Home AEC Northeast Design Review Board Approves Proposal for 100-Unit Apartment Building in Seattle

Northeast Design Review Board Approves Proposal for 100-Unit Apartment Building in Seattle

Northeast Design Review Board, Seattle, University District, Ravenna Springs, Burke Gilman Pedestrian Trail, University Village, Puget Sound, Bona Fide Properties 6 LLC, Mercer Island, Neiman Taber Architects, Murase Associates

By Kate Snyder

More housing is on its way to Seattle’s University District. A proposal to construct a 100-unit building on the city’s north end was met with approval from the Northeast Design Review Board during an early design guidance meeting on Monday. The board ultimately voted in a unanimous decision to move the project forward to a master use permit.

The owner is Bona Fide Properties 6 LLC, based in Mercer Island, according to the plans submitted to the city. The architect is Seattle-based Neiman Taber Architects, and the landscape architect is Murase Associates, also in Seattle.

Located at 5115 and 5107 24th Ave NE, the site is two parcels in northeast Seattle which lie within the Ravenna Springs area of the University District community. It has access to public transportation and sits close to the Burke Gilman Pedestrian Trail. The surrounding neighborhood features a number of amenities, parks and services. The University Village sits to the southeast, and the University Village shopping center is less than a quarter-mile away from the project, which is an area that contains many restaurants, shops and grocery stores. Project plans show that in the vicinity is a variety of new mixed-use buildings, older apartment buildings with surface parking, some institutional buildings and a number of single-family houses to the west.

Objectives, according to the project plans, include creating housing for students, individuals and couples with modest incomes and providing homes with access to natural light and fresh air while serving residents’ privacy needs. Another goal is to design “a human-scaled building that contributes to an attractive, pedestrian-oriented streetscape.”

The design team presented four massing options to the board. The first was a crescent scheme that allowed for 99 units and a courtyard facing the street in a similar style to the adjacent buildings. The second option, described as a horseshoe scheme, was a variation on the crescent scheme. The massing for that option would allow 100 units and the courtyard would be rotated to face away from 24th Avenue NE, which would create a private but open space. The third concept was a double bar scheme with 101 units that would eliminate the privacy issues with neighboring apartments presented in the previous schemes. The courtyard would be open on the north and south sides, making the courtyard visible from Blakeley Street.

The preferred massing concept was the fourth option, which was a 100-unit variation on the double bar scheme that includes the relocation of the exceptional tree to the southeast corner of the site. That would allow the street-facing facade to be more symmetrical and allow more width in the courtyard, which would better provide privacy for the units that look across at each other.

Overall the board was pleased with the presentation and also preferred the applicant’s chosen massing concept. Board members discussed wanting to better understand the future development potential, and they wanted to see more details on the north and south sections of the project. Additional details that the board wanted to see fleshed out included how the bicycle access would work, how the southeast corner could respond to the interior courtyard and the establishment of an identifiable second entrance to the building. Katherine Liss, board chair, noted that several details could be resolved through a bicycle access study.

During her summary of the discussion, Liss also highlighted the need to distinguish the building’s entry in some way, whether through the addition of benches or a generous landscape design. She also noted the need for landscaping on 24th Avenue as a way to protect the residential units along that side.

“The landscape should be robust to create a buffer for the lower units but also the upper level units,” she said about the design along 24th Avenue, “and ideally create a focus on the pedestrian experience here with more trees perhaps on the building side so there’s kind of an alley of trees framing the sidewalk.”