By Meghan Hall
Large-scale residential development is expanding beyond its downtown confines to South Seattle, where developers are looking to get ahead of the region’s competitive multifamily market. The neighborhood of Othello is gearing up for the possible addition of a 249-unit apartment building proposed by a private, Olympia-based developer in conjunction with Studio19 Architects. The development, which is for now titled 5722 Apartments, received positive feedback from the Seattle Design Review Board at an Early Design Guidance meeting on Tuesday night, permitting the project to move forward with both the design review and entitlements processes.
The new apartment complex would be located at 5722 35th Ave. S. in a neighborhood that is transitioning from single-family to denser, multi-family construction. Immediate development surrounding the site on S. Juneau and 33rd Ave. are mid-scale multifamily, but beyond those borders single family housing is the predominate form of development in the neighborhood.
Several commercial businesses are also located along Martin Luther King Jr. Way, a major thoroughfare in the neighborhood that acts also as a more commercial corridor. Nazareth Market, 7-Eleven, Makkah Islamic School and the Filipino Community Center are just some of the businesses that will serve the residents of the future development.
With this context in mind, the development team sought to produce a project that would provide a unique treatment of the ground floor as it relates to the street, and emulate the creation of an outdoor space and modulation of the building’s façade to reduce perceived mass. Several local design inspirations include The Station at Othello Park, Mercy Plaza at Othello Station and Assembly 118, all of which have a modern look and feel with large windows and muted colors. The development team’s preferred massing concept would total 192,449 square feet and would provide one continuous street edge along 35th Ave. S. The building would form an “S” shape along the length of the site to provide two courtyards for residents, located on the northeast and southwest portions of the site.
An upper roof deck and 83 parking stalls would also be included in the plans.
In terms of materials, residential entries will be covered by cantilevers for weather protections, and would be composed of wood soffits and other textural elements to provide interest. Fiber cement, architectural concrete, corrugated metal and pops of color will also be utilized throughout.
However, in its deliberations, the design review board stated that it actually gravitated towards two massing schemes presented earlier in the meeting, as opposed to the development team’s final and preferred scheme. The review board questioned how useful the two plaza in the preferred scheme would function, and had several concerns about lighting and the building’s relationship to a wetland on a neighboring property. Additionally, the review board found that the rectangular massing of the two previous options was a better fit for the neighborhood, with an overall less imposing presence that offered better flow. The review board maintained this opinion, even though the first two massing options included nearly 30 housing units less than the preferred option, stating that design and functionality should take precedence over density. The board also asked that moving forward, the development team explore how artwork, security and lighting would impact massing and the neighborhood context, as well as for clarification on how the project’s streetscape would be activated upon delivery of the development.
Regardless, the review board voted unanimously to move the project forward, and the development team will return in the coming months for an additional design review meeting during which they will present updated plans to the city of Seattle and the public.