By Jack Stubbs
Located just below South Lake Union, Denny Triangle has been a hotbed of development activity in recent months. But a proposed 463-unit project will not yet proceed to the next stage of the city’s design review process. The downtown review board had a narrow vote, with three of five board members agreeing that the project would need to come back for another design review recommendation (DRR) meeting.
On Tuesday, April 3rd, the downtown review board decided that a 44-story project being developed by Vulcan Inc. was not yet ready to be given the green light to proceed at a DRR meeting, with unresolved issues relating to the building’s scale, massing and exterior programming.
At the meeting, applicant Ankrom Moisan presented updated project plans to the downtown review board on behalf of Vulcan. Landscape architect Site Workshop is also on the project team. The development was previously reviewed at an Early Design Guidance (EDG) meeting held in February 2017.
The 5th and Lenora project, located at 2025 5th Ave., calls for the construction of a 44-story tower that will include 463 residential units, 3,300 square feet of street-level commercial space and 315 below-ground parking stalls. According to the submitted project plans, the building also hopes to meet the Seattle 2030 District challenge and 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.
Kicking off the applicant team’s presentation, Gregory Wharton of Ankrom Moisan reviewed the primary design changes that the project team had made since the last EDG meeting. The applicant refined and reduced the overall scale of the building; altered the orientation of the tower; improved the transition between the building and the streetscape along 5th Ave.; and set the structure back from the sidewalk to provide more room for street-level retail space along Lenora St. Wharton especially emphasized how the project team had revised the design and materiality of the building’s exterior facade to mirror a visual “cascade” effect. Additionally, landscape architect Site Workshop added landscaping elements along the streetscape and incorporated various resident amenity areas.
The project is on the same three-block stretch as several other high-rises along 5th Ave. currently undergoing design review. Some of these include the Stanford Hotels-developed Altitude Hotel & Residents, a 50-story project that will include 229 residential units and 200 hotel rooms; a 44-story project being developed by Chainqui Development that will include 440 residential units; and another 41-story hotel/residential tower on 4th Ave. that is being developed by Las Vegas-based Molasky Group.
The project is also proximate to Amazon’s continually-expanding presence in Denny Triangle. The development is one block from the Amazon’s Spheres and one block from another 3.3 million square foot high-rise campus set to be occupied by the tech giant: the project will include span three city blocks and will include three 38-story towers.
Most of the board’s clarifying questions focused on how the applicant team planned to program the interior and exterior of the building. Board member Aron Argyle asked the applicant to elaborate on the current plans for massing and the design of the proposed amenity spaces, while board member Grace Leong requested more information about the design of the overhead weather protection features.
The board’s other comments focused on the exterior facade and materiality of the building at street-level and asked for clarification about the applicant’s plans for landscaping along Lenora St. Additionally, board member Anjali Grant expressed concern that the applicant team had not sufficiently addressed several issues relating to the building’s massing and facade that were highlighted by the board at the previous EDG meeting.
There were three public comments voiced during the meeting, all of which expressed concern with the current status of the proposed development in relation to the surrounding neighborhood. One neighborhood resident urged the applicant team work further on integrating the project into the block and neighborhood context to better serve both residents and community members.
Lee Loveland, CEO of DSA Development Services, urged the board to delay its decision on approving the project to proceed, highlighting issues with the current location, design and scale of the tower. A representative from Seattle-based Chainqui Development echoed this point, emphasizing that more coordination was needed between neighborhood community groups, project developers and the Design Review Board before the development could be approved.
During its deliberation period, the board mainly focused on the placement of the tower and how the the exterior facade and massing of the building would impact the overall design. Three of the board members agreed that they would need to see more detailed project plans about the location and orientation of the tower and proposed massing options. Board member Anjali Grant emphasized how the applicant team would need to work on the “cascade element” of the exterior facade and give more consideration to the pedestrian experience along the streetscape. The board also recommended that, moving forward, the applicant team continue to coordinate with other project developers also working on the block along 5th Ave. on the overall design of the building.