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New Townhomes Along Greenwood Avenue

Bitter Lake Townhouses

Nestled on a site with a mature tree canopy, these townhouses form a pedestrian-centric community along a busy arterial.

Currently under development, this 33-townhome development responds to the site’s transitional nature while positively contributing to the existing urban fabric along this bustling stretch of Greenwood Avenue North in Seattle’s Bitter Lake neighborhood. The ultimate goal is to create a contextual and inviting community providing a thoughtful and sensitive transition between the hustle of Greenwood Avenue to the east and the single-family zone to the west.

Despite a collection of recent multifamily developments nearby, the site’s immediate context is automobile-focused. Flanking either side of the proposed project site are apartment complexes with large spans of surface parking, and Greenwood Avenue is a highly-trafficked arterial. To the north, south, and east, 3- or 4-story multifamily structures of larger bulk and scale than the proposed project dominate the neighborhood scale.

With a proposed building area of 65,020 square feet, our role was to create a contemporary design using durable, attractive, yet inexpensive materials. Site design played a pivotal role in the design of the project, which prioritized the maintenance and protection of many of the mature trees already on the site while providing quality open space with limited paving.

Several exceptional trees along the property lines dictated building locations and required the buildings to be set in from the property lines. The site design defined the introduction of a new understory of trees to complement the mature tree canopy, provide valuable habitat, and increase coverage. This new understory is further ornamented with shrubs to improve soil conditions and provide seasonal variation and interest.

By setting the building massing back from the road, opportunities opened to create a pedestrian path along the property line. Wayfinding through this area uses a layered approach to delineate public and private spaces. The use of planters, bio-retention, steps, and stoops delicately define the public and private realms while maintaining a visual connection, creating a link through the site to the street, and increasing safety conditions along the busy arterial.

Pitched roofs were key to the design. Their application illustrates a repetitive and rhythmic gable-roof pattern along Greenwood Avenue and throughout the development. The gable roof forms also provide reinforcement of the organic transition between the larger, neighboring apartment buildings and the single-family zone west of the site. Scaled and layered façade openings and balconies further serve the gentle transition between the site and the future single-family homes on the western portion of the subdivided site.

Each unit is intentionally laid out in order to develop rhythms along the façade, not mirroring along party walls. The consistent rhythm, story, and execution of all the unit entrances around the site are defined by personalized green outdoor spaces to enhance wayfinding for pedestrians and act as special buffers for personal space dedicated to the individual units. All entrances are elevated slightly from the finished grade to create a slight separation between the public and private realms while still maintaining the cohesion necessary for a perceived connection. All interior spaces adjacent to the entrances along Greenwood Avenue are habitable, creating a genuine human connection along the street.

The front door entrances are separated from the vehicle entrances to increase wayfinding logic, safety, and security. A strategic paving design offers a pedestrian-friendly zone and areas of refuge along the central drive court. Overhead catenary lighting and specific paving define the zone. The space, while intended for vehicles, is structured to be pedestrian-friendly and safe while tying the pedestrian pathways with the vehicular pathways.

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