By Meghan Hall
As Seattle—particularly the South Lake Union neighborhood—becomes increasingly developed and dense, developers exploring ways in which they can create unique infill projects with services and amenities that match the modern housing dwellers who choose to call Seattle home. One such project, presented by Greystar and Weber Thompson and the Seattle Unity Church at 200 8th N. Ave. was approved by the West Seattle Design Review Board last week.The meeting focused on the tower portion of the development, which will rise 28 stories above nearby Denny Park and contain 374 apartment units.
The Waverly is a 427,266 square foot project located in the Aurora Corridor of South Lake Union. The building is planned to include a wide range of unit sizes and configurations, 286 below-grade parking stalls, a residential community space, outdoor terraces, a sports court and an outdoor lounge area with a fire pit. Located right next to the tower will be the Seattle Unity Church, which has been located at the site since 1960 and will build a new campus made of brick, glass, metal, wood and stucco. The project is one of several such developments in the Seattle region—which includes a partnership between Trinity Parish and Caydon USA and another between Cornish College of the Arts and Holland Partners—where developers are working with public and religious institutions to provide public amenity space to their neighborhoods.
The board supported the preferred option #3 from the earlier meeting and approved of the relationship between the new structure and the proposed new church on site, the proposed John and 9th tower across the alley and Denny Park. The feedback that the board gave back to the design team concerned the blurring of the podium and tower and gave guidance for a design with stronger delineation between the two but keeping the tower design elegant.
The board also gave guidance to the team to provide a solution that would activate the interior and exterior space with innovative programming that is inviting and that features a blending of public and private use.
The solution that the design team brought forward for review included such spaces—the inside one was referred to as the ‘community living room,’ and the exterior one the ‘porch.’ There would be room for coworking space inside the enlarged lobby space, and the outside portion would feature a transparent fencing system that would provide a modern visual aesthetic and also security. The coworking space will be designed to host public events and large, operable glass doors will make up the façade to encourage a high level of activation inside and on the street.
Another activation tactic brought forward by the design team included a sport court, which in essence was a place for physical activity, sports and exercise.
The board had some concerns with both. There were questions if the enlarged, multi-purpose lobby that included the living room concept would actually work. A community space that is used for shared work or such activity also includes a number of amenities for those occupiers, and this space did not offer that. Aaron Keeler, director of development at Greystar added that the company had experience with another property in South Lake Union, in which such a space worked really well, and it was successfully adopted by the tenants of the building. The secret of its success, Keeler stated, was in lining up 3rd party partnerships and vendors who would provide the right activation needed.
On the sport court, the board requested that the design team work with the city planner to on solutions to reduce its visual prominence. While they seemed somewhat puzzled by the ambiguous sporting facility, the board nonetheless pushed beyond its initial concerns and stated that it would be fine if the requisite work with the planner is conducted.
Most of the discussion and pushback from the board was centered on the building’s mechanical curtain on the top of the building. Nearly three stories tall, and contrasting in color from most the structure, the mechanical screen stands out. According to Board Member John Morefield, it was the project’s “weak link.”
The board did, however, unanimously agree that the design team provided a very successful solution to its earlier feedback, and it was supportive of the overall design direction. While having a lively discussion centered on ways to improve some design articulations, the board approved the projects departures and unanimously supported the project to advance to the next phase of development.