jewel box here.”
Several massing options were presented at Monday’s meeting, but it was the third massing option that was favored by the development team and the Northeast Design Review Board. The preferred scheme indicated a tower composed of three cascading volumes, with a distinctive terraced top and massing shifts to reinforce the dynamism of the terraces. A stepped podium will connect the towers to the pedestrian realm, an important addition given the University District’s status as a traditionally low-rise, heavily walkable neighborhood. The podium levels along 12th Ave., in particular, were designed to reflect the scale of existing parcels and neighboring buildings. In addition, the project’s street-level windows will incorporate large amounts of glazing, opening the building to the public.
“We decided upon three options that we believe are strong, realistic and buildable,” stated Besse of the proposed massing options. “Ultimately, I think this notion of cascading forms in our preferred scheme is the strongest of the three from a kind of pragmatic standpoint.”
The project was approved to move forward to the next phase of the design review process, which is anticipated to take place in several months. The Board, overall, was appreciative of the various massing options but asked the development team to explore a few tweaks to the design, including the number of vertical cascading forms that created the main composition of the preferred design option. The Board also asked the development team to better integrate the various masses that transform the tower into a more cohesive, sculptural form.
In January of this year, Greystar received board approval to move forward with a 235-unit development, also in the University District, called Arista Residences. Also designed by Weber Thompson, the site is located at 4715 25th Ave., just adjacent to University Village. Unlike it’s 12th Ave. counterpart, the complex will include 9,525 square feet of retail as well as 240 parking spaces.
The approval of the Lakeview Student Residences solidifies Greystar’s commitment to the neighborhood, as both projects finish working their way through the Design Review process and proceed toward construction.