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Vibrant Cities Plans Summer Construction of Roystone Apartments

Mar 8, 2019

Developer Vibrant Cities is on track to build the largest mixed-use development in the Uptown Urban Center. The question is, which of the company’s projects will get there first.

“It just depends,” said Vibrant Cities CEO James Wong. “They’re with two different planners. It just depends who gets the permit first.”

The West Design Review Board cleared the eight-story, 127-unit NIWA Apartments to proceed with permitting at 513 First Ave. N. back in November. It was the first project to be cleared under the Uptown Urban Center upzone, and will stand at 85 feet, 20 feet taller than the neighboring Expo Apartments.

Two blocks to the north, at the corner of Queen Anne Ave. N. and West Roy St., the Old Manhattan Express convenience store is slated to come down for another eight-story mixed-use apartment building.

The WDRB approved the latest design for the 93-unit apartment building at 631 Queen Anne Ave. N. during a Feb. 7 recommendation meeting.

Wong said the project has been four years in the making, including talks with the previous landowner. Vibrant Cities purchased the property for $1 million in October 2017.

“It’s underutilized,” he said of the block. “There’s not enough residential units in the city, so we’re happy to add to that.”

The Uptown upzone was through the City of Seattle’s Mandatory Housing Affordability program, which is set for citywide adoption on March 18. Under MHA, urban villages are being rezoned to allow for taller buildings in return for affordable housing units or payments into a fund to produce such housing elsewhere.

Wong said Vibrant Cities is paying into the MHA fund, but is also using the Multi-Family Tax Exemption program, which means 20 percent of Roystone’s units will be affordable at 80 percent of area median income.

Like NIWA, the Roystone Apartments will be 85 feet, while across the street, outside the Uptown Urban Center, building heights are restricted to 65 feet. Wong said the design team was sensitive to that fact.

“We had to factor that in by building a very strong base that fits nicely with the buildings on Roy Street and on Queen Anne,” he said, “so you’ll see a nice masonry base that is a very strong presence that matches the context of the existing neighborhood, and then we add a five-story tower on top of it.”

The corner massing at Queen Anne Avenue North and West Roy Street has a black tower “hinge,” with studio units that will have views of adjacent Counterbalance Park and also include changing lights, Wong said.

Most of the 93 units will be studios and one-bedrooms, but Roystone will also have some two-bedroom options.

There will be around 90 bike storage spaces at Roystone, but just 15 below-grade parking stalls accessible off Roy Street.

“Parking is not required in that location because of the urban village, however, we’re adding that in as an option for some people who do want them,” Wong said.

The ground floor will include 3,840 square feet of retail space, the review board granting a departure allows for the length of Queen Anne Avenue to be storefronts.

“Our goal is that it’s going to be designed for at least two restaurants there because we’re creating the stacks there to support type-1 hoods,” Wong said.

A sidewalk cafe is planned at the bottom of the hinge tower, so people can enjoy views of Counterbalance Park, the project matching its greenery in its streetscape.

The design team came back to the review board with plans for a clubhouse on the green rooftop deck, which will have unobstructed views due to its height.

“From our rooftop you’ll see the Space Needle and downtown and the waterfront,” Wong said. “We’ll have similar views as Kerry Park.”

Depending on the timing for receiving permits, Wong said, the Roystone Apartments is planned to break ground in July or August.

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