Home AEC Proposal for 550-Unit Bitter Lake Apartments in Seattle Moves Forward to Recommendation...

Proposal for 550-Unit Bitter Lake Apartments in Seattle Moves Forward to Recommendation Phase

Seattle, Bitter Lake, Bitter Lake Apartments, Northwest Design Review Board, Puget Sound, Bode

By Kate Snyder

A proposal for a seven-story, 550-unit apartment building in Seattle’s Bitter Lake neighborhood will move on to the recommendation phase after the Northwest Design Review Board gave its approval to the plans on Monday night during the project’s second early design guidance meeting.

The project, called Bitter Lake Apartments and located at 12220 Aurora Ave. N, would be a redevelopment of the half-block bound by Aurora Ave N., according to the project plans. The complex would total 450,000 square feet  with 540 residential units and 10 live/work units, approximately 354 parking spaces, 550 bike racks and a roof deck.

Seattle-based real estate company Bode, is the project developer and designer.

“Our building will be one of the first new taller apartment buildings along Aurora and will establish a desirable context for others to build upon in the future,” said Karen Biran, project manager for Bode, during Monday’s presentation.

During the project’s first EDG meeting, three design options were presented to the board. Both the board and the developer preferred what was referred to as Option A, which is an eight-shaped structure with two interior courtyards and a main lobby and residential entrance at the north end. Board members at the time expressed concerns about the lighting within the middle courtyards and pointed out that the spaces could possibly be underutilized because of how often the courtyards would be cast in shadow. There were also massing and modulation concerns related to the setback along the northwest corner.

At the meeting Monday, however, board members were generally pleased with the changes to the design from the developer and were happy to move the project forward.

“I think what they’re presenting here is elegant and clean, and there’s still some work to do but it’s a good start,” Board Chair Brian Johnson said. “I like the simple palette.”

Changes included adding a rooftop overhang along the northwest corner, adding an exterior entrance to one of the courtyards to bring in more air and light, redesigning the second courtyard to be a shade garden and building out the rooftop terrace. Biran noted that adding to the design of the rooftop terrace was a request from the board to help offset the anticipated darkness of the interior courtyards. The terrace includes landscaping, vegetable gardens and a dog run.

“The board stressed the importance of well-designed rooftop amenities that would take advantage of light, air and views not afforded by the courtyard,” Biran said. “We gave special attention to the treatments of building amenities…The rooftop is now located at the northwest corner to allow direct connection from the main entrance.”

Board member Phoebe Bogert was happy with the rooftop terrace design, which she said is a good amenity for the building. She was also pleased to see the developer lean into the lack of light in the courtyards by specifically making one a “shade garden.” It would still be nice for residents with private patios in the courtyard to have a shady area to enjoy, she said.

“I completely appreciate the south courtyard being acknowledged that that’s just a shade garden,” she said. “This is always a problem with these really boxed-in, interior courtyards, and so I think that being realistic and sensitive to what the actual condition is, is going to make that a lot nicer.” 

According to project plans, the proposal is designed to address the rapidly growing housing and commercial demand in the neighborhood as well as transform the site’s current use as an “underutilized tow yard parcel” by replacing it with a “high quality, mixed use development that will create more engaging, urban streetscapes within the neighborhood.”

“The proposed design will provide residents with commercial opportunity, amenities, open spaces, quick access to public transit, nearby trails and neighborhood-serving commercial on Aurora and Linden,” project plans state. “The proposed project can also serve as a catalyst for improvements within this southern extent of the Urban Village.”

The proposed project in Bitter Lake is not the company’s first in the neighborhood – earlier this year, it also proposed an affordable housing complex at 13711 Aurora Avenue N., which is just a mile away from this most recent proposal. That project, also seven stories, would be approximately 426 residential units with 3,800 square feet of ground floor retail space and 126 parking stalls, according to The Registry’s previous reporting.