Wallingford is a hotbed for new development with more than a dozen large-scale development projects in the planning and construction phases. Most of this activity has been centered on the neighborhood’s prominent thoroughfares of Stone Way and N 45th St. One project that will soon add new residents and businesses is N 45th St Apartments. The proposed project, located on the corner of N 45th St and Woodlawn Ave N, will provide 48 residential units and 3,600 square feet of street-level commercial space. Leading the project design is b9 Architects, a Seattle-based architecture outfit.
b9 Architects went before the Northeast Design Review Board for the final time last night to share their updated development proposal. The architects showed off a very polished product that took a bold approach to design. Quality materials focus on corrugated metals, Inca Mission and Ebony brick, steel, wood panels, and other black metals for coping. The design places a strong emphasis on large fenestration. Portions of the building see window placement in columnar-fashion from floor to floor while others see a variation in the rhythm of window placement. To add variety in the project design, the architects have chosen to use the extremes of color to breath life into the building. Dark blacks and charcoals will be balanced out by deep orangish-red bricks. In highlighting height and floors, dark painted metal will be located at floor lines around the building.
Meanwhile, the less noticeable and prominent residential structure located on the south side of site will be markedly different. The scale is much smaller given its three-story height and slim width. But, it will stick with the dark and light theme: wood panels will be painted a blackish color with grey paneling while a yellow door will set the building apart. Additionally, corrugated metal with a golden color could be used as a siding. Unlike the main building, the roofline will not be flat; instead, a slanted roof will help differentiate it in order to make it stand even more apart and meld into the single-family residential area.
The project is made possible by the combination of five contiguous lots. Today, these lots consist of six structures: three on N 45th St and three on Woodlawn Ave N. The three structures on N 45th St are historically commercially-oriented, although one is already vacant. Two of the commercial buildings remain in use by Sutra, an organziation known by many locals its for wellness programs and healthful food. The latter three structures on Woodlawn Ave N are all residential in character: two are single-family units and one is a duplex. Once construction approvals are granted, all structures will be removed to prepare the site for redevelopment.
From a zoning standpoint, the site is relatively unique because it is highly split zoned–due in large part to the assembly of the five lots. The northern three-quarters of the site is zoned as NC2-40 (with the north 30 feet designated with a Pedestrian Zone overlay) and the southern one-quarter zoned LR2. NC2-40 zoning allows 40-foot structures with a mix of uses while LR2 is primarily residential and tops out at 30-foot heights. (The Pedestrian Zone designation requires developments to pedestrian-oriented retail on the ground floor and restricts the placement of driveways.) The architects have made a good effort at meeting the intent of these zones and maximizing development potential. At the same time, the design is sensitive to the single-family characteristic present just south of the site. The architects have focused the greatest height, bulk, activity, and mix of uses toward N 45th St and ensured that they taper off as the project progresses south. The rhythm of these progressive changes in use and style essentially match the underlying zoning.
The main building will rise four stories and play host to a mix of residential and commercial uses. 40 apartment units be located on all four floors while two commercial units (2,400 square feet and 1,200 square feet, respectively) will be situated on the ground floor and front onto N 45h St. Floors 2 through 4 of the building will each be arranged with 12 apartment units (six along N 45th St, six on the south side) split by an open air courtyard. The courtyard will form the second floor and a bridging system above will give residents on the third and fourth floors access to their units via stairs and an elevator (see image above). Indeed, this will create a unique on-site open space experience for future tenants. Meanwhile, the first floor will contain a residential lobby and six units on the south side of the building.
The southern building will be three stories and have a basement floor. The grade of the site will allow the basement units to be partially daylighted. Each floor will consist of two units, totalling eight units. Access will be via common stairs for the units, but no direct access will be provided to the main building. Residents of the structure wishing to access the main building will have to walk over to the lobby entrance on Woodlawn Ave N.
As part of the project, physical changes will come to the streetscape. The sidewalk will be widened on N 45th St to 11 feet at its widest point. A small building projection will reduce this width to 9 feet, but still provide a comfortable streetscape for pedestrians. New street trees and a planter strip will be added to mix so as to give shade and wind protection while greening up the space. At the northwest corner, the building will be slightly recessed from Woodlawn Ave N so that an exterior terrace can serve the street-level commercial space. Presumably, this commercial space will be a restaurant use and enable the terrace to become a sidewalk cafe.
With the proposed streetscape improvements, Woodlawn Ave N will become much greener than today with more space dedicated to landscaping and street trees. The sidewalk will be rebuilt, but it will also be much more modest in width than the N 45th St segment. Given the low foot traffic on Woodlawn Ave N now and anticipated in the future, the narrower width is reasonable. Together, these streetscape improvements will help soften the project’s transition to the single-family area beyond.
A parking garage entrance will be provided from Woodlawn Ave N where residents and building services can access the basement. The architects chose this location so as not to impede N 45th St and to give the primary frontage continuous commercial space. The project gives a strong preference to bikes, but car parking stalls will still number 20. Two storage areas will be dedicated to bikes, which come in addition to a whole wall for hanging bike racks. Plans indicate that the building will be able to accommodate 48 bikes. Meanwhile, the applicants have requested a blessing to reduce the required number of large parking stalls. The land use code calls for 35% of parking stalls to be sized for large vehicles, but the applicants are shooting for 100% of the spaces to be compact or medium sized (excluding one parking stall for ADA). Residents will have access to the basement garage via common stairs and an elevator.
The N 45th St Apartments will be a welcome addition to this part of Wallingford in large part because of the careful considerations by the design team. Solid architectural choices have been made in building scale, materials, and modulations while street uses and programming focus on the people-oriented nature of the N 45th St corridor. Together, these basic understandings of place lend the project to success and likability. Keep an eye out on this corner of Wallingford for change in the near future.
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.