By Kate Snyder
A proposal for a mixed-use building that would bring more than 100 apartments to a site just blocks away from Seattle University won approval from the Central Area Design Review Board during a recommendation meeting on Thursday. The board agreed to move the project forward after a presentation and discussion that centered on the ground floor retail space
The project developer is Kamiak, a real estate investment firm that acquires, develops and operates niche multifamily and commercial assets in the greater Seattle region, according to the firm’s website. The designer is Hybrid Architecture, and the landscape architect is Hewitt. Construction on the project is scheduled to commence in the fourth quarter of 2023.
Robert Humble, founding partner and design principal of Hybrid Architecture, gave the project presentation to the board and highlighted the fact that the members of the development team are local to Seattle and have worked in the city for several years.
Located at 1121 E Fir St. in the city’s Yesler Terrace neighborhood, the 119-unit project, called Songbird, would offer a mix of studios, one- and two-bedroom apartments, plus 3,000 square feet of retail and 50 vehicle parking stalls. The eight-story building would total approximately 107,300 square feet and have frontages along Fir and 12th streets.
The site is surrounded by a mixture of residential buildings ranging from single family to mid-sized apartment buildings, educational facilities and retail stores, plans show. The area is currently undergoing major development with many new multifamily and mixed-use projects under construction or set to start building in the near future. There are six existing structures on the project site, all two-story duplex buildings, that would all be demolished prior to construction.
Humble gave additional details to the board regarding how the site is currently developed, and he noted that the project area is already quite busy with buildings, trees and uneven terrain.
“Looking at our site, it’s really got a lot going on,” Humble said. “Essentially we have six existing single-family structures in poor condition that we’re intending to be demolished. We have some street trees along 12th Avenue, which is also a principal pedestrian street, that we’re intending to save. We have a power pole that causes some increased setbacks to our project to the north, and we also have a change in topography.”
Design objectives according to the project plans include creating “a lasting, durable and elegant building,” enhancing the pedestrian environment along both street-facing facades and providing an alternate means of mobility such as bicycle parking. Other goals are to provide small retail opportunities to activate 12th Street and enhance both opportunities and access to light, air and views while fostering a sense of community and security.
The development team’s preferred massing scheme, which was also the board’s preferred option during a previous design review meeting, is an H-shaped building, with two courtyards on either side of the central portion of the building. According to project plans, the two courtyards would minimize the impacts to the neighbors and the sidewalk, the ground floor would contribute to the pedestrian realm with a wider sidewalk and the corner of Fir and 12th would be activated with a plaza and a residential entry.
The board discussed the project’s ground floor retail plan, with members highlighting the flexibility of the space so tenants could either lease portions of the level or the floor in its entirety. Also discussed were the materials used and the “rainforest theme” incorporated into the building’s entryway, both of which the board praised. One suggestion given to the development team was to add art displays, both historic and cultural, to the project as well. Overall, the board was satisfied with the design and voted to move the project forward.