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Seattle Board Encourages Development Team to Connect with Community on Proposed 280-Unit Development in Yesler Terrace

Seattle, East Design Review Board, Yesler Terrace, Centric Partners, Clark Barnes Architecture, MK Architects, Saba Ethiopian Cuisine, Pioneer Square
Image Credit: Clark/Barnes Architecture

By Meghan Hall

Seattle’s East Design Review Board heard another project for the continued redevelopment of the City’s Yesler Terrace neighborhood, known widely as Washington State’s first public — and racially integrated — housing development. Revitalization of Yesler Terrace’s 30-acres began in 2013 after the City deemed the neighborhood’s infrastructure to be inefficient and outdated, but its strong, active and diverse community has remained. Numerous projects in the district are working their way through the pipeline, and one, proposed by Centric Partners LLC and Clark Barnes Architecture, presented its plans to the community and East Seattle Design Review Board this week. However, the Board had several concerns about the plans for the 280-unit apartment complex, and, further prompted by concerns from the community, asked the project team to come back for another round of review.

“This is a really important intersection, a real node in this area,” said Brenda Barnes, an architect at Clark Barnes Architecture, who has taken over the project on behalf of MK Architects. “The first thing we did was look at this corner, and we wanted to come up with something really strong and substantial and elegant.”

Located at 104 12th Ave., the six-story building will also include several live-work units totaling 2,625 square feet, and two levels of below-grade parking with 134 parking stalls. A mix of large and small retail spaces along 12th Ave. and a smaller retail space on the East side of the property totaling 10,356 square feet are also proposed. A rooftop terrace for residential amenity use is also indicated in the plans, as are a mix of outdoor terrace and private balconies.

“12th has a really great urban fabric of retail all along this corridor so we’re stepping back the building to create small retail spaces, anchoring the corner with a large retail [space] at the gateway,” explained Barnes.

The proposed massing of the building was based off of the site’s location as a “cultural placemaker” connecting several Seattle neighborhoods, according to design documents. The design of the building would break down the massing by creating a focal point mass at the corner of 12th Ave. and E. Yesler, along with a large retail space at the ground corner accessed by a recessed entry. The retail space will replace a courtyard that was originally presented to the Board at a prior design review meeting. The façade of the building has been pulled away from the right of way to expand useable space beyond the edge of the building.

The building will be clad in vertical piers of brick and horizontal vintage wood siding. Glass will be used to highlight the retail spaces on the ground floor and gaskets between the primary building elements as a way to mark the structure’s circulation lobbies. Fiber cement panels in both light and dark grays will provide further accents.

“We came up with the brick piers grounding the corner space, and of creating an entry plaza,” said Barnes. “We’re creating a real feeling of depth here with the brick and the secondary elements of depth with the wood columns.”

In its deliberations, the Board and the community focused on the pivotal role the future development would play as a gateway building to multiple Seattle neighborhoods. The Board asked the development team to consider using higher-quality materials, to create a more refined design to reflect the building’s importance as a gateway to the neighborhood. They also asked for more detailed renderings of the retail and commercial spaces.

The community expressed the opinion that the project did not accurately represent the community in its massing, in its position as a gateway site or what it could provide to the community. One neighborhood resident ask the development team to consider making some of the units large enough for families, while several stated that the proposed live-work units are ineffective. Other community members expressed sadness at the loss of Saba Ethiopian Cuisine, a well-loved neighborhood eatery that will be demolished to make room for the project.

The site is surrounded by the Pioneer Square, First Hill, Atlantic and Squire Park neighborhoods, with easy access to Interstate 5. Both the E. Yesler and Broadway Light Rail and bus stations are within walking distance, as are numerous eateries such as Tamarind Tree and Seattle Deli. The proposed building would add to an entire block — bounded by East Yesler Way, 12th Ave., 13th Ave. and Spruce Street — of redevelopment currently in the construction and approvals pipeline.