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West Design Review Board Votes in Favor of Vibrant Cities’ 151-Unit Residential Proposal for Seattle

West Design Review Board, Vibrant Cities, Seattle, South Lake Union, Cascade, MZA Architecture, Bellevue, KLLA Landscape Architects

By Kate Snyder

Seattle’s South Lake Union could soon see more residential space with the proposal for a new 151-unit apartment building. During an early design guidance meeting on Wednesday, the West Design Review Board voted in favor of the project moving forward to the recommendation phase. 

The developer is Seattle-based Vibrant Cities, according to project plans. The designer is MZA Architecture, based in Bellevue, and the landscape architect is KLLA Landscape Architects Inc. out of Seattle.

Located at 222 Minor Ave. N, the site is part of the South Lake Union Urban Village. The immediate context of the area is largely residential. The square-shaped site consists of two existing parcels, with rough dimensions of 120 feet by 120 feet. West of the site is Minor Avenue, and the site is adjacent to an alley to the east. Properties to the north and south side are for residential use. Existing commercial buildings with surface parking currently occupy the site and will be demolished for the new development. Sidewalks on Minor Avenue and the alley would also be expanded to meet the city’s current standards.

The eight-story building is designed to create a variety of liveable residential units, foster a pedestrian-friendly environment and provide a well-built addition to the established Cascade neighborhood in South Lake Union, according to plans. The project includes

a central courtyard, a rooftop deck and amenity spaces for residents. 

Frank Lo, principal at MZA Architecture, presented details about the project’s location and the surrounding areas to the board during the recent meeting.

“Our project will be the last site on the block to transform into residential use,” Lo said. “The project is in the Cascade neighborhood in South Lake Union, a rapidly changing area. It’s in the shadow of luxury high-rise towers on Denny Way, and further south, a denser, urban downtown.” 

Three design massing options were proposed for the project. The first concept, known as the “Carved Block,” would consist of 148 units and would embody a symmetrical approach to both structure and construction. The design would allow an opportunity to provide penthouse units with patios flanking the eighth floor amenity space but would also create a massing that is more static and lacks responses to the surrounding context. The second concept, called “Elongated Courtyard,” includes the most units at 155 with more units at the upper levels. That design would combine amenity spaces into one single bigger space but that could also lead to less options for tenants as well as less available natural light.

The third massing option, called “Cascading,” was also the development team’s preferred concept. It would allow for 151 units and provide a smooth massing transition between the  buildings to the north and south as well as respond to the neighboring buildings from the pedestrian level all the way to the rooftop. However, it would also potentially be the most expensive of the three design options to build.

Among the aspects of the project that the board discussed were the landscaping, light access and transitions. The board suggested that the development team conduct studies on the building’s sensitivity to the property’s existing trees as well as light and shadow studies for the courtyard. A shadow and access study was also recommended for the alley adjacent to the building and the units around the alley. Overall, however, the board was supportive of the design, particularly the proposed entry point as well as the mid-block connection and the connections to the neighboring properties.