Two projects that provide insights into the state of development in their respective neighborhoods take steps in the Seattle Design Review process this week — one a 300-foot-tower at the base of First Hill, the other a 4-story multifamily project just off 15th Ave E.
The project surrounding the new 300-foot apartment tower planned to rise above lower First Hill and Freeway Park might be the rare example of a developer responding to the community and taking a voluntary step back to square one in the city’s design process. With plans approved five years ago before the development was mothballed during the economic downturn of the late 2000s, developer Laconia revived its 802 Seneca project last year. In the meantime, height limits had risen and the development economy had irrevocably shifted. Instead of moving forward with the design framework approved years ago, Laconia’s Paul Menzies came back to Seattle with a significantly different project that still fit within the approved use of the First Hill land acquired for $4 million in 2005. Other similar projects in the area have barreled forward. But this First Hill tower project worked out differently.
Project: 802 Seneca St map
“As a developer, you really want to get it approved. And you want to build it. And sometimes you get contrary ideas. The fact of the matter is you always get a better project,” Menzies told CHS of the decision to start back with an Early Design Guidance session for the rejiggered Seneca project.
That first meeting was held in early January and, by account of the notes from the session posted by DPD, the community dialogue was productive in shaping what will be a significant new structure on the First Hill skyline. The plan presented in January did away with the two-structure concept — instead there is one chunky 300-foot tower. The plan for condos is long gone. The name of the project is the Seneca Apartment Community.
The plan calls for more than 300 residential units and 3,700 square feet of retail. 285 parking spots are planned – and some of you will be glad to note that feedback from the January 4 EDG included comment that the project had too much parking for First Hill. The project could also help to increase connections to Freeway Park with a planned sculpture garden connecting the private and the public land. Kwan Henmi is the project’s architect.
For Menzies, who has been developing up and down the West Coast for decades, he’s looking forward to hearing more feedback on the effort to make the tower look more residential and less like an office building.
“It’s a good process,” Menzies said of the Seattle way of design. “It’s a process very much based on consensus. But not everybody can be satisfied, of course.”
At the current rate of progress, construction could begin this summer.
A mile and change away and some 250 feet shorter, a new project at 14th and Republican takes its first steps with the Capitol Hill Design Review Board this week. It, too, could face some sharp community pushback as new projects creep off of Capitol Hill's main arteries and into some of the area's quieter streets. Developer John Schack says the time has come to put the land currently home to a 1943 triplex to more appropriate use:
Actually, if you look at the intersection of 14th and Republican, our site is currently the only corner that doesn't have an apartment building on it. That being said, we understand the concern of the community. Our goal is to capture the intent of the newly revised Lowrise code by organizing our building around a series of ground floor courtyard spaces that will emphasize community, promote ad-hoc interactions/activity, and provide units with maximum access to light and air. This is one of the backbones of our concept: to cultivate a symbiotic relationship between interior and exterior spaces by drawing out the benefits of each to provide a design that is greater than the sum of its parts. Each living room and unit entry will be oriented toward the central courtyard to promote both a sense of community and security; "eyes on the street" if you will (thanks Jane Jacobs). The added benefit of eliminating the double loaded corridor is that each unit will have the opportunity for cross ventilation; a rare feature for new apartment product. Also, by organizing the building around these open spaces, the building has a natural modulation that is reactive to usable outdoor space rather than implemented for the sake of forced variety.
The development is the first project of Schack and partner Dugan Earl's new firm Revolve. Schack's architecture firm schack A+D is handling the design.
Project: 1406 E Republican St map
Plans call for demolition of the triplex and construction of a four-story, 36-unit residential building with parking for 22 vehicles in a partially below grade lot. The land was acquired in November 2011 for $1.4 million.
And, no, sadly, those aren't slides on the roof in the massing diagrams. Schack says they're stairways. You can lobby him for the slide idea at Wednesday night's meeting.