By Kate Snyder
A plan for a mixed-use project that would bring more than 200 affordable apartments to Seattle’s Othello neighborhood was met with approval from the city’s Southeast Design Review Board during the board’s Early Design Guidance meeting on Tuesday.
Nitze-Stagen is the project developer. Neiman Taber Architects is the designer, Murase Associates is the landscape architect and Sitewise Design is the civil engineer.
The project site is located at 4200 S Webster St., on the south end of the Rainier Valley in the Othello Residential Urban Village. According to the proposal, the eight-story building would consist of approximately 203 residential units. Under the development team’s favored design, the unit breakdown would come to 180 one- and 21 two-bedroom apartments with two efficiencies. Parking with 35 vehicle stalls is also included in the design, as well as 3,262 square feet of retail space.
“Nitze-Stagen’s focus is on affordable, transit-oriented development,” said David Nieman, partner at Nieman Taber Architects. “We want to create as much housing as we can, and we want that housing price to be attainable for as many people as it can be. We also want high-quality housing with good access to natural light, privacy for our residents and our neighbors alike and we want a building that supports a lively streetscape that contributes to the community as a whole. That includes a commitment to improve the pedestrian environment and to incorporate public art that’s made by local artists.”
The parcel itself is an irregular shaped lot at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Way South, South Webster Street and Renton Avenue South. In front of the building is an unattended right-of-way at approximately 9,200 square feet, which Nitze-Stagen is proposing to privately improve for public and community use. The surrounding neighborhood supports a variety of uses with a mix of housing, including apartments, duplexes and single family houses. To the immediate north is another proposed building and to the east and northeast are two mixed-use projects that were recently completed.
Earlier this year, the firm submitted massing studies for the project, with Nitze-Stagen’s preferred massing option dividing the building into two contextually responsive masses along S. Webster and Martin Luther King Jr. Way. That scheme also includes balconies, which were indicated as a desired amenity from the development team’s conversations with members of the community. Plans show that design also includes vertical strips of inset balconies along the MLK Jr Way S facade and projecting balconies along the S Webster Street facade, which help break down the scale. The building is setback at the retail level along MLK Jr Way S to further define the masses and provide a wider pedestrian zone.
The firm provided two other massing options to the board. One scheme involved units organized around a central courtyard with the mass of the building setback at level eight along S Webster Street. While that option gave the highest unit count, the massing was solely informed by code and made for an overly busy facade due to the high level of balconies. The other scheme rearranged the balconies into a checkerboard design that also matches the project to the north. While that allowed for a less busy facade because of the reduction in balconies, it also meant that not every unit was provided with a balcony.
Among the items the board discussed were finding ways to differentiate between the residential entry and the building’s retail component and the quality of the construction materials planned for the balconies. The board also wanted to see more details related to the firm’s departure requests, particularly for the departures involving the building’s amenity spaces. There was also some discussion about the different massing options, but members ultimately agreed that the firm’s preferred massing was also the board’s preference. Overall, the board voted to move the project forward.
Based in Seattle, Nitze-Stagen is a multi-generational, integrated real estate investment firm that focuses on adaptive reuse, mixed-use residential and commercial value-add projects, according to the company’s website. The firm seeks long-term hold investments throughout the Puget Sound region that serve as a catalyst for historic preservation and community placemaking.
Nitze-Stagen purchased the 4200 S Webster parcel for $3.1 million last year, according to The Registry’s previous reporting. At the time of the sale, the firm announced that it was exploring an eight-story mixed-use building with approximately 236 workforce and affordable apartment units, underground parking and ground floor retail. It was Nitze-Stagen’s third land purchase in the Othello neighborhood after 7350 MLK Jr. Way and 4001 South Willow.