By Jack Stubbs
A 325-unit mixed-use project slated for Belltown will not yet proceed to the next stage of the city’s design review process. On Tuesday, May 15th, at a second Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting held for the project, the downtown review board agreed that it would need to see the project return for another EDG meeting, highlighting concerns with how the massing and scale of the project did not yet fit into the surrounding neighborhood context.
Bumgardner Architects presented updated project plans to the downtown review board on behalf of Seattle-based developer Security Properties. Landscape architect Mithun is also on the team for the project, which was originally reviewed at an initial EDG meeting held on March 6th.
The proposed development, named Belltown 36 and located at 314 Bell St., calls for the construction of a 30-story tower. Along with the 325 residential units, the project will also include approximately 7,000 square feet of street-level retail space and 250 parking stalls.
Beginning the applicant team’s presentation, Mark Simpson of Bumgardner discussed how the project would look to maximize the amount of HALA (Housing Affordability and Livability) funding for affordable housing and create housing suitable for families with children. Simpson also discussed how the proposed development would impact existing buildings in close proximity, including the 3-story Fleming Apartments and the Adams Apartments (both built in the 1920s), the 7-story Moda Apartments and the one-story Mary’s Place. The applicant also conducted extensive outreach to neighborhood residents and community groups about how to best activate the adjacent streetscape and incorporate affordable housing into the project.
Simpson discussed the main design changes that had been made to the project plans since the last EDG meeting, at which the board had expressed concerns with the massing and scale of the proposed development. In response to the board’s feedback, the applicant team worked on reducing the overall scale of the project and refined the street-level podium at the base of the building. The applicant also revised the location and orientation of the tower; added a children’s play area along Bell Street; and set the building further back from the Fleming and Adams Apartments.
Most of the board’s clarifying questions focused on how the applicant planned to program various design elements of the project, and how the development would relate to the surrounding neighborhood context. Board member Grace Leong asked for more information about the green street setback, and board member Belinda Bail asked the applicant to elaborate on how the different massing options would relate to the adjacent alleyway. The board also requested more detailed project plans about the proposed commercial space, and inquired whether the building’s podium would successfully relate to adjacent streetscape from a pedestrian perspective.
During the public comment period of the meeting, various community members and neighborhood residents voiced their opinions about the project, with several expressing approval of the applicant team’s current design proposal. Belltown residents and residents of the Adams and Moda Apartments expressed their approval of the overall design and the applicant’s preferred massing option. The audience members also emphasized the importance of activating open spaces around the development and highlighted the importance of encouraging a younger demographic in Belltown. Other comments expressed concerns with various elements of the current project proposal, emphasizing how the building did not adequately respect the adjacent Bell Street Park and highlighting issues about the design of the street-level podium.
Most of the board’s deliberation period centered around how the proposed development would conform with the surrounding neighborhood context. The board agreed that the applicant’s current plans for the podium would activate the adjacent streetscape, but also expressed some concerns with the massing, scale and location of the mixed-use tower. The board also recommended that the applicant work on emphasizing the transition between the building’s podium and the adjacent streetscape and further incorporate the green street setback into the project plans.