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Review Board Recommends 146-Unit Union View Apartment Project Return for Third Early Design Guidance Meeting

Wallingford, Seattle, Colpitts Development Company, Union View Apartments, Veer Architecture
Rendering Courtesy of Veer Architecture

By Bekka Wiedenmeyer

The Wallingford neighborhood of northeast Seattle quickly developed post-World War II into a suburban village with unique design, setting the space aside from the standard architectural residences of the era. The neighborhood was characterized with single-family bungalows and tree-lined walkways and alleys, permeating the area with quaintness and individuality, and the addition of features like glass fenestrations and porches helped with the integration of indoor and outdoor areas. 

Over the past 20 years, the neighborhood has shifted to incorporate mixed-used, multifamily residential spaces among its more historic residential buildings and single-storied commercial structures, which has in turn increased concerns about the shifting neighborhood context. In January, Colpitts Development Company, LLC and Veer Architecture PLLC and Design Two Four / Two Six presented their revised proposal during a second early design guidance meeting to the Northeast Design Review Board for the Union View Apartments, a seven-story apartment building with retail and parking. At the conclusion of the meeting, the Board left several comments for guidance and, in a rare move, recommended the project return for a third early design guidance meeting.

The site, which is addressed at 3839-3831 Stone Way North, is made up of two parcels that are currently developed with commercial buildings. These buildings will be demolished to make way for the new structure. Stone Way North runs north to south and provides connections to Wallingford, North 45th Street, the Green Lake area and the north Lake Union Waterfront. The site is surrounded by low-rise commercial buildings and multi-rise, multifamily residential developments along Stone Way North.

According to project documents, the 21,833 square foot site will be home to a seven-story apartment building with ground floor retail and 71 to 77 parking stalls, approximately. The building will house 146 residential units, featuring Juliet balconies, and provide views of Lake Union and Downtown Seattle. A bicycle repair shop, bike racks and storage are planned facilities in the building, with street access provided, plus courtyard terraces that open to the street. The goal of the project, according to the proposal, is to enhance the architectural characteristics of the neighborhood while also providing space to address the increasing growth of Wallingford. The team also hopes to activate the neighborhood with its street-level commercial space along with the other ground floor features mentioned above. 

During the first early design guidance meeting, the Board had several concerns about the proposed massing options and how they related to the neighborhood. They supported the third massing option, which featured modulation and articulation with an upper level setback, but requested the team return with new options for the second early design guidance meeting. During the second early design guidance meeting, in which new options were presented, the Board still commented that the design concept was not strong enough. The Board’s main concern during this secondary meeting was that the design did not relate to the analysis of the surrounding neighborhood, a comment that was also made during the first meeting. The Board requested in the next meeting that the team provide a design rationale for a one- or two-story expression, which would help with the organization of street level uses, such as commercial and residential.

The Board voiced other concerns about the building design during the second early design guidance meeting, noting that the planned modulation appeared forced and created a “neurotic” design. The Board suggested the team use a focal point to make the design more cohesive, and re-emphasized the importance of designing the building while keeping in mind the context of the surrounding neighborhood. The Board suggested relocating the open space currently planned for the ground level closer toward the street, which would help with activation along Stone Way. 

The Board recommended the team consider using high-quality materials that would help break down the building’s scale and suggested that large fiber cement panels, the current material proposed for the building’s exterior, would not be ideal, and that if they must be incorporated, that their use be limited and include integral color materials.

Overall, the Board left the team with six suggestions for how the building’s design should be revised. The members encouraged the team explore the idea of corner windows for more light and visibility, more engagement at the corner of the building at Stone Way North, more continuity for the corners and facades, chamfers at the northwest corner of the building to help with shaping, moving the stairway and elevator columns from the exterior to the interior of the building and more depth in the facade design.

The team requested one departure during the second meeting, which was to increase the percentage of the structure allowed to have a setback less than 5’ from 20 percent to 27 percent. The Board did not support this departure, however, stated they might support the request if the team made the revisions to the proposal based on the guidance provided in the second meeting.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the Board recommended the project return for a third early design guidance meeting to respond to the comments and concerns made. However, while Seattle’s design review boards may recommend a third meeting, only the Director of Seattle’s Department of Construction and Inspections may require a third EDG from an applicant.