By Meghan Hall
An underutilized parcel at the confluence of Belltown, South Lake Union and Seattle Center Campus is likely to get a big upgrade to match the densification occurring throughout the rest of the neighborhood. According to plans presented by Mortenson to Seattle’s West Design Review Board at an Early Design Guidance Meeting on Wednesday night, the developer, along with Minneapolis-based ESG Architecture and Design, intends to transform a small coffee shop and parking lot into an 11-story upscale hotel with retail. However, despite the project team’s intentions to produce a project meant to add to the evolving architectural fabric of the neighborhood, the design review board has asked Mortenson and ESG to come back for an additional early design guidance meeting.
“What is important to know is that we are part of an emerging neighborhood,” explained Trace Jacques, partner at ESG Architecture and Design. “We are an urban infill site, so our design is focusing on building fabric and weaving into that fabric.”
The property is located at 130 5th Ave. N, and the development team is hoping that the project will provide a use that is more compatible with the district and fits in with higher-density multifamily housing, hotel and mixed-use projects in the pipeline throughout the neighborhood.
Project documents indicate that the building will total 106,140 square feet and include 196 guest rooms on floors two through eleven. A commercial kitchen, on-site laundry, loading and back-of-house spaces will be located on the first floor and basement. No specific hotel brand has been solidified to operate the property, although Mortenson emphasized the project’s design will fit almost any brand that focuses on casual modernity, guest wellness and integrated outdoor amenity areas.
“We really looked at three fundamentals that really drive how we analyze the site,” continued Jacques. “…Those three elements are the fact that it is a very compact site; it is a postage-sized site…We have a strong focus on the street, and the street wall. Right now this site has a gap in the street wall.”
The overall building form will be divided in a way that emphasizes the difference between the building’s base and tower. Canopies along both 5th Avenue and John street will work to accomplish this task alongside stepped datums that mimic the fenestration of the nearby The Century Apartments and KOMO TV broadcasting station across the street. An additional setback between the base and the tower will also seek to enhance this distinction.
The base of the building will be articulated in a manner that highlight’s public programmatic spaces, and in the project team’s preferred option, the frontage along 5th Avenue will be pulled back to produce an amenity plaza approximately 18 feet in width, complete with covered breakout space for meeting rooms and outdoor seating areas associated with the hotel lounge and dining. A colonnade overhang will define indoor and outdoor spaces and internal uses versus storefront glazing for the project’s retail space, as well. Extensive glazing will be used on the ground floor to contrast with the more solid structure of the tower containing the guest rooms above.
Despite these considerations, the Board had several questions for the project team, and felt that the design scenarios presented were not entirely complete and did not adhere entirely to design guidelines established by the City. While Mortenson and ESG outlined three design schemes in planning documents, the Board felt, as well, that the schemes did not offer variety or alternate options, although it acknowledged that the schemes did seem elegant and were somewhat rooted in the neighborhood context.
The Board also noted the importance of an older tree on the property and encouraged the development team to pursue a massing schematic that would account for the inclusion of the tree into project plans. While the first massing option presented by the project team did include the tree, the latter two would require its removal, an aspect that the Board expressed concern over. The Board also questioned the project team’s use of materials, and how that, and a planned staircase, will impact the final designs of the building.
The Board voted 5-1 for the project team to return for an additional Early Design Guidance meeting, at which time Mortenson and ESG Architecture and design will present updated designs based on the City’s feedback.