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Lennar Receives Approval for 550-Unit Twin Tower Residential Project in First Hill from Seattle’s Design Review Board

By Kristin Bentley

The Miami-based developer, Lennar Multifamily Communities LLC, presented its 550-residential-unit proposed project before Seattle’s East Design Review Board on Wednesday for the first time. Positioned in what the design team described as the gateway to the city’s First Hill neighborhood, the multifamily development will take up approximately three-quarters of a city block where the historic Town Hall building resides.

At the beginning of the meeting, Dan Shieder, the development manager for Lennar in Seattle, shared with those in attendance that the firm’s goals and objectives for the project are long-term. “We’ll be here for many years to come, that makes it very critical for us to take a long-term perspective and look at how we build relationships,” Shieder said.

We’ll be here for many years to come, that makes it very critical for us to take a long-term perspective and look at how we build relationships

lennar3Located at 1101 Eighth Avenue, the site is bounded by Seneca Street to the north, Eight Avenue to the east, Spring Street to the south and Hubbell Place to the west. Interstate 5 is located nearby to the west, Freeway Park is across the street to the north and a future bus stop will soon be available to the south.

The lead architect on the project, Erik Mott, a design principal for Perkins + Will in Seattle, described the development to include two 330-foot residential towers on the south end of the lot, containing 550 apartments and four townhomes, as well as a public plaza on the northeast corner that is situated directly across the street from Freeway Park. “This location has a number of key advantages,” said Mott.

A small cafe and roughly 1,300 square feet of retail space is planned on the ground floor of the west tower. Underground parking will also be available to residents. In collaboration with stakeholders of Town Hall, a cultural center and performance hall, the design will also accommodate improvements to the historic building that have not yet been disclosed.

Mott also said that the design integrates a significant amount of open spaces that incorporate the existing mature trees as well as takes cues from the surrounding vibrant neighborhood. By reinventing this space, an amphitheater and plaza will become a community-friendly space that hosts concerts and festivals. The alleyway will be transformed into a through-block connection.

Many members of the public attended Tuesday’s meeting, some spoke to the board expressing their thoughts of the project. Wier Harman, the executive director of Town Hall Seattle, was one of those who spoke. “First Hill is changing dramatically and quickly,” he said. “Projects, such as this one, that add to this vibrancy and reflect a commitment to a livelier neighborhood are definitely welcomed by Town Hall.”

“As you likely know, Town Hall is very near its own major physical transformation designed to give our 100-year-old landmark building another century of life,” Harman added. “And particular for us, improving physical access for people and goods to the building is a major focus of this project that will start next year. Unencumbered access from the alley is critical to our future operations.”

Harman continued on to say that maintaining the public plaza on the northeast corner of the block will preserve the form of Town Hall against downtown, instead of walling it off. He added that the hall’s staff appreciates Lennar’s efforts to create a pedestrian-oriented environment through the design of its newly proposed project.

Alex Hudson, the director of the First Hill Improvement Association, also spoke during the meeting saying that 2,499 new units will soon be delivered into the neighborhood’s housing market, which will create a population growth of nearly 3,750 within the next four years. She added that this would be an astounding 30 percent increase. “I deeply appreciate Perkins + Will and Lennar’s relationship and collaboration with us,” said Hudson. “I want to reiterate to the board that we’re strongly in support of rotating those townhomes so that they are on Spring Street, and providing critical retail opportunities along Eighth Avenue.”

After a long deliberation, the board expressed its support of the proposed project and voted to move it forward to the master use permit process.

According to a report by Dupre + Scott Apartment Advisors, Lennar has over 2,000 units in the Seattle area that are either under construction or are planned to be delivered by 2018. Included in this number is Atlas Apartments, a 344-unit luxury residential project that is under construction in Issaquah and anticipated to be completed next month.