By Meghan Hall
The Puget Sound region, particularly the greater Seattle metro area, is rapidly growing and changing. A number of developers are proposing mixed-use projects across the city in order to create walkable neighborhoods with a variety of ground floor retail. The project team for Metro 112, a new apartment complex located at 317 112th Ave. NE in Bellevue, took a different approach: the team — composed of Simpson Housing and Seattle-based Tiscareno Associates — made the development entirely residential but designed the ground floor units with the ability to convert them into retail space in the future.
“That’s a really unique feature of this project,” said Michelle Kinsch, an associate principal at Tiscareno Associates and a project manager for the development. “The city was really committed to having that option in the future.”
In order to accommodate future retail, the project team increased the ceiling height for the ground floor units to accommodate possible future commercial uses and designed the building to support greater commercial loads. All of the interior walls of the structure are non-load bearing, allowing interior walls to be removed in order to give slightly larger retailers more space and reconfigure the setting to their specifications.
“You could reconfigure [the space] to push it closer to the sidewalk, which is better for the pedestrian experience and the commercial space,” said Kinsch.
The project team largely views Bellevue as a transitional neighborhood, currently dominated by residential developments. The city is situated east of Seattle on the other side of Lake Washington and is known for its more suburban, residential feel. As Seattle continues to grow and expand, growth in neighboring communities is expected, and developers such as Simpson Housing are preparing for the future.
Kinsch says that in the future the space could likely accommodate a local neighborhood coffee shop or a service-based retailer. “I think it’s dependent on how the neighborhood changes,” she said.
Despite the lack of retail on its ground floor, the development still received a relatively high Walk Score of 88, meaning that the surrounding neighborhood is “very walkable.” According to Walk Score’s website, this means that most errands can be accomplished on foot. Major employers such as Microsoft, eBay and Amazon are all located nearby, as are the Shops at Bavern retail center and Hillfair Shopping Center. The site is also located right next to Interstate 405 and several bus stops. Interstates 90 and Highway 520 are also located nearby.
According to Kinsch, however, there are several aspects of the design that are more typical to multifamily developments in the area. The materials that the team chose were meant to be modern, sleek and durable. The units include large windows that allow light to flood the space in an effort to make them feel more open and spacious.
“These units are really efficient and gracious at the same time,” said Kinsch. “There’s no area that isn’t really useable. [The interiors] are cool and funky and fun, but also with those same goals of being economical and durable.”
Metro 112 is comprised of studio, one bedroom and two bedroom apartments. The development also includes several amenities, including a rooftop terrace with grilling stations and a firepit, a 24-hour fitness center and entertainment suite. The units are also equipped with air conditioning — a rarity in most Seattle homes — and some have views of the Cascade Mountains to the east.
According to Kinsch, the most difficult aspect of the project was not building in the option to pursue retail space, but rather responding to the odd shape of the site. Easements on three sides of the site affected what the project team could create on the ground floor and how many useable residential spaces could be achieved, and the main corner of the site was dedicated to utilities. In order to maximize the size and number of units available, the team created a smaller footprint at the ground level of the building and then extended the upper floors over the sidewalk in order to create the building’s final massing.
“We pulled the building back at the base and what you end up with is this really dynamic shape that is expressive and cool,” explained Kinsch.
Kinsch said the project took a little bit longer than 21 months, but the end result was worth the careful consultation with the City and project team to bring the project to fruition. The project team believes that the building will stand the test of time and whatever change the neighborhood has to offer.