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Southwest Design Review Board Moves Forward a Proposal for a 100-Unit Assisted Living Facility in Seattle

Southwest Design Review Board, Aegis Living, Bellevue, Ankrom Moisan Architects, PACE Engineers, Hewitt, Seattle, Puget Sound, Living Building Pilot Program, Living Building Challenge, Alaska Junction, Morgan Junction, West Seattle Summer Fest

By Kate Snyder

A proposal for a new assisted living facility in Seattle took another step toward completion. During an Early Design Guidance meeting on Thursday, the Southwest Design Review Board voted to move the project forward to the master use permit phase. The project is a five-story, 100-unit assisted living facility with retail and would be part of the Living Building Pilot Program, according to project information.

The developer is Aegis Living, a senior assisted living and memory care company based in Bellevue. The designer behind the project is Ankrom Moisan Architects, the civil engineer is PACE Engineers and the landscape architect is Hewitt.

The Living Building Pilot Program is part of the City of Seattle’s climate strategies and is designed to help reshape the city’s building and transportation systems for a fossil-free future, project plans show. Under the program’s policy, it encourages the development of buildings that meet the Living Building Challenge by allowing departures from land use code requirements and providing height and floor area bonuses.

The proposed project would be located across several addresses – 5242, 5248, 5252 and 5258 California Ave SW. The site is south of Alaska Junction and north of Morgan Junction on a major arterial and frequently transmitted route, plans show. The site is walkable with a year-round Sunday farmer’s market a few blocks north of the site as well as the seasonal West Seattle Summer Fest. The neighborhood is rapidly evolving with new development and the construction of a light rail is anticipated in 2032.

“Each new building that we build is unique,” said Bryon Ziegler, director of development and entitlements at Aegis. “In each one, our attempt is to honor the neighborhood in which it goes and to provide an environment that is familiar to the residents that come from the neighborhood and is appropriate for the setting in which it is.”

Three massing options were presented to the board. Option 1 would total 139,760 square feet with 100 units in a mix of studios, one- and two-bedrooms as well as 42 parking stalls. Features for that option would be a corner pedestrian entry and a private interior resident courtyard. However, it would also cause an increase in dark space from having too many inside corners, a smaller interior resident courtyard and a main pedestrian entry that is not closely connected to the vehicle drop-off.

The second massing option is for a total of 127,345 square feet with 98 units and 40 parking stalls. That layout would provide a prominent facade along California Street as well as support a private, more secluded resident courtyard located along the alley. According to project plans, this option would mean that more units would face the quiet single family home zone to the east and fewer face west to the water. There would be no room, though, for a public pedestrian courtyard along California.

Massing Option 3 is the applicant’s preferred option and would total 126,518 square feet with 98 units and 42 parking stalls. With that option, a public courtyard could be constructed adjacent to California Street, the layout would optimize views of the Sound and the Olympics, the main pedestrian entry would be closely connected to the vehicle drop-off and the parking would be located underground. Option 3 would allow for a west-facing courtyard to introduce sunlight into the units and create interaction with public open space in the block, according to project plans.

“This massing option provides attraction at the street level with opportunities for pedestrians to engage,” the project plans show. “The terraced facade along the east face breaks down the massing of the building, creating a friendlier neighbor to the single family homes to the east. This option works well for both the building residents and the neighborhood pedestrians. Because of these reasons, it is the preferred option.”

Overall the board was pleased with the design and was in favor of the applicant’s preferred massing option. Design guidance for the applicant included a request for more details on the exterior elements of the structure and how it relates to the overall design, more exploration on how to make the courtyard entry more comfortable and appealing to visitors and seeing more details for the terraced facade on the facility’s east side. The board was also interested in more information regarding how functional the planned upper level courtyard would be.

“We’re looking forward to seeing more study and understanding of the architectural elements and finishes,” said board member Patrick Cobb.