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Review Board Recommends 2005 5th Ave Return for Third Early Design Guidance Meeting

2005 5th Ave, 1962 Worlds Fair, Sheridan Apartments, Griffin Building, Seattle, MZA Architecture, Chainqui Development
Courtesy of MZA Architecture

By Bekka Wiedenmeyer

Downtown Seattle’s Sheridan Apartments and the Griffin Building are historic landmarks, built respectively in 1914 and 1927 in the Belltown neighborhood. The Monorail opened just one month before the 1962 World Fair and winds its way through the properties in the direction of the Space Needle. As the rest of the Belltown neighborhood continuously evolves following modern trends, a team led by owner Chainqui Development and architecture firm MZA Architecture have come together to expand the life cycle of the historic buildings through revised project plans to incorporate them into a 44-story residential project. The plans were proposed to the Downtown Design Review Board during a second early design guidance meeting on Tuesday, June 15. In a split 3-2 decision, the Board recommended the project return for a third EDG meeting in response to concerns about massing and architectural cohesiveness.

The 19,440 square foot site, which is located at 2005 5th Ave, consists of three parcels. Both the Griffin Building, which is a four-story office building, and Sheridan Apartments, a six-story apartment building, are located on the two parcels most south of the site. These buildings are both landmarked. The north parcel houses a surface parking lot. The elevated Monorail system is located 45 feet east and parallel to the site, with 5th Ave running along the north of the site. A parking garage is located directly across 5th Ave. A nine-story building, Hotel Andra, is situated to the west of the alley, and adjacent to the southeast corner is the Westin Hotel. Future nearby developments include a 44-story residential tower for 2025 5th Ave, and a 48-story hotel and apartments proposed for 1933 5th Ave. Chainqui Development is the owner of the site, with MZA Architecture serving as the architect of record, Studio TJP as the historic preservation architect and GCH Planning & Landscape as the landscape architect.

At the first EDG meeting, which was held in December 2017, the Board was supportive of a massing option that covered both buildings with an arcade that extended over the sidewalk. They gave the team additional guidance to develop the tower shape and maximize the separation from 2025 5th Ave. As the team worked on developing this design in response to the guidance given by the Board, the Landmarks Preservation Board (LPB) rejected the arcade design, preferring the design instead shift the tower to the north so as not to cover the Griffin Building. This placed the tower within 45 feet of 2025 5th Ave, and the team continued to iterate on the design to account for additional tower separation. In early 2021, the design received support from the Landmarks Review Board, and the applicant presented the following revised project to the Downtown Design Review Board.

According to project documents, the applicant’s design goals are to integrate the project into the Belltown neighborhood, while preserving the historic significance of the buildings and the natural light and views of the towers. To accomplish this, the applicant focused on sculpting a tower design that took architectural cues from historic buildings throughout Seattle.

“Given the extensive history of the project and the constraints involved between balancing the LPB priorities and the zoning requirements, we began our design thinking based on the prevalent New Formalism style found in several significant structures throughout the Seattle area,” said Peter Sherrill, senior associate and architect at MZA Architecture.

Standing at 440 feet tall, the tower integrates with the landmark buildings on site, with the base of the tower tapering inward and a new podium addition that extends the urban edge along the sidewalk. The applicant focused on a “tree branch” concept for the revised design, as tree-like expressions rise from the tapered base with a sculpted edge design for the tower.

“It creates a strong verticality, thus reducing the visual weight, continues the gothic style vertical expression of the gryphon upward to the skyline, and creates an addition to the landmark building that organically grows upward, rather than simply being placed on top,” Sherrill said.

The total floor area, which is 640,056 square feet, has a gross residential area of 368,290 square feet, totaling 329 units. It also includes gross commercial office space of 127,780 square feet and 5,296 square feet of retail. The project proposes 321 stalls of below-grade parking. Following historical precedence, the original entrances have retail at the corner and along Virginia Street, with the residential lobby located at 5th Ave. Loading and garage points are intentionally located along the alley for the safety of both pedestrians and vehicles. Other amenities include bike racks, renovated sidewalks and new street trees to complement the existing historical trees along 5th Ave. The tapered rooftop level on the 43rd floor has a green roof, fire pit, lounge seating and flexible deck area.

During the first EDG meeting, the Board was concerned with the massing of the project and urged the applicant to maximize the tower separation. The LPB rejected a maximized separation, and after conducting an additional massing study, the applicant presented an option for a 60 foot separation between the tower and 2025 5th Ave during the second EDG meeting to the Board. As such, the applicant requested a special exception that the tower separation requirement from between the heights of 150 feet and 440 feet be decreased from 80 feet to 60 feet.

Due to the decreased separation, the applicant also requested a departure for a maximum facade length of 110 feet between the elevations of 240 feet to 400 feet, as code currently allows only a 100 foot maximum for a facade without modulation. A 5 foot indention has been designed at the midpoint of the tower on all four sides to break down the length of the facade. The team requested a second departure during the meeting, as well, to not add additional weather protection along 5th Ave.

During the meeting, the Board continued to deliberate over the massing of the building. The Board appreciated the applicant’s demonstrated attempts to balance historic preservation and design guidelines. They encouraged the team to study a tower separation that was 70 and 75 feet away from the tower to the north, as well as a study that took a closer look at how the tower impacted the views and shade of the broader neighborhood. They also requested the team consider privacy studies, as well, as they related to adjacent properties.

The Board expressed concern about the cohesiveness of the tower design. If the team wanted to focus on New Formalism as a guiding principle, the Board suggested they examine those design principles more closely and express that theme more consistently from the base to the top of the tower. 

The Board didn’t find any of the massing studies the team conducted to be successful. They requested the team explore different massing options that better connected the podium with the overall tower language while either remaining unified with the tower to the north, or remaining consistent with the street level building. The Board also cautioned the team to be mindful of the different architectural languages they were presenting with the design, since the project is only situated on one block. The Board appreciated the streetscape design and was on board with the guidelines set out. Because the Board was not supportive of the massing presented, they were not in support of the first departure as requested. They were supportive of the second departure as requested, however, and said they would defer to the LPB in relation to weather protection.

Due to the massing concerns expressed during the meeting, the Board voted in a split 3-2 

decision to return the project for a third EDG meeting in response to the guidance given.