Yes, the H-Mart is set to finally open later this year and the development’s plaza already makes for a nice place to stroll through on a summer night though the surrounding cafes and restaurants are still under construction. Slowly, as the buildings fill with residents, and the project’s Capitol Hill businesses — new and old — begin to open, the structures of the “transit oriented development” above Capitol Hill Station are establishing their relationship with the surrounding neighborhood.
“We wanted to take the complexities and involvement of the community and make those priorities visible,” Julia Nagele, principal and director of design and architecture at Hewitt said on a recent tour of the new block of density and mixed-use that has risen above the transit station and is now methodically filling with activity along Broadway.
CHS reported here on new residents moving into the mix of affordable and market rate housing and the decades of community effort to shape the structures that would rise above Capitol Hill Station. Sound Transit opened the U-Link extension and the new station below Broadway in March 2016. In August 2016, Sound Transit signed a 99-year lease with Gerding Edlen to develop the properties it had acquired surrounding the station. The Portland-based developer led the project with designs from Hewitt and Capitol Hill’s Schemata Workshop. Community Roots Housing developed and operates the affordable housing component of the projects. CHS reported here on the 20 years of community engagement it took to make the development a reality.
In 2013, the Seattle City Council approved a development agreement allowing developers to plan for 85-foot tall buildings along Broadway in exchange for going above minimum affordable housing requirements. Though many ask today in the midst of Seattle’s ongoing affordability crisis why the apartment buildings aren’t taller, even achieving 85 feet was a battle.
For Nagele and Hewitt, the opportunity to design the core buildings of the development — now branded Park and Ander North and South — was the kind of challenge big city architects were born for with a rare opportunity for Hewitt to design both the busy subway station and the surrounding housing and commercial buildings.
Nagele points out the silver-clad lanterns that cap two corners of each building and echo the entrances to the light rail station. Built at sizes to match the scale of the station entrances when viewed from the ground, the lanterns are visual “wayfinding” elements, marking the location of the entrances below.
There are more spaces of architectural ingenuity on the block. Many are simple and a function of the realities of the site. The central plaza — now the weekly home to the neighborhood’s farmers market — was designed with a natural grade from Broadway to slope and provide a view across the pavers into neighboring Cal Anderson Park. The elevation changes across the site called for “some big urban moves,” Nagele, says, of the transitioning design from building to building and feature to feature through the development between E Howell and John.
Less subtle was the need, Nagele says, to add variety across a block packed densely enough for 428 residential units, thousands of square feet of new commercial space including a new grocery and a new daycare, 216 parking stalls for cars, and 254 parking stalls for bikes, and the plaza. Alternating dark and light color palettes and a shift from gloss, and “glass cubes” to a more organic feel above the plaza and facing 10th Ave was part of the philosophy.
Woven into the variety, Nagele says Hewitt also designed the buildings to visually connect with uniform windows, and panels that form “a texture not a pattern.” As the Ander structures fronting Broadway form their textures with a gloss and matte white, Nagele says she hopes the buildings feel like “fabric.”
Not that the buildings are soft. Expressing a kind of urban strength was also important. One place that kind of solidity is expressed is in the project’s rain canopies over Broadway with their exposed bolts and underpinnings. Nagele says rain canopies are a “hot topic” in Seattle architectural circles for the role they play in connecting a building to passersby below and, well, rain.
There were also plenty of limits and constraints. The buildings needed to be designed around Sound Transit safety and access requirements for the station below and incorporate many “unbuildable” areas. Some of those brought creative solutions like the soft purple station infrastructure box that also serves as the backdrop for the big X-shaped aluminum, bronze and steel sculpture andimgonnamisseverybody part of the AIDS Memorial Pathway. Another area became an apartment building amenity area with plantings and a place to hang out. Others like a big flat open space on the backside of the plaza are crying out for non-structural ideas and might be filled with a new bike storage feature.
As you walk below the new buildings on Broadway and see, now, the silver lantern boxes, the slope of the plaza, the canopy bolts, and the fabric-like panels, you might notice other tricks and magic of the architectural trade.
The corner of Broadway and John was a key challenge, Nagele says, with the Ander North building meeting the light rail station’s main Broadway entrance. Here, the building subtly curves back, widening the sidewalk, and to showcasing the station’s main entrance. A silver cube structure designed ingeniously as one of the building’s apartment units marks the spot.
There are at least four visual transitions between the structures, the station’s entrance, and what will soon be the entrance to the new Capitol Hill H-Mart. It’s a busy spot, like Capitol Hill Station itself, where everything comes together.
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