Home AEC Onelin Investment’s Two-Tower Project in South Lake Union Approved at Second Early...

Onelin Investment’s Two-Tower Project in South Lake Union Approved at Second Early Design Guidance Meeting

Seattle, Gensler, Onelin Investment Inc, Berger Partnership, KPFF, South Lake Union, Early Design Guidance, Denny Triangle
Rendering courtesy of Gensler

By Jack Stubbs

Seattle’s Denny Triangle has been a hotbed of development activity in recent months, and a new project is well on the way in the city’s design review process.

On Tuesday, May 1st, a two-tower development located in South Lake Union—which will include between 400 and 500 residential units and between 250 and 280 hotel rooms—was given the green light at the second Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting for the project.

At the meeting, project applicant Gensler presented updated project plans to the downtown Review Board on behalf of Onelin Investment Inc., the developer of the project. Berger Partnership is the landscape architect for the mixed-use development and KPFF is the structural engineer. The project was previously reviewed at an initial EDG meeting in early March 2018.

The proposed undertaking, located at 1916 Boren Ave. in the Denny Triangle area of South Lake Union, calls for the construction of a project that will include a 44-story residential high-rise tower and a 16-story adjoining hotel tower. There will also be amenity areas and below-grade parking serving both towers. In addition to the lobby and reception space for the residential and hotel functions, the project will also include roughly 6,200 square feet of retail and restaurant use at ground-level.

Beginning the applicant’s presentation, Chad Yoshinobu, principal and co-founder of Gensler’s Seattle office, articulated the primary design changes that had been made to the project plans since the initial EDG meeting. In response to the board’s feedback, the applicant worked on making the massing of the building from top to bottom more cohesive—emphasizing the “twisting” motion of the building’s massing from the street-level podium—and also improved the relationship between the two towers. The applicant also improved pedestrian access and circulation throughout the project site along the adjacent streetscape.

The design of the two-tower project also better responds to the historical context of Denny Triangle by incorporating the “spite mound” concept in the massing. The term refers to how, in the early 20th century when Denny Triangle was being flattened to make way for new development, engineers were forced to continue the “regrading” of the neighborhood by excavating around the homes of owners who refused to sell their properties to the city, and the structures were then left sitting on mounds of dirt.

The hope is that the in-the-works project will also take design cues from other existing and under-construction residential developments in Denny Triangle, some of which include the 31-story Kinects Tower; the 40-story Nexus condo tower; and the 39-story Crescent Heights residential tower, which is currently undergoing design review.

Most of the board’s clarifying questions focused on how the applicant team planned to program various design elements of the building, with the board asking for more information about how the massing would transition from the adjacent streetscape. Board member Aron Argyle asked the applicant to elaborate on how the massing scheme would promote visual interest from the streetscape through the unique “twisting” motion. Additionally, the board requested more detailed information about the location of the residential lobby; how the applicant would successfully integration the proposed amenity area; and how the different floorpans would be programmed.

There was one public comment expressed during the public comment period of the meeting: a member from the Mirabella Development Task Force, a neighborhood advocacy group, voiced her firm support of the unique massing and visual design of the building. She also expressed her approval of how the project enhanced the pedestrian experience along the streetscape and positively contributed to the surrounding neighborhood context.

During the deliberation period, most of the board’s discussion revolved around the massing of the building and the way that the development would activate the adjacent streetscape. The board recommended that the applicant refine the design and programming of the proposed atrium area and clarify the connection between the retail space and the adjacent streetscape to enhance the pedestrian experience. The board also discussed the applicant team’s various Departure requests and expressed its overall approval of the current massing of the two-tower project.