By Meghan Hall
More than a year after Seattle’s Downtown Design Review Board gave its blessing at an Early Design Meeting to Vancouver-based developer Westbank and architect James K.M. Cheng to further their vision for a 48-story mixed-use high rise at 2000 3rd Ave., the applicant team returned to City Hall Tuesday night for another Design Review Meeting to present the development’s updated plans. The board liked the revised plans for the project despite a number of negative comments from the public and unanimously agreed to advance it to the next phase of review. The development will demolish the site’s current surface parking lot and bring 459 condominium units to Belltown, one of the most densely populated districts in Seattle.
The development site located at the corner of 3rd Ave. and Virginia St. comprises three parcels in the Belltown Urban Center Village. This neighborhood offers an eclectic mix of of historic and iconic buildings with real diversity of uses including cultural institutions, offices, stores, eating establishments, social services agencies and multi-family residences.
Belltown is located just north of Seattle’s Downtown commercial core and to the west of the Denny Triangle, while Pike Place market is just outside of the neighborhood to the south. Belltown is quickly evolving as more high-rises replace older structures that once served as industrial warehouses. The project site itself is close to numerous retailers and shops, such as Cenerama, Top Pot Doughnuts and the Westlake Shopping Center. RapidRide transit stop servicing Seattle’s C, D and E lines is located near the northwest corner of the site, and the Westlake Ave. and Olive Way trolley stop is a few minutes walk away.
Westbank’s project is looking to infuse a modern skyscraper into the mix that would also include three levels of residential amenity space totaling 14,519 square feet. Some of the amenities include a cantilevered swimming pool, roof terraces, a fitness center and general flex space. The residential floors would sit atop six levels of commercial office space, totaling 115,408 square feet and one level of commercial ground-floor retail space, totaling roughly 5,600 square feet. Eight levels of below grade parking for 372 vehicles are also planned in the structure.
The design presented in 2017 had received initial feedback from the Design Review Board, and the the updated plans took into account those comments and implemented a number of changes. The most striking feature of the tower’s original design, a 60-foot tall geodesic dome that sat on the top of the 500 foot tower, was removed. The feature was reminiscent of Amazon’s glass biosphere dome located in the South Lake Union neighborhood not far from the development. The purpose of the dome, according to the initial design documents, was to make the tower an easily distinguishable and prominent feature of Seattle’s growing skyline. However, updated plans replaced the dome with a rectilinear form to streamline the design and blend more cohesively with the rest of the tower’s design.
At the same time, the residential strategy in the building moved the project from an apartment complex to a condominium building, prompting the design team to create a separate residential entrance on Virginia Street. Also, additional retail entrances were added to the ground floor base in order to promote pedestrian interaction, and the office and residential entrances have been separated, among a number of other changes.
All the changes, however, did little to dissuade the public at the meeting from its belief that this development was not a fit for the neighborhood. Most of the comments from the public focused on the use of an alley that the project will access and the possible traffic congestion that would create. The development’s mass and bulk was also of concern for some.
The Design Review Board, however, spent most of its time deliberating the impact of light reflecting off the building and wondered if the design team adequately presented its impact in the renderings of the project. They also discussed materials, art and signage on the building, but overall, the board was pleased with the updates and felt encouraged about the retail activation of the building base. It voted unanimously to approve the project and advance it to the next stage of review and an application for a Master Use Permit.