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February 15, 2019

Bellwether, Plymouth show design for 17-story tower on First Hill

Journal Staff Reporter

Rendering by Weber Thompson [enlarge]
Plymouth will operate 115 studios for formerly homeless seniors on levels two through five. Bellwether will have 253 units on levels six through 17, ranging from studios to three-bedrooms.

On a First Hill corner owned by Sound Transit, Bellwether Housing and Plymouth Housing Group are planning a shared 17-story housing complex with 368 affordable units.

It will be their first high rise, but architect Weber Thompson has ample experience in that realm.

The site is at 1400 Madison St., on the corner of Boylston Street. The tower will share the block with the new 17-story Danforth apartments and Whole Foods, which are east across the alley.

Sound Transit will transfer the surplus land at no cost to the new joint venture.

The project has its first administrative design review on Friday, March 1.

Its working title is simply Madison/Boylston. The last budget estimate was $92 million, with about 42 percent of the funding from public sources. Those will include the city, county, state and HUD. The federal low-income tax credit program (LIHTC) will also be employed.

The project assumes an upzone from the current 160-foot limit to 200 feet.

Weber Thompson's preferred “interlock” design breaks the building mass into three blocks. Essentially, Bellwether's larger L-shaped portion will sit on two sides of Plymouth's smaller north portion.

Plymouth's separate entrance and official address will be at 1010-1014 Boylston, and Bellwether's will be at 1400 Madison. Some kind of future condominium arrangement is likely between the two owners.

Plymouth will own and operate supportive housing for formerly homeless seniors, with 115 studio apartments on levels two through five. (Three units will be for resident managers.) Its portion will include community areas, a kitchen, computer lounge, offices for social workers, a nursing station and fifth-floor terrace.

Rents will be priced for people making 30 percent of area median income, or less. Units will average around 444 square feet.

Bellwether will own and operate 253 units on levels six through 17. Terraces are planned on the sixth and 17th floors. The unit mix, subject to change, is estimated at 78 studios, 130 one-bedrooms, 33 two-bedrooms and 12 three-bedrooms. Units will average around 562 square feet.

Rents will be priced for people making 60 percent of area median income, or less. In current dollars, that would mean about $1,123 for a studio to $1,669 for three bedrooms.

One underground level for services, trash, loading, etc. will also have a small number of parking spaces for staff, not residents.

The streetcar line is steps away on Broadway; and the RapidRide G-Line is expected to begin service on Madison in 2021. There will around 100 bike stalls for Bellwether, which says that its residents in other buildings prefer to store bikes in their units, not in bike rooms.

About 5,000 square feet of retail/commercial space will be divided into three bays facing Boylston and Madison. A small outdoor seating area, well suited to a cafe, is indicated on the corner.

Total project size, including the basement and amenity areas, is around 275,000 square feet. Plymouth will have about one-third and Bellwether about two-thirds of the building.

Tower separation from the Danforth, above their respective podium levels, will range from 58 to 63 feet.

Weber Thompson says the Bellwether “will provide 253 new homes for individuals and families who are struggling to afford a place to live in Seattle. Based on Bellwether Housing's average occupancy, they believe over 650 people and as many as 270 children could call Madison/Boylston home.”

That's in addition to Plymouth's 115 units, most of which will likely be occupied by single residents.

The goal is to break ground in mid 2020, with completion in 2022.

The team also includes Turner Construction, general contractor; Core Design, surveyor; KPFF, structural engineer; GeoEngineers, geotechnical; Rushing, MEP engineer; and Finem Investment and Development Ltd., high-rise consultant.

Sound Transit paid $3.2 million for the 21,600-square-foot corner in 2001, when light rail planners were considering a stop on First Hill. The idea was later rejected as being too costly.

The site is now occupied by a Moneytree store in a former Wells Fargo bank building, plus an old medical office building — all of which will be removed.

After previously selecting the Plymouth-Bellwether proposal, the Sound Transit board formally approved that plan last August.


Brian Miller can be reached by email at brian.miller@djc.com or by phone at (206) 219-6517.

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