By Jack Stubbs
On Tuesday, May 15th, a 307-unit multifamily tower developed by Skanska and located in Belltown was denied approval at an initial Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting. At the meeting, VIA Architecture presented preliminary project plans to the board on behalf of Skanska. Grzywinski+Pons and GGLO are also on the team for the project.
The project was asked to return for a second EDG meeting after the board expressed concerns with the massing and scale of the building and how the development’s podium related to the adjacent streetscape.
Skanska, who shared preliminary details about the development on May 8th, began planning for the proposed project last fall: on October 25th, the company purchased the three-parcel, 19,440 square foot property in Belltown—located at 2208, 2212 and 2218 4th Ave.—for $21.6 million, or approximately $1,111 per square foot, according to public records filed with King County.
The 30-story development, located at 2208 4th Ave. in the heart of Belltown, will include 7,000 square feet of ground-level retail space and 154 below-grade parking stalls. Beginning the applicant team’s presentation, Brian O’Reilly of VIA Architecture presented the overarching objectives for the project: the applicant hopes to create a building with a massing and scale that respects the surrounding character of Belltown and successfully relates to the adjacent streetscape.
Throughout the initial design process, the project team conducted extensive community outreach—with neighborhoods residents and groups like the Belltown Business Association, Belltown Community Council and Project Belltown—to solicit feedback about the development. Some of the other goals of the project include respecting adjacent buildings in the neighborhood; connecting with the nearby Bell Street Park; and successfully activating 4th Avenue through open spaces and street-level retail amenities. O’Reilly also walked the board through the applicant team’s three proposed massing options and explained how the building’s podium would relate to the adjacent streetscape.
The proposed development is within a few blocks of several other in-the-works projects. Some of these include Team Rise International’s 285-unit mixed-use tower, which was approved at a design review recommendation (DRR) meeting in April 17th; Security Properties’ 325-unit development located at 314 Bell St. (which was denied approval at an EDG meeting on May 15th); and Molasky Group of Companies’ project located at 2121 5th Ave., which will include 119 residential units and 207 hotel rooms.
Most of the board’s clarifying questions requested more information about how the development would conform with the surrounding neighborhood context and the streetscape along 4th Ave. Board member Aron Argyle requested for more detailed plans about how the applicant planned to successfully activate the adjacent streetscape, also asking how the street-level commercial space would be programmed. The board also asked the applicant to elaborate on how the building would impact the pedestrian experience along the streetscape, and asked what exterior design cues the project team had taken from surrounding developments in the neighborhood.
There were several public comments expressed during the meeting, most of which expressed support for the project. One neighborhood resident voiced her approval of the applicant team’s efforts to incorporate family-friendly features into the project, such as the community amenity area and open spaces and the family-sized units. Other comments expressed approval of how the project had successfully activated the adjacent streetscape and incorporated the lobby and retail space at street-level. Two other audience members expressed concerns with the current design of the building’s podium and massing, and urged the applicant team to pay special attention to how the project would impact future development in the neighborhood.
During its deliberation period, the board focused on how the project’s design would relate to the adjacent streetscape along 4th Ave. The board agreed that it would need more information about the articulation of the podium and suggested that the applicant coordinate with SDOT on the design of the adjacent alleyway. Additionally, the board expressed its approval of the applicant’s inclusion of the three-bedroom units and recommended that the project team work on refining the overall massing of the tower.