By Jack Stubbs
Charleston, North Carolina-based Greystar, one of the nation’s largest multifamily developers, is making moves to expand its presence in the city of Seattle, adding to its portfolio of properties in Queen Anne, Fremont, Belltown, Ballard and Downtown. Greystar currently manages eight apartment complexes in the ever-active South Lake Union neighborhood, and the plans are now officially in the works for a new ground-up residential development.
This evening, on Wednesday, February 28th, a 374-unit residential tower developed by Greystar was unanimously approved at an Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting, where architect Weber Thompson presented preliminary project plans to the West Design Review board. Olson Kundig is also on the project team.
Located at 210 8th Ave. N. in the prominent Aurora Corridor of South Lake Union, the project underway calls for the the addition of a 28-story residential tower that will add new inventory to an ever-expanding area of the city. The applicant team’s project plans emphasize that South Lake Union has in recent years been fueled by a strong tech and biotech presence, and major employers in the area will continue to draw people to the neighborhood, making housing an increasingly prevalent need.
In addition to the 374 units, the development will also include an approximately 9,200 square foot community space on the ground floor, an exterior courtyard, rooftop areas, a prominent entry plaza and 289 below-grade parking stalls.
Beginning the applicant’s presentation, David Burpee of Weber Thompson discussed the primary South Lake Union design guidelines for the project, which include emphasizing the building’s unique architectural character specific to the Aurora Corridor; creating a massing and scale that is appropriative for the South Lake Union neighborhood context; and encouraging pedestrian engagement with the development through the incorporation of various open spaces and landscaping elements along the street.
Adjacent to Denny Park, the development is also viewed as a revitalization of the existing Seattle Unity congregation and church, which currently occupies the same block as the proposed project. Seattle Unity, which has been located in the South Lake Union site since 1960, has decided to redevelop its site. The church will convey a portion of the site for the development of the new residential tower, and will also develop a new church building which will be approximately 55 feet tall, according to the applicant’s project plans. The church’s design team is led by architect Olson Kundig, who will also be the landscape architect for both the church redevelopment and the residential tower.
Most of the board’s clarifying questions focused on how the applicant team planned to program the interior of the building and how the project would fit into the South Lake Union neighborhood context. Board member Patreese Martin encouraged the applicant to elaborate on how the project would successfully activate the streetscape and pedestrian experience, also asking the applicant to elaborate on its plans for the landscaping elements and building entrances. The board also requested more information about how the development would blend public community versus private uses, specifically asking for more detailed plans about the proposed ground-level community area. Finally, the board also asked for more clarity would how the design and programming of the residential tower would relate to the adjacent Unity Church and nearby Denny Park.
One audience member, a representative from the South Lake Union Community Council, voiced his approval of the project, also expressing his desire to see the massing of the residential tower broken down. “It’s a little overwhelming on the street,” he said.
During its deliberation period, the board focused its discussion on the massing and scale of the residential tower, as well as how the development would conform with the adjacent streetscape and surrounding neighborhood community. Specifically, the board asked the applicant to provide more information about how the open space and landscaping elements would relate to the nearby Denny Park, also recommending that the project team work on further refining the street-level resident lobby space.
The board highlighted potential privacy and security concerns along the street, also suggesting that the applicant focus on creating a development that would “give back” and be inviting to members of the public and surrounding community. Ultimately, the board agreed that, moving forward, the success of the project would largely depend on the design and interior programming of the development. Finally, the board requested that the applicant provide more detailed project plans about the landscaping elements, massing and exterior facade of the building.