By Meghan Hall
2018 has been a record year for downtown Seattle’s Hospitality sector, with 6,414 new hotel rooms currently in various stages of development. A number of active projects in the city will increase hotel inventory in downtown Seattle by more than 40 percent in the coming years, according to a report by the Downtown Seattle Association. With demand high and development surging, a new project located at 117 Yale Ave. North went through design review earlier this week and received an unanimous approval with some conditions to advance forward. The 11-story, 200-room development — proposed by owner and developer WPPI Seattle AC and architecture firm Johnson Braund, Inc. — is certainly taking advantage of Seattle’s strong market conditions.
Jeff Williams, president with Johnson Braund architects in Seattle, presented the project to the design review board and provided a glimpse into the the developer’s vision for the project.
The new hotel would be situated in downtown Seattle, within blocks of Amazon’s headquarters, the expanding Washington State Convention Center and the Denny Triangle neighborhood. “Our site is a small, mid-block site in the Cascades neighborhood,” Williams stated, as he described the structure that would deliver 200 hotel rooms inside the 90,000-plus square foot hotel.
The development will include basement meeting spaces, a ground level lobby, a restaurant and bar and an indoor sports and recreation center. No parking is planned on the site’s 9,569 square foot lot. Instead, the design team plans to incorporate valet parking to an off-site location into the hotel’s daily operations.
Per the application team’s design proposal, the hotel will be geared toward business travelers staying downtown. The hotel would make use of Marriott International’s brand of AC Hotels, which incorporate elements of European and Spanish design.
The proposed project is less than a mile from Westlake Center and Pacific Place, shopping centers with major tenants such as Macy’s and Nordstrom. The hotel would also provide easy freeway access, as it would be less than a block from U.S. Interstate 5.
The owner of the development, WPPI Seattle, is affiliated with Merrillville, Indiana-based White/Peterman Properties. This group has been active in the Puget Sound region as developers and owners of hotel and multifamily properties.
In response to previous city comments made in earlier meetings, the design team broke down the massing of the proposed building by using a variety of materials such as a fiber cement façade panel and accent color panels to increase the articulation and modulation of the building’s exterior. The applicant team also created an interior courtyard to increase pedestrian access from Yale Avenue to an adjacent alley, and the team is seeking LEED Gold certification for the project.
The board’s feedback focused primarily on the massing, which included clarifying questions about the overall concept and the details of the design. There was some feedback on the alley pass through and how the designers visualized that articulation, as well as how the prominent signs on the top of the building would be suitable for the structure and the neighborhood as it evolves.
Most of the time was spent on the massing and details of the facade. The structure is imagined to be a hotel, and the massing for the most part provides a very linear articulation with zipper-like vertical elements that shape the windows and the part of the facade that will be visible from the street. That same pattern is carried on to other sides of the building, even where there are no windows, something that the board wanted the designer to revisit.
The board’s unanimous decision to advance the project to a Master Use Permit application seemed inevitable, even though there was much discussion around the design and ways how to tweak it. In the end, the conditions that the board imposed dealt with the materiality of the facade, which would impact the ageing of the different components, as well as looking at new approaches to the window pattern and adding depth to the window frames.