Home AEC Onelin Investment’s Two-Tower Project in South Lake Union Unanimously Approved at Early...

Onelin Investment’s Two-Tower Project in South Lake Union Unanimously Approved at Early Design Guidance Meeting

Seattle, Gensler, Onelin Investment Inc., Berger Partnership, South Lake Union, Boren Ave, Early Design Guidance Meeting
Rendering courtesy of Gensler

By Jack Stubbs

There’s no shortage of activity occurring in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, and another development was recently given the green light to proceed to the next stage of the city’s design review process.

On Tuesday, March 6th, a development located in South Lake Union—which will include between 400 and 500 residential units and between 250 and 280 hotel rooms—was approved at a Design Review Recommendation meeting. At the meeting, architect Gensler presented preliminary project plans to the downtown Review Board on behalf of Onelin Investment Inc., who is developing the project. Berger Partnership is the landscape architect for the mixed-use development.

The proposed undertaking, located at 1916 Boren Ave. in the Denny Triangle area of South Lake Union, calls for the construction of a two-tower project that will include a 44-story residential high-rise tower and a 16-story adjoining hotel tower. There will also be amenity areas and below-grade parking serving both towers. In addition to the lobby and reception space for the residential and hotel functions, the project will also include approximately 6,200 square feet of retail and restaurant use at ground-level, according to the project plans.

The project sits at the corner of two major arterials in Denny Triangle, Stewart St. and Boren Avenue, which connects First Hill with South Lake Union. There are several other existing and under construction residential developments in close proximity to the new project, some of which include the 31-story Kinects Tower, the 40-story Nexus development, and the 39-floor Crescent Heights residential tower, which is currently undergoing design review.

Beginning the presentation, Chad Yoshinohu, principal and co-founder of Gensler’s Seattle office, articulated the applicant’s priority design guidelines for the project. The applicant hopes that the building’s massing and scale will conform with the historical context of the Denny Regrade Area and that the project’s design will take cues from surrounding residential towers in the neighborhood.

Additionally, Yoshinobu articulated how the project plans hope to enhance the skyline and successfully activate the adjacent streetscape along Boren Ave. with landscaping elements. Yoshinobu also emphasized how the project team had worked extensively on the massing of the building to create a successful transition between the two-tower project and the adjacent streetscape. Additionally, one of the central elements of the project plans is an alleyway that will serve as the main pedestrian drop-off and access point for the development.

Most of the board’s clarifying questions focused on how the proposed development would conform with the surrounding neighborhood context. Board member JP Emery asked the applicant to clarify its plans for the massing of the two-tower project, requesting more detailed information about how the development would relate to the street. Board member Belinda Bail echoed these inquiries, asking for more elaboration on how the building’s exterior facades would be designed, also highlighting the importance of successfully integrating the proposed alleyway with the development. Finally, board member Aron Argyle asked about how the landscaping elements and the proposed retail and restaurant space would successfully activate the adjacent streetscape from the pedestrian perspective.

There were several public comments expressed during the meeting. One audience member voiced his support of the development and the building’s massing. Another audience member emphasized his approval of the project, noting that the developer had conducted extensive community outreach with the surrounding neighborhood in the design process. He also expressed concerns with the location of the residential lobby, also emphasizing his desire to see the applicant continue to coordinate with the city on the design of the alleyway moving forward.

The board ultimately decided to advance the project, also highlighting several design elements for the applicant team to consider before the next phase of the design review process.

During its deliberation period, most of the board’s discussion focused on the overall massing and scale of the project. The board agreed that that applicant team would need to provide more detailed project plans about the development’s exterior facades, particularly about how the two-tower project would relate to other residential developments in the neighborhood. Additionally, the board recommended that the applicant coordinate with SDOT regarding pedestrian and vehicular access to the site and work on refining the exterior design of the building.