By Kate Snyder
A proposed expansion of an independent living community in Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood was met with approval by the city’s East Design Review Board. During an early design guidance meeting on Wednesday, the board voted in support of a planned 202-unit tower that would join the existing campus for Horizon House, which is the project developer. The proposed tower would replace an existing tower on the same site. Mithun is the designer and landscape architect, project plans show.
Located at 900 University St., the site is bounded on the east by Terry Avenue, on the south by University Street and to the west by 9th Avenue. The project will replace the existing Horizon House West Tower which sits directly west of the Central Tower that was built in 1954. The proposed residential building includes five levels of parking, three levels of amenity space, 32 levels of residential units and an additional level of amenity space at the top floor, plans show.
The last addition to the Horizon House campus was the North Tower, which was completed in 2014. During the board meeting, Ken Boyd, principal at Mithun, pointed out that the North Tower as well as the Central and East towers are to remain unchanged. He also presented additional details about the project to the board.
“The entire development site includes the existing buildings to the east, that we’re calling the North and Central towers, that will remain,” he said. “This proposal is for the development of the new West Tower. This is an unusual project because we’re adding to a fully built-out site. That obviously comes with some challenges, but it also presents some great opportunities because we know what works and what doesn’t work and we’re able to improve on what’s already there.”
Three massing options were presented during the meeting. The first, known as the Square Tower Massing, is a simple massing with a wider facade facing Freeway Park and a compliant podium height. Option two, called the Rectangular Tower Massing, features two additional terraced stories at the podium but a reduced width on the facade facing Freeway Park. The development team’s preferred scheme is the third option, known as the Articulated Tower Massing, which has similar features to the second option but includes articulation that reduces the perceived scale of massing.
The board supported the applicant’s preferred option – specifically, board members highlighted that the chosen scheme created more visibility on the north side for the nearby Freeway Park. That massing option was also thinner, which the board noted would allow more light in. Questions related to that massing included whether the tower would be considered one building or two in terms of materiality, and board members conveyed their preference for one unifying design. Board members also encouraged establishing as many connections to Freeway Park as possible but also acknowledged the challenges related to the site’s topography as well as the relationship between private and public accesses. Overall, the board emphasized that more housing is good for Seattle and supported moving the project forward to a recommendation meeting.
Horizon House, a nonprofit independent living community, originally opened its doors in 1961, according to the group’s website. At its First Hill campus, the organization offers independent living apartments as well as resident-driven activities. The group also offers assisted living for those who need assistance with daily activities of living and memory support for those living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
During the meeting, Eli Lemanski, director of construction for Horizon House, shared thoughts on why the Horizon House believes this project would not only be beneficial to the organization but also the surrounding community.
“Expanding our community is essential for our financial future, and to this end, we are choosing to stay in Seattle and expand our single-site campus by 152 apartments. Therefore, our goal is to remain a vital part of our neighborhood and preserve our resident culture, which is what makes this project such a big deal for our community. So, we’re taking a lot of care to get this right.”