Being that it’s the first new condo infill project along the Interstate Avenue corridor with its still relatively newfangled MAX line, The Overlook probably will not (despite its name) fail to be noticed. If the renderings and the look of it during late-period construction provide an accurate picture, the project -- situated next to the St. Stanislaus Catholic church (they put on the wonderful Polish Festival each September), and developed by one of its members -- also seems to have the potential to be some very nice architecture.
Speaking about The Overlook by email, Kurt Schultz of SERA Architects, the firm behind the project, emphasized that sales prices had to be kept affordable for entry-level buyers, who comprised The Overlook’s target demographic. He also said the design sought to capture the spirit of Interstate Avenue, which has a handful of surviving mid-century modern old motor hotels that survive today, several decades after Interstate 5’s construction rendered this onetime main highway into a regular old city street. (And a very, very slow one to drive now if you choose a car over MAX.) Schultz also mentioned the influence of housing projects in Switzerland by the likes of Baumshlager and Eberle: very crisp, boxy minimalist stuff. (John Echlin, a leading principal at SERA, worked previously in Switzerland, but apparently isn't neutral about the design aesthetic there.)
The Overlook project is composed of a floating ‘box’ containing the residential units with the units facing north and south, “with extensive glazing for optimal daylighting and more controlled openings on the east and west facing an alley and Interstate,” the architect added.
Material wise, SERA is using screen grilles (and balcony railings) made out of colored Trex boards on the upper floors, “for longevity and sustainability to filter the light and protect private balconies from the noise of Interstate, which creates interesting degrees of solid and filtered voids on the east and west sides.” Trex is a composite of wood and plastic usually used in decking. The screens are not on the building in the photos here that I took, but apparently will be soon. The ground floor is clad in vertical standing seam metal wall panels.
The ground floor will have a retail space on one corner and the condo’s lobby on the other. Each glazed corner entry is set back significantly to accentuate the sense that the three stories above are floating from the rest of the mass.
Although the project is not seeking LEED certification, SERA designed it to meet the standards of a LEED ‘Silver’ building.
The dedication of the project was actually last week, but The Overlook is actually set to be completed next year.
So will this project be remembered as a tipping point for condo-building on Interstate, or will the somewhat stagnant economy make it a stand-alone building for awhile, like Cascadian Court in the Lloyd District? Either way, I’m cautiously very encouraged by what I see of the building coming together. Some of the material I saw on the back of the building looked a little weird at first glance, like something synthetic trying to look natural. But overall this seems very handsome, particularly for a project on a tight budget.