By Meghan Hall
Charleston, SC.-based developer Greystar sailed through the Early Design Guidance process, receiving unanimous approval from the Northeast Design Review Board for its 235-unit development to be called Arista Residences in June 2018. The design team, which includes Weber Thompson and Site Workshop, returned Monday evening and once again received positive remarks from the board to advance the project, although this time with some conditions.
The site, located at 4715 25th Ave. NE., is adjacent to the Burke Gilman Trail and the University Village shopping center in the heart of the U District’s mixed use neighborhood. The unit count for the development has been increased slightly from the originally proposed 229 residences, to 235 units. 15,818 square feet of exterior amenity space, 9,525 square feet of retail and around 240 parking stalls are also part of the project plans.
Greystar and the design team comprised of Weber Thompson and Site Workshop deemed the design of the project “quiet refinement,” attempting to result in a timeless and classic design. The goal, according to design documents, is to create a development that harnesses the character of both the University Village — which the team described as “eclectic” — and more modern student development, Trailside, to the west.
“We are right in the middle stylistically. We want to reference the past but really [bring] a contemporary language and timelessness and a refined view as an overarching theme,” said Austin Besse, senior associate with Seattle-based Weber Thompson who led the presentation for the development team at the meeting.
The proposed massing of the building maintained the originally proposed, deep setback along 47th St. to provide outdoor seating for the double-height retail spaces located at the street corner. Along 25th Ave. NE., the building is anchored by strong feature corner elements, such as cast-iron sidewalk inserts. The inserts, which were historically used to provide light in below-grade coal vaults, will be used to create canopies with visual lighting effects. A two-story brick base at the corner will be defined by a cornice line, and tall slender windows will be used throughout the development. Black metal window sills at the corner will provide edge, said Weber Thompson.
Overall, the development will exhibit tripartite language, dividing the complex into a base, middle and top, which the team said has been a “historic constant” for buildings for centuries. Punched windows and a board and batten system will help to define the upper to levels from the brick-clad, street-level retail and residential spaces. A hanging garden located above the retail walkway will help to enhance the pedestrian experience.
While trying to maintain stylistic cohesiveness, the team did take a slightly different approach between the more residential 24th Ave. and the retail-oriented 25th Ave.
“24th is a different feel. It’s a residential street. We’re not going to do the same thing as we’re doing on 25th. Each street has [its] own priority,” said Besse. “But the point is that we’re utilizing the same materials, the same language, so that there’s a common thread that ties everything together.”
One of the biggest design elements of the project is the entrance, which was designed to provide a distinctive feature along 24th Ave. and passageway through the development into 25th Ave., as well. It features both pedestrian and vehicular access, and it provides one of the access points to the structure’s garage.
“We’ve squeezed the actual dimensions, so it’s really focusing on the pedestrian. This is a very, very low volume of traffic moving here, in fact a few cars an hour peak A.M. and P.M. peak. It really services the retail on the frontage of 25th,” said Mark Brands, managing principal with Site Workshop, who accompanied Bessie during the presentation.
The Design Review Board appreciated the design concept and felt that the developer and his design team provided a very detailed and reasonable proposal based on the board’s earlier feedback. In most of the areas, the board agreed with the designers that its most successful part of the concept was its strong overarching architecture and experience at the ground plane. However, after some deliberation, it concluded that it was not fully satisfied with the proposal and approved the project with conditions.
One of the biggest issues the board had with the design was the façade on 24th Ave., the residential side of the building. It featured three white bands that provided visual and design contrast that according to the board was overwhelming. One of the conditions in the approval stipulated that it needed to be removed and replaced with a matching palette. Two other conditions focused on the entryway of the ground-floor units. The board requested that the design should be altered to allow larger canopies over the entryways to provide added separation and privacy from the street and that those canopies should attempt to match the others on the retail side of the building. Finally, the board requested that the building’s primary feature, the dual pedestrian and vehicular entryway, be removed and replaced with more of a curb-side, drop-off kind of design. They also did not want access to the garage to be from that part of the building, simplifying the experience along 24th Ave.
Overall, the project received congratulatory remarks from the board. It will certainly add to the dimensionality of the neighborhood and deliver a successful development and enhancement to the U District.