By Jack Stubbs
The applicant team for Vulcan’s 44-tower project in downtown Seattle will not yet proceed to the next stage of the city’s design review process and was recently asked to return for another design review recommendation meeting.
On Tuesday, July 10th, a 44-story, 463-unit development slated for Seattle’s ever-active Belltown neighborhood was denied approval at a second Design Review Recommendation (DRR) meeting. At the meeting, applicant Ankrom Moisan presented updated project plans to the downtown review board on behalf of Vulcan Inc. Landscape architect Site Workshop is also on the team for the project, which was last reviewed at a DRR meeting in early April 2018.
The 5th and Lenora project, located at 2025 5th Ave., calls for the construction of a 44-story tower that will also include 3,300 square feet of street-level commercial space, a rooftop area and 315 below-ground parking stalls. The building also hopes to meet the Seattle 2030 District Challenge, according to the project plans, an initiative that aims to reduce the environmental impacts of building construction and operations. Additionally, the applicant is targeting a 70 percent reduction in energy use (in relation to the national median baseline) and 50 percent less water consumption relative to the local average.
Beginning the applicant team’s presentation, Gregory Wharton of Ankrom Moisan discussed the primary changes that had been made to the project plans since the previous design review meeting, at which the board had expressed concerns with the overall scale, massing and exterior design of the tower.
In response to the board’s guidance, the applicant team refined the massing and orientation of the tower in relation to 5th Avenue and Lenora Street and worked on improving the modulation of the tower by adding different materials to the building’s exterior. Wharton articulated the pros and cons of the three current massing options—with the preferred option mirroring a “cascade concept”—and also discussed how the applicant had added overhead weather protection elements and artwork features on 5th Avenue to improve the pedestrian experience along the street.
Most of the board’s clarifying questions centered around the applicant’s updated plans for the programming and massing of the tower. Board member Aaron Luoma asked for more information about the differences between the three massing options, while board member Ed Palushock requested that the applicant elaborate on the proposed material choices. Board member Aaron Argyle asked the applicant to clarify the tower’s orientation in relation to 5th Avenue and how solar features would be integrated into the building’s rooftop.
There were several public comments expressed during the meeting. A land use attorney representing Chainqui Development’s 549,000 square foot project, which is located just down the street from Vulcan’s project and currently undergoing design review, spoke about the applicant’s proposal. He expressed concerns about the proximity of the two towers and requested that the board consider further setbacks for the tower from 5th Avenue. Representatives from two nearby condo projects—the Escala and the Hillcrest Condominiums—also voiced concerns about the relationship between the tower and the adjacent alleyway and potential issues around pedestrian safety.
During its deliberation period, the board talked at length about the applicant’s proposed massing options and the current relationship between the building and the adjacent streetscape, and agreed that more work to be done to improve the exterior programming of the structure.The board also voiced various concerns with the current design of the outdoor canopy and weather protection elements and agreed that the applicant would need to refine the overall massing and materiality of the project.