By Kate Snyder
After much deliberation, a proposal for a nearly 800-unit residential complex was approved by Seattle’s Northeast Design Review Board during a recommendation meeting on Monday. The project would be located just minutes from the city’s Union Bay Natural Area on the shores of Lake Washington.
The project developer is Seattle-based Quarterra, project plans show. The designer is Encore Architects and the landscape architect is Weisman Design Group, both also based in Seattle.
Located at 3020 NE 45th St., the project would consist of about 796 units across three wood-frame buildings – two at seven stories and one at eight stories – with a total floor area of approximately 944,700 square feet, plans show. There would be a mix of market-rate and affordable residential units located over a common podium structure. The podium would include approximately 25,000 square feet of retail commercial space. Part of the proposal also includes parking for about 679 vehicles.
The exterior design is partly inspired by the idea of a geologic rift, according to project plans. Designers imagined the project as a large building mass with no buffer that would have fractured and separated under the pressure from the street activity along the building’s frontages, creating three distinct structures. Metaphorical “sediment” is deposited at the base, forming the podium, while new forms and materials are revealed in the structures above.
“Opening courtyards at the edges reduce the development’s visual impact, creating light and air at the perimeter,” Bruce Kinnan, principal at Encore Architects, told the board during the presentation. “Our two streets have similar materials but different forms, much like continental geology that has drifted apart over eons. Northeast 45th is technically a state highway [and] Union Bay Place is a thriving neighborhood street.”
The project site has direct access to the Union Bay Natural Area, which is the second largest natural system left on Lake Washington, plans show. The Union Bay Natural Area is considered one of the best bird-watching locations in the city of Seattle and is a significant preserved natural area, habitat and green space. The project team sought to celebrate and draw inspiration from the natural area’s wetland prairie landscape, riparian vegetation, walking trails, boardwalks, wildlife habitat and core community groups.
The board’s vote initially ended in a tie, with two members in favor of having the project return for a second recommendation meeting and two members in favor of moving the project forward. Officials determined that the board’s responsibility is to just provide a recommendation for the applicant, and board members discussed how to best give feedback under a tie vote in order to help the project’s design team with the design process.
“If it’s going to stay a tie… they’ll have to work it out behind the scenes,” said Tim Carter, board chair.
Board member Manuel Casteneda, who voted in favor of the project returning, said he wanted to see more specific details of how the overall architectural concept would be translated into the materials and patterns. He noted that it wasn’t one type of pattern or material that he could point to and say to provide more or less of it but rather a question of the overall cohesiveness. Casteneda also emphasized that the massing has already been approved through a previous early design guidance meeting and that wouldn’t need to change.
Ultimately, the board decided to move the project forward. Other recommendations for the design included more vertical planting in the courtyards, such as more trees, for privacy in the nearby units and that any large signage should have integration with the architecture of the building.