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Simon Properties Secures Design Approval for 986 Residential Units as Part of Seattle’s Northgate Mall Overhaul

Northgate Mall, Seattle, Simon Property Group, GGLO, Northeast Design Review Board, Civil Engineer kpff
Image Credit: GGLO

By Meghan Hall

The revitalization of Seattle’s Northgate Mall is slowly making progress, as the phased development requires four separate master use permits (MUPs) and several separate rounds of reviews before developer Simon Property Group can break ground. The Northgate Mall redevelopment team — also comprised of urban planning and architecture firm GGLO and Civil Engineer kpff — took another step forward at the end of 2018, securing design approval from the Northeast Design Review Board to apply for its second MUP for four mixed-use buildings along 5th Ave. NE. The approval comes about a month after the Board granted the team to apply for its first MUP, one that covers the construction of an ice hockey center, offices and hotels in what will be a new home for a new NHL Seattle team.

The four buildings covered in December’s design review meeting include 986 residential units, 46 live-work units and 59,725 square feet of retail space. Parking for 1,346 vehicles is also proposed for the project. The Board evaluated the massing of each of the four buildings separately.

The first building, called M1, will total 473,867 square feet and includes 33,796 square feet of retail space along with 245 residences and 16 live-work units. The second building, M2, is the largest of the group, totaling 491,000 square feet and will contain 255 apartments and 7 live-work spaces, along with 18,000 square feet of retail. M3 is the smallest of the proposed buildings reviewed, coming in at a total of 201,000 square feet, 191 apartments, 9 live-work units and 7,929 square feet of retail. At 356,185 square feet, M4 will contain the largest number of residential units, with 295 apartments and 14 live-work spaces. However, M4 contains no retail space.

During the meeting, the development team gave a general overview of the principles guiding the massing of the four buildings. All buildings have a south-facing, semi private courtyard to increase light exposure and pedestrian activity throughout the development. GGLO and Simon have also oriented all of the live-work units along 5th Ave. NE, and where applicable, retail space along 4th Ave. NE.

The massing of the buildings intends to maximize the pedestrian experience by focusing the retail, live-work and amenity spaces along 5th Ave. NE, 106th St. NE and an adjacent park. The massing is also determined by a south-facing courtyard that will maximize solar exposure and act as an urban eddy, drawing pedestrian activity from 5th Ave. and connecting it to the park to respond to the NHL facilities across 4th Ave NE. Amenity spaces, such as the neighborhood common room in M4, are also typically placed along 4th or 5th Ave. to better draw the community in and create a more robust pedestrian experience. Parking for each building, with the exception of M3, is located at the center of each structure.  

Overall, the Board was generally very supportive of the proposed building massings and site configuration. They appreciated the south-facing courtyards and arrangement of residential and commercial uses. However, they did express concern about the lack of variety and the linear nature of the four buildings, suggesting that the development team break down the massing — using techniques such as gaskets and shifts — to make the neighborhood more pedestrian friendly. Echoing public comment, the Board also questioned the viability of the live-work units along 5th Ave. NE., stating that they would support units designed to act as true commercial spaces along the street.

At the end of the meeting, the Board voted 4-1 in favor of moving forward with an MUP application. Simon, GGLO and kpff will continue to consult with the City and Seattle community on the design of the buildings over the coming months as this phase of the project continues through the approvals process. Once complete, the entire development will include over 1.3 million square feet of mixed-use office, retail and parking, two hotels totaling 372 rooms, a central park and a 262,000 square foot ice center. The progress made during December’s design meeting was just one small step in a decades-long endeavor by multiple property owners to renovate, expand and revitalize one of the United States’ first modern shopping centers.