By Meghan Hall
When the Seattle City Council unanimously approved a neighborhood-wide up-zone for the rapidly growing University District in February 2018, it didn’t take long for several developers to propose high-rises in the neighborhood. One such project, called HUB U-District, was presented to the public for a second time by Chicago & Austin-based Core Spaces and Chicago-based Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture with GGLO as the landscape architect on October 15 and approved by Seattle’s Northeast Design Review Board in its second Early Design Guidance meeting to advance to a final review meeting in the near future.
The proposed development would be located at 4515 and 4525 Brooklyn Ave. NE in Seattle’s U District neighborhood on two adjacent parcels of land that currently serve as parking lots. The plans call for the construction of a 25-story student housing tower (floors 2 – 24 would be dedicated for student housing, while the rooftop and amenity deck would be on the 25th floor) with 2,614 square feet of retail on the ground floor and 76 below grade parking spaces. This development would be located on the 4515 lot, while the 4525 property would be reserved for a park as an amenity to the development and the neighborhood.
With 204 residential units and a total footprint of 254,480 square feet, the building would be one of the first large-scale projects to be approved based on the district’s new zoning regulations, in which the range of allowable building heights were increased to a range between 240 and 320 feet in the core of the University District.
This second early design guidance meeting was primarily focused on the applicant’s responses to the first meeting and the feedback from the board members. Among the topics discussed, the applicant got a chance to provide an overview of the site’s connectivity, specifically as it relates to the connection between the proposed building and the park and surrounding U District neighborhood, as well as the integration of the building’s base and the tower’s cohesiveness.
Meghan Zack, principal and director of sustainability at Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture presented the vision of the project. She was followed by Marieke Lacasse, principal at Seattle-based GGLO, who spoke more specifically about the design of the park and landscape ideas for the development.
Chad Matesi, executive vice president of development at Core Spaces, was also on hand at the presentation, as were a few other members of the applicant team.
Because the project is one of the first of its scale to pursue entitlement in the University District, the design team studied precedents outside the neighborhood to propose a design that would work with the surrounding neighborhood context. The preferred option would include several different podium heights to break up the massing of the building and create a section of the building that would float above the first two floors. Deep recesses on all four façades would also help to break down the scale of the building. Exterior design elements for the building include vertically-oriented large glass windows, metal panels and layered screens in warm tones.
Yet, the board was not fully in favor of some of the design elements that the applicant team had selected. Specifically, the mid portion of the building, dubbed element B, rising above element A, which represented the base of the structure and separating it from element C, the upper portion of the building.
“We appreciate the advancements since [the first meeting,]” said James Marria, the board lead. “The board generally feels that the B element needs to be tweaked to downplay the dominance of it and play a more cohesive language between A and C.” The board offered that this could be achieved by simplifying proportions or tweaking materiality, with the main point on creating a better connection with the neighborhood as well as the rest of the structure.
The project site is in a diverse neighborhood with an even spread of retail, commercial, office and residential developments. The future light rail station is located just one block from the development, making the site easily accessible by public transportation. The site is also located two blocks from the University of Washington campus, and other amenities such as an AMC Theater, Trader Joe’s and Neptune Theater, are also located within walking distance of the site. In short, the development will be visible, and the board wanted to make sure that in this setting, the project would fit with the rest of its surrounding.
The owner of the projects, Core Spaces, is a real estate company focused on on acquiring, developing and managing real estate assets in educational markets across the country. It has two student housing products, Hub on Campus and State on Campus. The Hub product is higher end, carrying the latest amenities, while the State product is a slightly lesser amenitized product. Core had also developed Hub On Campus, located on “The Ave.” at 5000 University Way in Seattle. Completed in 2017, its 111 units range from studios to four bedrooms and amenities include a 24-hour fitness center, sun deck, rooftop lounge and outdoor kitchen, gaming and multimedia area. Conference rooms, public wifi and conference rooms are also included in the development, according to the development’s website.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the board gave the applicants a green light to advance the project to the final review meeting where they will have an opportunity to review the final material selections and the design before the applicant is allowed to move forward and apply for the Master Use Permit.