By Jack Stubbs
The University District in Seattle has been a magnet for development activity in recent months, and a new mixed-use project just north of the University of Washington is officially on the way.
On Monday, June 4th, a 229-unit development in Seattle’s Ravenna/U-District neighborhood was unanimously approved at an Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting. At the meeting, architect Weber Thompson presented preliminary project plans to the northeast review board on behalf of developer Greystar. Landscape architect Site Workshop is also on the project team.
The seven-story development, called The Residences at U-Village, is a mixed-use apartment project located at 4715 25th Ave NE. adjacent to the Burke Gilman Trail and the University Village shopping center. Along with 229 residential units, the development will also include 9,800 square feet of street-level retail space, 5,500 square feet of amenity/lobby space and 220 parking stalls.
Beginning the applicant team’s presentation, Weber Thompson discussed the current neighborhood context around the U-District and also explained the community outreach efforts that the team had conducted in mid-May with organizations including the Ravenna Springs Community Council and the Ravenna-Bryant Community Association, who expressed general support of the building’s massing and scale and also emphasized the importance of improving transit routes and pedestrian circulation around the site.
The applicant also discussed the three proposed massing options and the priority design guidelines for the project, some of which include improving the pedestrian experience along the adjacent 25th Avenue NE; incorporating open spaces and courtyards at street-level; successfully responding to the existing site features like the Burke Gilman Trail; and creating a massing and scale that is appropriate for the U-District neighborhood context. Finally, the applicant also emphasized the importance of successfully connecting the project with the Burke Gilman Trail and activating the streetscape through appropriate retail uses.
Most of the board’s clarifying questions focused on how the applicant team planned to program various project elements. Board member Anita Jeerage asked the applicant to provide more information about what the target demographic for the project would be, also asking about the size and breakdown of the unit types and the design of the courtyard areas. Board member Dan Rusler asked the applicant to elaborate on how the proposed development would relate to the surrounding neighborhood context, especially along 25th Ave., also inquiring whether the project would adequately allow both pedestrian and vehicular circulation around the site. The board also asked for more detailed plans about garage access and the orientation of the units along the street, and also requested that the applicant elaborate on the proposed retail uses.
During the public comment period of the meeting, Sarah Swanberg, a member of the Ravenna-Bryant Community Association, expressed the organization’s overall support of the project, in particular its connection to the Burke Gilman Trail. Swanberg also expressed concerns around pedestrian and vehicular circulation around the project site and also highlighted potential safety and security concerns for pedestrians along 25th Avenue.
During its deliberation period, the board expressed its overall approval of the applicant team’s preferred massing option and also emphasized the importance of incorporating the right materials into the building’s exterior facade to help it conform with the adjacent streetscape. Additionally, the board recommended that the applicant work on finding an appropriate retail tenant and continue collaborating with SDOT about the location of the project’s vehicular entrances to mitigate potential parking concerns in the U-District. Finally, the board suggested that the project team add lighting features along the street to eliminate security and safety concerns and improve vehicular circulation around the site.