The last time this Capitol Hill developer and the architects from Studio Meng Strazzara hooked up, they created an eight-story project designed to set the standard for Pike/Pine preservation and redevelopment. On 15th Ave E, Hunters Capital won’t leave any motor car history to work with as it prepares to demolish the Hilltop Service Station and continue the work to slowly repair the soils beneath from decades of contamination — but the proposed design for its coming 523 Hilltop building is inspired by Capitol Hill’s auto row past.
The Hunters Capital project takes its first pass by the East Design Review Board Wednesday night.
The planned five-story, 68 or so unit, market-rate apartment building will feature a generous 5,000 square feet of 15th Ave E fronting retail space, and, because automobiles aren’t completely something of Capitol Hill’s past, underground parking for around 24 vehicles accessed via Mercer.
The new building will create “a positive and safe pedestrian experience is the design goal of the streetscape and retail areas,” the developers write. “Residents above will serve as an extra layer of ‘lights on’ security to the pedestrians on 15th Ave E.”
“Residents will also have easy access to all the amenities 15th Ave E. and Capitol Hill has to offer,” they conclude.
In January, CHS broke the news that the Capitol Hill-based developer had won the rush to acquire the property with plans to add to its major holdings in the neighborhood.
In spring of 2017, CHS reported on Hunters Capital’s $11.25 million acquisition of the block of 15th Ave E retail including the neighborhood’s QFC and large parking lot. “While redevelopment of this building is possible, current leases in place make it unlikely to happen in the near future,” a Hunters representative said at the time.
No preliminary site plans have been filed for the QFC block.
But the 15th Ave E at E Mercer project is putting the pedal to the metal. The developers say they hope to “create a new building that is designed with the history of 15th Ave E. in mind through cohesive architectural elements and appropriate scale at the street level.”
“The design is committed to using quality, long lasting materials, and an aesthetic that appeals to and blends with the character of the neighborhood,” they write.
When the property was acquired, zoning allowed 40-foot buildings on that stretch of the 15th Ave E corridor. The passage of the Mandatory Housing Affordability rezones boosted the corner to a 55-foot height limit.
UPDATE: A Hunters Capital representative says the developer hasn’t yet made a decision on whether it will incorporate affordable units in its project or pay the required in-lieu fees. “We have not make any final decisions on the MHA vs. city payment,” the rep writes. “Once under construction we’ll have a better sense of the rental market and the economics behind each direction. Designing in MHA would be the preferred choice, but being at the very beginning stages of design, this decision is 1-2 years out.”
The building’s apartment mix, like Hunters Capital’s previous mixed-use project, E Pike’s Dunn Automotive Building, is being planned as market-rate housing “to create an interactive community,” the developer writes, and with unit sizes to “provide wide (a) variety of unit types to accommodate increasing population
of the Capitol Hill neighborhood.”
At community feedback opportunities organized by the developer earlier this year under the city’s new public outreach requirements, public comment centered on concerns the project wouldn’t add to a possible canyon of three to five-story development along 15th Ave E. To help address those fears, Hunters and the architects at Studio Meng Strazzara are pushing for a design option with an auto row look and feel that also has generous upper level setbacks to help moderate some of the structure’s height.
Will the design review board give the plan the… green light? Drive by Wednesday night’s design review to find out.
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