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OZ Navigator’s 191-Unit Residential Project Makes its Way Through Seattle Design Review Process

Seattle, Rainier Valley, OZ Navigator, Neiman Taber Architects

By Catherine Sweeney

A 191-unit apartment project proposed near Seattle’s Rainier Valley neighborhood is continuing to make its way through the City’s permitting process. At a recommendation hearing Tuesday evening, project developer OZ Navigator received approval from Seattle’s Southeast Design Review Board to move the project along.

The project will be located at 4001 S. Willow Street at the southeast corner of S Willow St and MLK Jr Way S. Designs for the building come from Neiman Taber Architects and include 181 one-bedroom units as well as eight small efficient dwelling units (SEDUs) and two two-bedroom units. The project would also feature 1,800 square feet of commercial space and parking for up to 12 vehicles.

The design team last met with the review board in September for an Early Design Guidance hearing. During the meeting, the project received approval on a preferred design scheme which included an eight-story building with units rotated toward MLK and a proposed alleyway. This design scheme was intended to create a secondary massing transition and activate all four of the building’s facades. EDG plans also included lowered massing along MLK and an exterior stair at the corner of the property.

While the board was generally receptive of the design during the EDG meeting, the board also gave guidance that Neiman Taber was able to elaborate on during this week’s recommendation meeting.

For instance, the board selected a color and material palette for the structure, which includes a mix of metal, cement and cedar.

“Corrugated metal siding is the primary siding material; it’s warm white, with a metallic finish. We use stain, the cedar siding that is off the back wall of the Willow Street residential units on the back wall of that feature stair. The decks and railings are silver, perforated metal panel storefronts are clear, anodized aluminum and the vinyl windows have a similar gray finish,” David Neiman, Partner at Neiman Taber Architects, said. “…It’s a fairly subtle palette that is consistent with the restrained whole building approach that we described at EDG.”

The design team also added to the planned exterior stairway – which will be used to connect the rooftop amenity deck to the ground floor level – by developing it further to balance the two separate building volumes. The stairway will also be highlighted through cedar siding added to the back wall, a canopy at the top edge of the stair and a large public art installment by Markel Uriu. The exterior stair will also be utilized as a means of connecting the street level and the roof amenity deck.

Further, the design team brought back its project with an enhanced street level design. During the EDG meeting, the board showed support for the planned commercial space along MLK Jr. Way. Moving forward, the project proposes to maintain this space while providing a clear differentiation between the residential lobby and commercial entryway.

The commercial space will open up onto a public plaza, with planters serving as a buffer from MLK Jr. Way. The residential lobby also offers a lounge and leasing office along the sidewalk to promote an active street presence.

The plaza design locates planting beds along the south and west, creating a buffer from MLK. Two points of entry to the commercial space — planned for restaurant use — are intended to activate the plaza. An outlet to the south helps draw people in from multiple directions, promoting safety and encouraging use.

“The board supported this arrangement, as well as the clear delineation between the two uses, and the foreground plantings further emphasized that delineation. The board also advocated for a high level of transparency at the restaurant and lobby, which we’ve maintained for both,” Neiman said.

Overall, the board approved the project. In particular, board members supported the warmth of the project, its color variability and the materials and landscaping used. At the street level, the board also showed approval for the plaza, noting its successful size and scale.

The board also approved of the public art piece and conditioned that the design team utilize the piece as presented when moving forward. The board also recommended the design team study in detail a solution that would allow for the maintainability of the materials used in the exterior stairwell.