By Kate Snyder
A proposal that would bring a five-story mixed-use building to Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood was reviewed last week by Seattle’s Northwest Design Review Board during an Early Design Guidance meeting. The board discussed the three design options that were presented by the design team and members were ultimately pleased with the team’s preferred option, agreeing to move the project forward to a recommendation hearing.
The developer is Cohen Properties, the architect is Atelier Drome Architecture and the builder would be STS Construction. The project is located at 4401, 4411 and 4419 Fremont Ave. N, in the north or “upper” end of the Fremont neighborhood, according to project plans. Fremont extends from the Ship Canal to approximately N 50th Street at the Woodland Park Zoo and has “consistently been an important area of residential growth for North Seattle,” the project plans state, noting that the area has seen significant growth over the past several years.
The project plans also outline three objectives, which included providing visually interesting massing that enhances and respectfully builds upon the north Fremont neighborhood character, designing a building that responds to its position as a visual corner on Fremont and N 44th and providing housing for a growing neighborhood while maintaining its vibrant and pedestrian-friendly atmosphere.
To be constructed are approximately 119 housing units with ground floor commercial space and an underground parking garage. The three existing buildings currently on the site would be demolished. Michelle Linden, partner at Atelier Drome, gave the presentation to the board and emphasized the importance of the surrounding neighborhood, both in community feedback and in design.
“As part of our analysis, we studied the buildings in the neighborhood to understand the surrounding context,” Linden said. “There’s a mixture of single-story commercial, two- and three-story mixed-use buildings interspersed with three- and four-story multifamily apartment buildings. A five-story mixed-use structure is under construction kitty-corner across from the lot….This project obviously provided important context as the first of its scale in the neighborhood, and together these two projects will create a new node of housing along Fremont Ave. In particular, we studied the vertical expression and clean form of this design.”
The three design options included Option 1, which featured 2,658 square feet of commercial space, 115 housing units and 44 parking spaces; Option 2, which included 5,068 square feet of commercial space, 112 housing units and 46 parking spaces; and Option 3, which was the applicant’s preferred option and included 4,204 square feet of commercial space, 119 housing units and 49 parking spaces. The design for Option 3 also involved breaking up the ground floor commercial spaces to provide a streetscape compatible with the expected, per community feedback, pedestrian experience along Fremont Avenue N.
For the landscaping design, the plans state that the applicant is exploring the idea of providing private patios for the residents on the northwest corner of the building and the possibility of providing green vertical trellis separation that would use natural cedar to add warmth and texture. The rooftop is planned to be more than 80 percent landscaped, with areas for residents to sit, relax and work from home. The southern roof area has views to the Olympics, downtown and the Cascades.
Board members agreed with the applicant that Option 3 was the best design for both the location and building – members noted that the design presented the most opportunity for expansion, that it “gave back” to Fremont in its use of space and that it provided a more pedestrian-friendly experience by breaking up such a long building. The board also asked questions about any proposed amenities in public spaces, which would include bicycle racks and benches, and what other considerations the design team took in trying to keep the proposed building in line with the characteristics of the local neighborhood.