Seattle’s Elevated Density Rezoning Offers Approach to Artistic Designs

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Seattle’s Increased Density Rezoning Gives Way to Creative Designs

REDMOND, WA – Seattle's rededication for higher density in support of improved transit infrastructure has led to more creative designs. The resulting high-density projects are more livable in terms of furnishings, exterior space and unit layout.

In addition, high-density multi-family projects are on the rise to support the skyrocketing job growth on the East Side. As cities become denser in response to this growth, there is less land.

In Redmond, in particular, many properties present challenges with high water levels, setbacks, access to fire department tracks and zoning. Modera Redmond, developed by Mill Creek and designed by Tiscareno Associates, maximizes both unit count and tenant quality of life with 300 units, two courtyards, and two-story parking on a small 1.8 acres.

The building's unusual lowercase “y” plan solved many of the site's challenges and lent itself to a large number of units and tenant facilities. The shed roof is inspired by the farmhouse structures of the region's ranch land and is located above the lobby entrance. The units, courtyards and roof terrace are all oriented to provide access to natural light and views of the surrounding area. The units are a mix of studio, one, and two-bedroom residences ranging from 477 to 1,233 square feet.

The site is practically an entire city block, but only a narrow street front affected every design decision, from footprinting to parking to the required access to the fire department. Other restrictions such as far-reaching kickback regulations, vehicle and pedestrian access requirements have significantly reduced the buildable area of ​​the property.

With minimal buildable space and a five story ceiling, Tiscareno Associates had two primary goals: maximizing density to improve customer ROI and providing high levels of quality of life to increase tenant satisfaction. The team went through the entire alphabet of building shapes (Xs, Es, Cs, etc.) to find the best space and envelope for the units and amenities to work.

The longer a facade is, the deeper the setback must be according to city regulations. So by keeping the sides shorter, you can get flatter setbacks and more buildable space. The finished building has a long ledge to the north, but it is next to trees on the adjoining property where major setbacks are desired.

“A very strategic layout is required to maximize both the quality of life and the number of units, and Modera Redmond is like a giant geometric puzzle,” Bob Tiscareno, chief engineer, managing partner and founder of Tiscareno Associates, told GlobeSt.com . “We end up customizing 300 units by working out significant setbacks and courtyards and then selectively locating and orienting each unit to maximize the potential of each corner and building area. This combination increased the building envelope and window ratio and allowed us to open up smaller units to sunlight and views. "

Each unit had to offer the tightest fit while ensuring natural light and comfortably sized spaces. One tactic was to establish an optimal depth-to-width ratio for each unit type and then strategically distribute the units across the wings of the building to meet zoning and setback requirements.

"Using a heavily modulated facade on the longest sides reduced its length and allowed us to quickly get design review approval," Tiscareno told GlobeSt.com. “The viability indicator has also been improved by allowing more corner windows and numerous bay windows where tenants can literally stand over the sidewalk while enjoying the view. The final design maximizes light, rentable space, and parking with an elegance that doesn't reveal any of the complexity and creative ingenuity that went into it. "

Indoor amenities include a double-height lobby, fitness room, screening room, meeting room, bike repair and washing station, and an automatic parcel concierge. The project includes Redmond's first rooftop terrace with an indoor lounge, outdoor grill, and landscaped meeting areas. There are two parking levels (1.5 of which are underground).

"The client's desire to maximize the number of apartments and the variety of apartments while reducing the number of unique apartment types to manage costs has shown its own complexity," Tiscareno told GlobeSt.com. “These are often mutually exclusive goals as a typical way to increase the number of units is to customize each apartment to suit its space. This can easily add up to 150 unit types for a 300 apartment building, sacrificing all of the financial and scheduling benefits of using standardized floor plans, closet configurations, finishing packages, etc. The implementation of this customer goal resulted in around 40 unique floor plans that are still very inviting and livable. This required a lot of maneuvering to accommodate the 300 houses, but the cap on floor plan types lowered construction costs to the extent desired by the customer. The layout with two courtyards required its own innovative approach to solve the problems they caused with circulation and the design of the units. "

He says the solution is a somewhat meandering circulation that looks like it's less efficient, but it actually helps the building surpass targeted efficiency standards for net rent to gross area.

"The two courtyards also made 38 inside corner units – plenty for a project of this size," Tiscareno told GlobeSt.com. “Designing inside corner units is always a challenge, but even a simple change like pulling back an outside wall resulted in larger windows overlooking the courtyard. We are now using these and similar techniques in other development communities because they have been so successful here. "

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