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St. Luke’s Episcopal Church & Project Team Present Plans for 292-Unit Mission-Based Development in Seattle’s Ballard Neighborhood

St. Luke’s, Ballard, VIA Architecture, Security Properties, BRIDGE Housing, Seattle
Courtesy of VIA Architecture

By Meghan Hall

As Seattle’s development landscape has changed, numerous faith-based organizations have begun to reevaluate the potential of their long-held real estate assets, pitching projects that result in expanded facilities and often, new housing. In another such project to come to the table, St. Luke’s Episocal Church in Ballard has embarked on a plan to redevelop its property into 292 new residential units, plus new space for the Church. The project is part of an effort to bring mission-based and affordable housing to Ballard. 

The project team presented its plans to the wider Seattle community for the first time at an Early Design Guidance meeting on Monday night, and was met with widespread support from both the Northwest Design Review Board and community.

“We’ve been part of Ballard for over 130 years and on our current land since 1924. For the past 10 years our congregation has been working on a plan to care for the land that we tend in order to create the greatest good for our community,” said Britt Olson, a priest at St. Luke’s. “…Ours is a long-term vision to form a beloved community which is welcoming and diverse.”

The project will be built on two parcels and span two buildings. The market rate building, which will include 206 units, as well as 42 MFTE units, will also house St. Luke’s new church and operate as an income stream from the market-rate apartments above. A second building, which will include 86 units of affordable housing, will specifically seek to serve families making between 30 percent to 50 percent area median income. The units will be permanently affordable, as well. The project’s new church will total around 15,000 square feet, according to project documents.

Security Properties has been selected to build the market-rate portion of the project, while BRIDGE Housing will tackle the affordable building. VIA Architecture will design both buildings, and the same construction team will be used throughout the project in order to share resources for the benefit of all.

St. Luke’s has leased the land beneath its current building for the next 100 years in order to facilitate the development. The project team has also received $9.7 million in funding from the Seattle Department of Housing in an effort to fund the affordable components of the project.

“The project we’re proposing is a really important addition to the civic core of Ballard,” said Brian O’Reilly, principal at VIA. “It solidifies St. Luke’s presence here and brings the ibarncy of new housing, including much-needed family-focused affordable housing, which is the first of its kind in Ballard in 40 years.”

The project team presented several different schemes for the project, but the meeting revolved mostly around the development team’s preferred option. The preferred option creates a sequence of open spaces, including a south facing courtyard and significant setbacks, and provides a significant buffer between the street, sidewalk and pedestrian-related uses. The preferred option was also scaled so that it provided an improved transition to lower-scale development and an adjacent park across the street.

“Looking at this option in context, we see how the street-facing courtyard and two-story recesses of the affordable building creates a much more generous and welcoming streetscape,” said O’Reilly. “This courtyard becomes one in a sequence of spaces…establishing the side rooms and eddies that design guidelines specifically call for as well as building a network of open spaces that springs from the commons.”

The project’s two-story expression of the church responds to surrounding development and differentiates between more active, public-facing uses and the residential units above. Within the massing, the church will remain taller, while residential uses are shorter. The massing also establishes a more human scale at street level.

Additional modulation in the form of clerestories, balconies, bays and window patterns further break down the scale of the two buildings. 

Overall, the Review Board was impressed with the project. The Board specifically commended the project team on the development’s connection to light and open space. It did ask a number of questions; however, many of them were smaller details that could be modified in the coming months. The Board debated the significance of the property’s numerous significant trees, concluding that the best design necessitated the removal of a few, but not all, trees. The Board also asked the development team to consider making the residential entrance off of 22nd Street more profound, given its proximity to and visibility from the park.

The Board also really appreciated the proposed fenestration. They did note, however, that the project team does not need to duplicate the patterns found in other buildings, but can create their own as it relates to the neighborhood. The Board also recommended the use of muted materials and vibrant landscaping moving forward. Pleased with the scope of the design, the Board voted unanimously to move the designs forward, allowing the project team to move forward with the entitlements process.