The Eastlake Neighborhood’s north end has seen rapid redevelopment over the past few years, and 3272 Fuhrman Ave E is just the latest project in a long line of big residential developments to come to the area. Sited on the corner of Eastlake Ave E and Fuhrman Ave E, many locals will be familiar with this location as the former home of Red Robin. In 1969, the restaurant was founded here and grew to become a national chain. But after over 40 years of business, the restaurant closed its doors in mid-2010 and was demolished in May 2014. Now, the site could become home to 63 apartment units and 2,060 square feet of ground floor commercial space.
The site of the project has some serious topography issues with the ground quickly descending downward from Fuhrman Ave E to the hidden lane of Portage Bay Pl E below. The elevation loss from top to bottom is nearly 26 feet. For many projects, this could be problematic, but the applicants have decided to use this site constraint as a feature. Following the change in elevation, the project will be broken up into two semi-distinct structures with the smaller portion at the top and a second retained structure at the bottom of the slope.
Each of the three alternatives being explored in the Early Design Guidance Design Review phase are variations on the two-structure format. More than anything, the differences between the alternatives are the type of units proposed and minor changes in setbacks and massing. The applicant hopes that their third option will be endorsed by East Design Review Board. This option seeks to maximize the site by providing the most amount of units, retail space, and structure height.
As proposed, the project would deliver a fairly diverse set of units to the market. The plan is to mix units of different sizes throughout the buildings and provide 5 two-bedroom units, 40 one-bedroom units, and 18 studio units. The diversity of unit types is definitely a positive aspect of the project. Providing a range of unit types will help attract families and couples of different sizes and ages to the future development.
The smaller of the two buildings would be 4 stories in height, but only three of those would be clearly visible from street level. This is achieved by excavating one floor below Fuhrman Ave E and locating the lowest floor there. To keep the street level floor somewhat active along Fuhrman Ave E, the commercial space, main building entrances, and one unit would all be placed at this level. Floors above and below this would all be residential-oriented. Meanwhile, the second building would contain the bulk of the development and it shows. This structure would also contain 4 stories in height, plus a garage floor below. However, due to the site conditions, the bulk of the structure is somewhat neutered with only a few floors partially visible from street level.
At this point, B9 Architects have only developed alternative project massings, but they hope to create an attractive building. Their plans indicate a desire for durable and warm materials that will add life to the neighborhood. The building facades will be patterned to establish a rhythm while a variety of exterior materials will be applied to break up the scale of the buildings and highlight individual floors. Masonry is one material under particular consideration given that it is a common element throughout the Eastlake neighborhood. And of course, green is all the rage–the applicants want the new build to achieve 4-Star Built Green standards.
West of the property lies a no-man’s-land area held by the City for right-of-way purposes. However, the architects would like to create an open space area that could be maintained by the future property owners. The architects want to create a mixed hardscape and green space that all could benefit from while being partially activated by the ground floor commercial space; although firm plans have yet to be drafted up. Street trees are also in the mix and could be added along the frontage streets.
A very low parking ratio is proposed at a rate of 0.4 parking stalls per dwelling unit, or 25 parking spaces in total. But, a strong emphasis will be placed on bicycle parking with up to 70 spaces for residents. One detail that neighbors may not be keen on is the location of the parking garage access. The applicant wants to locate this at the bottom of the structure since the parking garage is naturally located at the lowest point of the site. This means that vehicles would enter and exit the parking facility from Portage Bay Pl NE. This, however, has the benefit of keeping cars off of the more trafficked Fuhrman Ave giving pedestrians and residents an unobstructed primary street frontage.
How To Get Involved
If you’re interested in attending the community design review meeting for this project, you can do so tonight. The East Design Review Board will meet at Seattle University in Room 500E of the Casey Building. The design review meeting begin promptly at 8pm. Alternatively, if you wish submit comments in written form, you can do so by e-mailing Carly Guillory, Project Planner, at Carly.Guillory@seattle.gov and the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) at PRC@seattle.gov.
For more design review materials and upcoming meetings, see DPD’s design review page.
Stephen is a professional urban planner in Puget Sound with a passion for sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He is especially interested in how policies, regulations, and programs can promote positive outcomes for communities. With stints in great cities like Bellingham and Cork, Stephen currently lives in Seattle. He primarily covers land use and transportation issues and has been with The Urbanist since 2014.