A plan to revamp the Photographic Center Northwest and add more housing to Seattle is moving forward. On Thursday evening, the Central Area Design Review Board met with Vibrant Cities to discuss the developer’s updated plans for the 170-unit planned project, ultimately moving it forward to a Master Use Permit.
The project is designed by Link Design Studio Inc. and would be situated at 900 12th Ave., fronting 12th Avenue, E. Marion Street and 13th Avenue and adjacent to Seattle University. The proposal for the project includes the construction of a seven-story mixed-use institutional and residential building.
The current site is occupied by the two-story Photographic Center Northwest as well as a surface parking lot. The longtime institution has been in the neighborhood since the 1990s, according to the proposal, and would be demolished for the project to take place. The new building would include a brand new space for the school on the ground floor along with retail and residential lobby spaces for the apartment units above.
“The overarching goals of the project include creating a new home and identity for the photography school, while enhancing an existing community help that supports the arts and at the same time, adding additional housing options to the neighborhood in a thoughtful way that increases the overall density and vibrancy of the district,” Han Beh, principal at Link Design Studio Inc., said.
The design team first met with the Central Area Design Review Board in September for an early design guidance meeting. At the time, the project proposal included plans for a 171-unit development in a design scheme referred to as “The Aperture,” which offered a setback to a portion of the upper level to reduce the overall bulk of the building and create a stepped building mass. However, the board ultimately did not approve of the preferred scheme and asked it to return.
In December, the team returned for a second early design guidance meeting, at which point a new massing scheme called “The Convergence” was approved. The new scheme further refined the design by gradually transitioning the massing from the west to the east. The north facade against the residential transition zone was also further articulated with bay window ins and outs, according to the design proposal.
At the street level, the design has also been further enhanced to incorporate more pedestrian friendly spaces, such as bike parking and landscaping. A proposed ground level cafe would also include an operable wall system that opens up during good weather.
In addition to the open public spaces, the design also incorporates private open spaces for tenants. Both private and shared residential amenity spaces utilize a mix of screens and landscaping to offer added privacy.
A mix of colors and materials are also incorporated throughout the design, including fiber cement board, wood-like paneling, black window panes, white metal, dark bronze, exposed concrete and more. An art wall is also proposed near the entry of the PCNW.
Overall, the board approved the project in a unanimous vote. While generally supportive of the design, the board also offered several suggestions, such as a study to explore more material options that relate more closely to surrounding buildings. The design team was also asked to further explore the building’s art program in relation to the area’s history.