Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood is rapidly developing in response to the area’s easy access to mass transit. The Othello Station light rail stop connects the neighborhood to the surrounding city, with the larger area classified as a Hub Urban Village. Within this framework, Snohomish-based architecture and development firm Kōz Development LLC is proposing a five-story, 125-unit apartment building with retail along MLK Jr. Way, presented during an early design guidance meeting to the Southeast Design Review Board at the end of April. At the conclusion of the meeting, the Board unanimously recommended the project return for a second early design guidance meeting.
The site, which is located at 3803 South Warsaw Street, is currently occupied by two wood frame structures, which will both be demolished to make way for the new building. The site is comprised of eight lots and bounded by roads on all sides. MLK Jr. Way borders the site from the east, Warsaw street to the north, 38th Ave S to the west and S Holly St. to the south. The area consists of mainly single family residential buildings, with two-story apartments located diagonally across from the site on MLK. Kōz Development LLC is both the developer and architect of record for the project.
The design team has three key goals for their design: Community, affordability and proximity to transit.
“Our goal in starting this project, and as a company, is development of mixed-use affordable housing type projects,” said Joshua Scott, co-founder of Kōz Development LLC.
Kōz intentionally develops projects in close proximity to transit and amenities like restaurants, coffee shops and bars. In this case, the new apartment building will be located by the light rail at Othello Station, along with multiple bus stops located across the street from the site. The new building will reflect the local context by using a similarly scaled and patterned building model to other transit-oriented development in the area. The team hopes the location of the project will act as an urban catalyst, encouraging population growth and subsequent increase in local business, as well as more pedestrian activation along the MLK corridor.
“[It’s] really utilizing the MLK datum to establish the geometry for the building, and looking at ways that building can shift a little bit as we address the residential neighborhood to the west,” Scott said.
According to project documents, the 22,101 square foot site will feature approximately 55,000 square feet of residential space, totaling 125 units. There will be 2,000 square feet of amenity space, as well as an accessible rooftop area. An additional 2,000 square feet will be dedicated to commercial storefront space, with 100 linear feet of 10 foot high storefront along MLK. Additional active uses such as the lobby, bike room and mail room will be placed along MLK to activate the street level and provide visibility into those areas. The project will also include 4,000 square feet of mechanical and building support. There is no planned onsite parking.
The team presented three massing options during the EDG meeting. All three options were developed with the relationship of multifamily and single family uses, alignment of streets and engagement with the transit core in mind. The first option, “Parallel Residential,” orients the primary mass of the project more closely with 38th Ave S. Commercial space is added to the east side of the site along MLK, and the massing also establishes a private 2nd floor plaza for residents that overlooks MLK. This option limits available space for landscaping adjacent to the single family use across 38th St. S and creates a blockier form, which is in contrast to the other buildings in the area.
The second option, “Transitioning Masses,” separates the building into two main masses, which responds more cohesively with the neighborhood context of smaller buildings. This option also creates commercial space along the east side of MLK and a private 2nd floor plaza, as well as a variety of outdoor spaces and landscaping opportunities. Amenity areas on the main level are limited with this option, along with outdoor space along MLK.
The third and preferred option, “Parallel Commercial,” orients the building more closely with MLK, with the main residential entry on the northeast side of the site.
“We spent time developing a more fleshed out design concept of macro and micro, where we treat the two sides of the building almost completely different,” Scott said.
The “south to west” orientation of this option creates two yard spaces along 38th Ave S and provides buffering next to the adjacent single family uses. Commercial space is limited with this option, and the massing is not cohesive with the orientation of buildings to the west.
“We’re trying to achieve some of that transparency and ease of walkthrough, but really aligning the overall dominant masses with MLK so that they’re very clear in reinforcing that datum line that’s established by MLK,” Scott said.
The team is planning on choosing materials that are reflective of the Pacific Northwest climate. Exterior facades will involve a variation of fiber cement panels, metal cladding and storefront glazing, and large windows will be placed thoughtfully to maximize the amount of daylight entering interior spaces. A combination of planters, decks, tree groves and street trees will help form the open spaces and provide a smoother transition from private to public areas.
During the meeting, the Board deliberated over the site plan, massing and bulk of the project. The Board was torn between the second and third massing options, appreciating the proximity of the building to the edge of the site in the second option, while acknowledging the provision of a longer street frontage that creates a more continuous commercial edge in the third option. The Board suggested there could be an entry sequence set back that could allow for a plaza and requested the team look at other buildings close to Othello Station as precedents that have similar plazas at their entry.
The Board also suggested the applicant focus on refining the second and third options, further clarifying the conceptual landscaping character at the ground plane. The Board requested the team present precedents and conceptual images to help clarify these features. The Board encouraged more consideration for the green way and landscaping options at the edge of the site.
The Board also suggested the team consider modulating the volume of the massing along the residential side in response to the adjacent single family spaces. The Board requested to see more graphics, diagrams and image boards of the building outlines to help further clarify this piece.
At the end of the meeting, the Board recommended the team nail down the site plan and clarify the street level character relationships. The Board reminded the team to address material applications and secondary architectural detailing and were generally comfortable with the massing, with the team using the Board’s suggestions for the second and third options as guidance. With these considerations in mind, the Board unanimously voted the project return for a second EDG meeting.