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Vulcan’s 11-Story Commercial Development in Seattle’s South Lake Union Unanimously Approved at EDG Meeting

Vulcan Real Estate, Perkins+Will, Hewitt, Seattle, South Lake Union
Image courtesy of Perkins+Will

By Jack Stubbs

Local developer Vulcan Real Estate’s portfolio includes a significant number of properties in the ever-active South Lake Union neighborhood. Earlier this week, the firm received some positive news regarding another project moving through the City’s design review process. 

On June 15, the Design Review Board unanimously approved an 11-story commercial development to advance to the next stage of the city’s review process. Located at 530 Dexter Avenue N., the proposed development totals just over 374,000 square feet – which will ultimately become a Research Lab for the University of Washington – and includes 219 parking stalls and 152 bike stalls across four levels.

The development – for which Perkins+Will is the architect and Hewitt is the landscape architect – is directly north of the existing Phases 3.1 and Phase 3.2 buildings, according to the submitted design proposal. Phase 3.2, a 180,000 square-foot, eight-story office/biotech building completed in 2018 and located at 750 Republican Street, is one of six buildings housing the University of Washington School of Medicine at South Lake Union.

Kicking off the applicant team’s presentation, Principal and Design Director at Perkins + Will Erik Mott described the different massing options and the community and neighborhood context around the site. 

After conducting a site analysis, some of the primary considerations were the massing and scale of the building, how it would relate to the adjacent streetscape, how open spaces would be incorporated into the design plans, and how pedestrian and bike access to the development might be impacted. 

The site – which is situated between a city-recognized Gateway intersection of Mercer Street and Dexter Avenue and a designated green street on 8th Avenue – played a significant role in the proposed massing options given its unique location. 

“Keeping the building use and unique site characteristics in mind, this project aims to respond and embody each of these unique site relationships, while completing the block development. In the greatest sense and scale, the project will be highly visible by its users, visitors, and neighbors using all means of transportation,” the proposal states.

The applicant’s preferred massing option, which was ultimately approved by the board, enhances the connection between the courtyard and the building, creates an effective gateway expression at both Dexter and 8th, and makes the proposed building most compatible with the existing buildings on the block.

The board’s feedback to the applicant team’s presentation included various design-related issues such as the “gateway corner” at 8th and Dexter, greater consideration of the pedestrian experience and how to better provide access for cyclists. During its deliberation period, the board also requested that the applicant give more focus to the design and exterior facades of the building to ensure that it fits into the neighborhood context, particularly at the ground level. 

With the board having advanced the project to the next stage of design review, the applicant will now submit an application for a Master Use Permit. 

Vulcan has a number of other completed and in-the-works projects to keep an eye on. Lake Union Piers, for example, is a 60,000 square-foot retail project that is expected to be completed in 2022 or 2023. 

111 Westlake, for which the expected completion date has not yet been determined, is a mixed-use full-block development between downtown and South Lake Union comprising 18 stories of commercial space and 40 stories of residential apartments with retail at the ground level. 520 Westlake, which was completed in fourth quarter 2021, is a 12-story high-rise building totaling approximately 372,000 square feet of new office and retail space at the intersection of Mercer and Westlake.