By Jack Stubbs
Always a hotbed of development activity, Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood has another project on the way.
On Wednesday, March 28th, a 200,000 square foot high-tech office building—which is being developed by Unico Properties—in South Lake Union was unanimously approved at a second Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting.
The board gave the applicant team the green light to proceed to the next stage of the city’s design review process, also asking for more detailed project plans about street-level uses and the building’s impact on the streetscape.
At the meeting, architect Perkins+Will, the applicant for the project, presented updated plans to the west design review board on behalf of Unico Properties. The project was previously reviewed at an initial EDG meeting held on January 17th, 2018.
The development, located at 330 Yale Avenue N., calls for a 9-story, 200,000 square foot high-tech office building with ground-floor retail and 56 below-grade parking stalls. The project is located at the northeastern edge of South Lake Union, at the intersection of several prominent neighborhoods in the downtown urban core including Uptown, Belltown, Denny Triangle and Capitol Hill.
Kicking off the presentation, associate principal Andy Clinch of Perkins+Will discussed the primary design changes that the applicant had made to the project plans since the last EDG meeting. The west design review board had articulated concerns about how the building’s massing and scale was too imposing in relation to surrounding buildings—in particular the Saint Spiridon Cathedral, which is adjacent to the development—and how the pedestrian experience around the project would need to be improved. Additionally, the board had discussed how the applicant team needed to work on vehicular access and circulation throughout the site and refine the building’s exterior materiality.
In response to the board’s feedback, the applicant team reduced and refined the height, bulk and scale of the development, especially in relation to the Saint Spiridon Orthodox Cathedral on Yale Ave. The applicant team also made the design of the building more appropriate for the site’s natural topography and worked on encouraging pedestrian activity through retail uses on Yale Ave and Eastlake Ave. Additionally, the applicant team added various amenities and landscaping elements—including a “green wall” along the street—and changed the location of the proposed cafe and the design of the lobby area to enhance the pedestrian experience.
Most of the board’s clarifying questions focused on how the applicant team had programmed the exterior design of the building. Board member Homero Nishiwaki asked the applicant to elaborate on the design and location of the green wall, also asking to clarify specifically how it had worked on breaking down the building’s massing. Board member Patreese Martin asked how the location of the building entrances and cafe would impact the adjacent streetscape. The board also requested more information about how building’s facade would impact the overall design.
There was one public comment voiced during the meeting by a representative from the Saint Spiridon Cathedral. He expressed his overall approval of the project, noting, “Generally, I’m happy with some of the improvements I’ve seen since the prior design. As a church, we’re happy about the urbanization of the community.” He also asked the applicant team to pay particular attention to issues around shade impacts and concerns with parking.
During its deliberation period, the board expressed its satisfaction with the building’s massing and the proposed landscaping elements and ultimately approved the project to proceed.
The board was generally supportive of the project’s exterior materiality, and also recommended that the applicant team continue to consider the relationship between the development and the proximate Saint Spiridon Church. Additionally, the board recommended that the applicant team work on refining the design of the green wall and asked for additional studies about how the design of the streetscape, entrances and materiality would impact the pedestrian experience.