By Meghan Hall
Just North of downtown Seattle and centrally located, Fremont is one of the city’s best located neighborhoods. Numerous companies such as Adobe Systems, Google and Getty Images have chosen Fremont as a home for their various businesses, and the district is known for its artistic and bohemian — but increasingly modern — flair. Developers and architects are trying to channel Fremont’s character in their designs, as well, something Seattle-based MRN Homes and Hybrid Architecture was commended for on Monday at an Early Design Guidance meeting for its interpretation of a new, 123-unit residential development located at 3421 Woodland Park Ave. N.
“They were overwhelmingly positive,” said Robert Humble, principal at Hybrid Architecture of the Northeast Design Review Board’s feedback. “It was one of the best-received projects we’ve ever done in EDG. Everyone was in unanimous support of the preferred theme and the direction we took, and [the board] appreciated how we addressed the neighborhood context.”
The development team presented four massing options for its “Fremont Residences” to the review board in which they sought to provide an active streetscape to the community and build upon the character already evoked by the surrounding properties. The massing of the proposed development would shift away from the nursery to the northwest of the site and would provide a mid-block connection linking the northeastern and southwestern corners. The design team sought to activate the lower podium using private entries for several of the units, and a recessed, architectural entry on the northeast corner, along with ample ground level landscaping. The upper levels of the eight-story building would be angled to limit daylight obstruction and use fenestration and windows to break up the massing and create a more playful structure.
“We have the base of the building, which is continuing the elevation from Fremont Brewing as a kind of monolithic warehouse base,” said Humble. “For the top of the building, we created a kind of angular and iconic sculptural mass that has some angles in the building to reflect the street grid. It is a unique and artistic expression that can be viewed differently from multiple angles and act as a place maker.”
According to Humble, the exact materials that will be used on the exterior of the building have not yet been finalized, although a brick or solid masonry podium and metal accents on the upper levels are likely to be utilized. Those details will be finalized with time as the development team evaluates — at the suggestion of the review board — the possibility of inset balconies on the upper level and the creation of a more playful entry utilizing the site’s changing topography using cascading ramps, stairs, planters and seating arrangements.
“They appreciated the work we had done and they trust us to continue,” said Humble. “They wanted us to explore a few things, like how to be creative with the entry sequence.”
The development would include an array of different unit types — from live/work spaces to studios, one- and two-bedrooms — as well as one level of garage parking for ten vehicles and 136 bike parking spaces. The project also includes 2,571 square feet of space for a tiered roof deck. The project site is easily walkable to the Fremont Sunday Street Market, the Fremont troll and Gasworks Park. Several bus lines are also within walking distance and Interstate 5 is easily accessible by car.
“It’s not a wholly auto-dependent development,” said Humble. “We have parking for ten vehicles, but we’re hoping this is a building that will leverage existing infrastructure understanding that it will be here for the next 100 years. We’re trying to look at how the city is going to be developed in the coming years with less dependence on privately owned vehicles.”
Humble said that the next design review meeting for the project is scheduled for February, although the development team might way until the City Council votes on Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) in March, to avoid going through the contract rezoning process.
“We’re talking about the pulse of where the City Council is related to the timeline of this project,” explained Humble. “I think right now our schedule is contingent on the new MHA zoning.”
Regardless, Humble and the development team are excited about where the project is headed. “It’s a great opportunity. We’ve really tried to have a broad range of unit types that could provide much-needed housing to a broad range of the population.”