By Jack Stubbs
At the third time of asking, a large-scale mixed-use tower planned for downtown Seattle has finally been approved at the initial stage of the city’s design review process.
On Tuesday, August 28th, a 320-unit apartment tower developed by Skanska and slated for Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood was given the green light at a third Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting. At the meeting, applicant VIA Architecture presented updated project plans to the downtown review board on behalf of Skanska. Grzywinski+Pons and GGLO are also on the team for the project.
The recent EDG meeting marked the latest chapter for the project. Skanska began planning for the proposed development in Fall of 2017. In late October 2017, the company purchased the two-parcel, 19,440 square foot property in Belltown—located at 2208 and 2218 4th Ave.—for $21.6 million, or approximately $1,111 per square foot, according to public records filed with King County. The development was most recently reviewed at an EDG meeting in mid-June 2018.
Located at 2208 4th Ave., the 30-story tower will include 7,000 square feet of ground-level retail space, resident amenity areas and 154 below-grade parking stalls. Beginning the applicant team’s presentation, VIA Architecture discussed the neighborhood context around the site and the primary design changes that the applicant had made to the project since the last EDG meeting, at which the board had expressed concerns with how the tower’s massing, streetscape activation and exterior facades would first into the neighborhood character of Belltown.
In response to the board’s feedback, the applicant team worked on improving and refining the overall massing of the tower to better integrate the building podium along 4th Avenue; refined the exterior materiality of the tower and worked on improving the street-level landscaping elements around the amenity areas to enhance the pedestrian experience. More generally, the project team also looked to improve the relationship between the tower’s podium and the surrounding neighborhood and Bell Street Park.
Most of the board’s clarifying questions focused on how the applicant planned to program various elements of the tower. The board asked for more detailed information about the applicant’s plans for the podium-level facade treatment and also asked the applicant to elaborate on its plans for street-level landscaping. The board also requested more information about the new materials that the applicant would look to integrate into the tower’s exterior.
There were several public comments expressed during the meeting, all of which expressed overall approval of the project team’s current plans. One neighborhood resident voiced support of the proposed tower and the applicant’s preferred massing option, while another neighborhood resident emphasized the importance of street-level activation with the tower. A representative from the neighborhood group Belltown Community Council emphasized support of the developer’s extensive community outreach efforts, and Tom Graff of the Belltown Business Association voiced his support of the project. Other community members emphasized their approval of the variety of unit-types in the mixed-use tower.
During the deliberation period of the meeting, the board’s discussion focused on the massing of the tower and how the podium would relate to the rest of the project. The board agreed that the applicant’s current project plans had advanced substantially since the previous EDG meeting, and also agreed that the project would need to work on further refining the exterior materiality of the building’s exterior facades.