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Two-Building 213-Unit Development in Capitol Hill Approved at Second Early Design Guidance Meeting

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Seattle, Weber Thompson, Mill Creek Residential, Cal Anderson Park, Capitol Hill, Nagle Place, light rail station, Early Design Guidance
Rendering courtesy of Weber Thompson

By Jack Stubbs

There’s no shortage of activity occurring in Seattle’s busting Capitol Hill neighborhood, and a mixed-use development was recently advanced to the next stage of the design process.

On Wednesday, January 24th, a two-building 213-unit residential development in Capitol Hill was approved to proceed in the city’s design review process at a Second Early Design Guidance meeting.

At the meeting, architect Weber Thompson presented updated project plans on behalf of Mill Creek Residential, the developer of the project. The project was initially reviewed at an Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting held in November 2017. Although the development was given the green light to advance, the board expressed concerns about the development’s massing and programming of commercial and retail space, elements that the project team will need to further refine after it submits a Master Use Permit to the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection.

The development consists of two buildings sitting on two sites that are adjacent to Cal Anderson Park and proximate to the Capitol Hill light rail station. The first building, located at 1812 Broadway, is a 7-story structure that will contain 130 units and 18,000 square feet of commercial space, as well as 114 parking stalls. The second building, located at 1818 Broadway, is an 83-unit building that will contain 5,500 square feet of commercial space and 23 parking stalls. The buildings will also include amenity areas and lobby spaces and an exterior courtyard area. One of the prominent features of the development is a “gateway” element that will connect it to Cal Anderson Park.

Although the proposed development will occur on two separate parcels, the buildings will be designed to create one cohesive resident community with shared management and shared resident amenities and outdoor space, according to the project plans.

Kicking off its presentation, the applicant team discussed the changes it had made to the project plans since the last EDG meeting. The applicant worked on reducing the development’s massing and scale by refining the exterior facades and also developed the proposed courtyard area to better activate the adjacent streetscape. The applicant also added live-work units, a residential lobby and commercial/retail space to further enhance the development’s character along Nagle Place for pedestrians. Additionally, the project team refined its plans for landscaping and open spaces along Howell St. to help the development further conform with the adjacent Cal Anderson Park and character of Capitol Hill.

All of the board’s clarifying questions focused on the relationship between the development and the surrounding Capitol Hill neighborhood, with the board members agreeing unanimously that the applicant team would need to work further on relating the development to the adjacent streetscapes, Cal Anderson Park, and the neighborhood context.

Specifically, board member Melissa Alexander asked the applicant team to clarify the development’s architectural concept. Echoing this point, board member Barbara Busetti asked the applicant team to elaborate on how it planned to create a development that reflected the character of Cal Anderson Park, also expressing her concern that the project’s exterior materiality and facades might not adequately fit the neighborhood concept of Capitol Hill.

Additionally, board member Andrew Haas queried whether the applicant’s updated project plans had successively responded to the board’s and public’s comments since the last EDG meeting about how to successfully integrate commercial and retail space along Nagle Place, a prominent pedestrian thoroughfare.

Public comment during the meeting also focused on how the development would conform with the Capitol Hill neighborhood. One speaker, a member of the Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood council, voiced his general approval of the project, also urging the applicant to work further on the building’s exterior appearance to successfully activate the commercial space in the development. Tom Heuser, president of the Capitol Hill Historical Society, urged the applicant to use high-quality materials and work on programming the retail spaces along Broadway Street. Other written comments highlighted concerns with pedestrian and vehicular access to the site.

During its deliberation period, the board ultimately decided to approve the project, but also emphasized several central guidelines that the applicant would have to successfully refine in the project plans moving forward. Regarding the massing of the development, the board highlighted a discrepancy between the proposed project concept and current plans, adding that the applicant team will need to further enhance the relationship between the buildings and the adjacent Cal Anderson Park.

Additionally, the board expressed that the applicant team would need to further clarify the distinction between the residential, commercial and retail elements of the development to successfully activate Nagle Place and provide more information about the live-work units and proposed “gateway element” in the development. The board expressed its support of the general landscaping plans, also adding that the applicant team should continue to take cues from Cal Anderson Park while refining the design of the project.