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Proposal for 246-Unit Mixed-Use Tower in Seattle’s Belltown Neighborhood Moves Forward in Design Review Process

Seattle Early Design Guidance, Belltown, Seattle, Belltown on First Limited Partnership, Bosa Properties, Perkins & Will, Hewitt, Olympic Sculpture Park, the Myrtle Edwards Park, Seattle Center, Public Brick Plaza, Cherry Street Coffee House, The Crocodile Music Venue

By Kate Snyder

Members of the Seattle Downtown Design Review Board were pleased by a design proposed by Bosa Properties for a mixed-use residential building in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood. The board shared thoughts and suggestions on the project during an Early Design Guidance Meeting on Tuesday and ultimately agreed to move it forward to the recommendation phase.

During the meeting, the project team shared a proposal for a mixed-use residential tower at 2700 1st Ave. Included in the project are retail spaces on the ground floor, amenity spaces above and both affordable and market-rate residential space above the podium level, according to the project plans. The 16-story tower would be 350,000 square feet with 16,300 square feet of retail space, approximately 246 apartment units, 228 below grade parking stalls and 222 bike stalls.

The owner is listed as Belltown on First Limited Partnership, an entity affiliated with Bosa Properties, which is a real estate development and asset management company based in Vancouver, according to public records. The architect is Perkins & Will out of the firm’s Seattle office, and the landscape architect is Hewitt, also in Seattle, according to project plans.

Erik Mott, principal and design director at Perkins & Will, gave the presentation to the early design review board on Tuesday.

“It’s a very walkable site,” he said and noted that Belltown features a number of intimately-scaled spaces within the community that adds to the character of the neighborhood. “We were looking for opportunities in the planning and design of the site to incorporate spaces like this of this kind of scale that are incidental and that help reinforce active street uses.”

Mott also highlighted the project’s location near the waterfront and other attractions such as the Olympic Sculpture Park, the Myrtle Edwards Park, Seattle Center, Public Brick Plaza, Cherry Street Coffee House and The Crocodile Music Venue, among others. The project plans also show that the site is just minutes away from The Space Needle.

“The neighborhood of course is very diverse in its uses and is quite vibrant and as noted is quite walkable,” Mott said. “This development is meant to be a kind of a microcosm of that mixed-use program and community.”

He also made specific note of the neighborhood’s camaraderie as well and spoke of wanting the proposed project to not only fit in with the community but add to it as well.

“There is a sense of community that is created through the programs and the places in the neighborhood,” Mott said. “It’s a goal of this project to be part of that fabric and to provide that kind of opportunity and inviting engagement with the public realm through the programming and design of, in particular the ground floor, but also the massing of the residential components of the project.”

Included in the proposal were three design options, with the applicant’s preferred option being the third. Part of that design involves the construction of a courtyard along 1st Avenue as well as more daylight for residents. That design also includes two departure requests to increase public space and reduce massing – the first is a greater than usual setback at the northwest corner and the second is an open space along 1st Avenue to support the courtyard and pedestrian experience.

Neither of the other two design options included departures, according to project plans. Option one included a residential entry on Cedar with continuous retail along 1st Avenue, while option two included a taller massing to create a “monumental identity” and a balanced access to daylight and views for residents.

Outreach to the public involved meetings with neighbors to the site and members of the community, according to the project plans. Feedback from respondents included many wanting to see new restaurants and/or bars in the retail portion of the project and suggestions that the building design incorporate Belltown history and style.

Public comments during the meeting included a question about why the building was placed to the north instead of being centrally located with landscape on either side and concerns about the shade impacts on neighboring properties. A number of comments also preferred a design option other than the applicant’s preferred alternative.

During their deliberation, however, board members favored the applicant’s preferred design alternative and also thought the departure requests were appropriate for the design.

“I think to me they’ve kind of nailed how they’ve gone about the massing responding to the neighborhood context,” said Jason Henderson, board member.

Katy Haima, board member, said she believes that the pedestrian experience either makes or breaks this design, and she would encourage the applicant to think about the landscaping along the different streets and what makes one area stand out from the other. However, she pointed out that the applicant’s preferred design did a nice job of not overloading the immediate area with a large building.

“I think I prefer the third [alternative] because it creates this very interesting and varied massing that sort of helps break down a building that is the length of the full block without it being too overwrought or adding on too many baubles to try and sort of negate that bulk in other ways,” Haima said.