Capitol Hill streets and building parcels are almost uniformly delineated by an orthogonal grid; however, when confronted with the second part of our neighborhood’s name the ubiquitous grid revealed its limitation as an all-inclusive planning tool and left city planners little choice but to utilize diagonal streets to ascend and descend our heights. Diagonal streets present a foil to the well-ordered grid, yet most buildings conform to the grid even when the site is an unconventional shape. There are reasons to stay square when designing a building, but design opportunities are sacrificed when the only nod given to an atypical, non-orthogonal site is to design an orthogonal building and treat its diagonally bounded site simply as a remainder to be ‘planted-up’.
The Hill’s longest and steepest diagonal street, Belmont Avenue, exhibits a variety of design solutions to the grid’s disruptive diagonal. The first approach, illustrated in two variants below, plays to both diagonal and grid in a manner that preserves the conflicting geometries. The third solution is a rarely seen hybrid approach where the geometries of grid and diagonal are blended and create unexpectedly complex forms. which gave us a pair of delightful mid-century apartments. Continue reading
The concept for the 523 Hilltop project (Images: Studio Meng Strazzara)
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.
Design review: 523 15th Ave E
The Hunters Capital project takes its first pass by the East Design Review Board Wednesday night. Continue reading
The Seattle City Council is poised to approve a new set of guidelines that will shape what Capitol Hill looks like in years to come.
The Capitol Hill Neighborhood Design Guidelines are essentially recommendations to developers of what neighborhood residents would like to see in new buildings. The neighborhood-specific guidelines were adopted in 2005. The update began in 2017, and was undertaken by city staff in conjunction with a 14-member working group of residents and representatives of various groups around the hill.
A draft was printed in May 2018. But the update was shifted to the back burner as the city wrestled with adopting the Mandatory Affordable Housing program. A new draft was released in January of this year.
Monday afternoon, the full council is prepared to approved the update. Continue reading
Most projects considered by the East Design Review Board come to the table with three options and a proposed “preferred” design that the developers and architects have settled on. The board typically doesn’t question the selection and sets about helping to shape the design. But in the case of a planned eight-story apartment block planned to rise across from First Hill’s First Baptist Church, the board not only said nope to the preferred design, it tossed all three proposals out.
“The Board was disappointed by the lack of any significant variation between the three schemes, and that there was no exploration of other forms that might allow the project to step back from the street-edge and create conditions that better meet the criteria in the Design Guidelines,” the report from the review meeting reads.
Wednesday night, developer Carmel Partners and Encore Architects hope to erase that disappointment with a new early design proposal to get the project back on track.
Design review: 1100 Boylston Ave
Wednesday night’s session of the East Design Review Board will represent another step in the block by block transformation of Capitol Hill with two projects that will create nearly 100 new homes including new condos on Belmont and new microhousing on Boylston.
301 Belmont Ave E
A new condominium project is coming to this corner just below Broadway replacing a 1908-built fourplex.
301 Belmont Ave E
The plan from a group of investors including OLT Capital and the architects at Wokshop AD calls for a seven-story, 34 condo unit project that will include one unit meeting “the City’s affordable housing incentive criteria” affording the project its extra height and scale under pre-Mandatory Housing Affordability incentives. The developers purchased the property last June for $2 million. Continue reading
Wednesday morning, Mayor Jenny Durkan will be at Capitol Hill Housing’s affordable 12th Ave Arts building to sign into law the expansion of Seattle’s Mandatory Housing Affordability program into neighborhoods across the city including Capitol Hill. Wednesday night, a project to create some 350 new market rate apartments on First Hill will go before the design board for its first review.
While the timing of the eight-story project means its developer won’t be required to pay into the MHA pool — projects vested to a Land Use Code in effect before the upzones won’t be subject to the expanded program — the new development planned for 1100 Boylston will replace a surface parking lot with lots of new First Hill housing.
Design review: 1100 Boylston Ave
In a booming city full of redesign and redevelopment, Capitol Hill design and architecture firm Board and Vellum has decided 15th Ave E is the place for it to grow, too.
“Board and Vellum has grown from a staff of one back in 2011 to just under 40 people today,” firm principal Jeff Pelletier tells CHS. “We have seen tremendous growth in our landscape architecture and interior design studios and being able to occupy the whole building will mean we have certainty of where we will work for years to come while accommodating any future growth in our staff size.”
That growth means Board and Vellum has undertaken two of its most important design projects yet. Continue reading
Olive Way’s Flatiron
A charm of living in a hilly city like Seattle is witnessing how the street grid and the buildings they define adapt to challenging topography. A typical adaptation is to have streets break from the prevailing orthogonal grid by introducing a diagonal street that makes a hill easier to ascend. In the early 20th Century, Manhattan’s Fuller Building became – and most likely remains – the most celebrated example of a building’s form adapted to an adjacent diagonal street (albeit in dead-flat Manhattan). Today it is known as the Flatiron Building, a reference to its resembling an early type of clothes iron. Capitol Hill has its share of buildings which have adapted to challenging street grinds and terrain. An inspiring pair are found on Olive Way as it cuts a diagonal between Denny and Howell. Continue reading
An example of good pedestrian-level design on Capitol Hill from the new proposed design guidelines for the neighborhood (Image: City of Seattle)
New guidelines developed through a multi-year community process set to refresh the design of Capitol Hill development projects are up for public comment.
The Office of Planning and Community Development announced that the proposed neighborhood design guidelines for the Capitol Hill Urban Center Village have been determined to not require Environmental Impact Statement and that the comment period has begun, running through January 30th. The decision can also be appealed to the city’s Hearing Examiner. Continue reading
A plan for adding massive installations of art panels to help the project better reflect the culture and the history of the Central District wasn’t enough to convince area design officials Wednesday night as the Midtown: Public Square mixed-use project was kicked back for yet another round of review.
After a four-hour design review meeting, a blended group of the newly created Central Area Design Review Board and the East Review Board decided to ask the developer and its architects at Weinstein A+U to return with plans for art on the building that is more fully fleshed out.
“What we’re going to want to know is where the art is going to be located, and why it is reinforcing the larger design concepts of the building,” East Review Board chair Melissa Alexander said. “Is it art that is speaking to the larger community? Is it drawing people in? How is that art drawing people into the space?” Continue reading