In July of 2018, the first residents moved into Simpson Property Group’s second phase of Metro 112 Apartments in downtown Bellevue, WA. Designed to be the hip, boutique sister to the adjacent Metro 112, the 57-unit Phase II is modern and compact, yet remarkably spacious. The glassy, street front exterior is in perfect harmony keeping with the Bellevue ethos, while variegated paneling and textural details on surrounding sides create a dynamic expression across the building.

Cantilevered over the ground floor and surrounded by extensive landscaping, the building was designed to make unique use of a compact site of just 12,600 square feet. We had a chance to catch up with Associate Principal and the Project Manager for Metro 112, Michelle Kinsch who provided insight on how Tiscareno Associates designed a spacious, modern, boutique property on a uniquely constrained footprint.

Question: What was the inspiration for the community?

The inspiration was the creation of a small, boutique-y building—kind of like a cooler younger sibling to the project next door. Much of the vision came from the site itself: It was petite and quirky, and we wanted to work with that. Because we had the benefit of not having to build in amenities—residents have access to the clubhouse and fitness center and such next door—we were really able to capitalize on the space we have.

What’s behind the building’s interesting footprint and architectural design?

The property itself played a huge part in the architectural design. We had a four-easement constraint to work with. Fundamentally, the building is expressing all of the constraints of the site with a kind of L-shaped footprint and projecting upper floors, but in a really dynamic way.

Our first step was to cantilever the building. By popping it out over the footprint, we were able to get more space, including roomier residential units on the upper floors. In addition to the building’s dramatic shapes, there’s significant textural detailing. The glassy facade on the street side fits in with the classy side of Bellevue and provides smooth, seamless lines. By using variegated panels on the south side, we were able to incorporate texture and pattern, all of which gives this project a unique look.

There are a couple of big gestures that wouldn’t be possible on a larger residential project. For example, where a big residential project will have row after row of balconies, ours are really integrated into the overall shape of the building.

The building features an unusual kind of flexible design. Why—and how—did you create a residential building with mixed-use potential?

Metro 112 Phase II isn’t currently located on a retail street, so initially we didn’t envision it as a true mixed-use building. But, knowing how quickly things change in the Pacific Northwest, we decided to plan for the future. Rather than immediately incorporate commercial space at street level we designed two ground floor residential units that can be converted to retail, if desired, in the future.

These two ground floor units are kind of hybrids. They’re very livable as residential units, with patios out front and planters that screen out the sidewalk, but they also have the higher, retail-style ceilings. They can be made accessible via the lobby in the future, and they were structurally engineered to meet higher retail loads.

What are some of the interior highlights of Metro 112 Phase II?

The apartments are really right-sized; they’re very efficient, yet they feel unconstrained. Each apartment was designed to not only work as an individual unit, without wasted space, but also to work together to create an efficient use of space within the building as a whole.

How does this building fit into the urbanization of Bellevue?

It has the appeal of being right next to all of the amenities of downtown Bellevue. It’s just a skip away from shopping, restaurants and other services in that area. Bellevue transit center is only a few blocks away, providing access to the rest of the region.

What was the collaboration between the builder, the architect, and the developer like on this project?

The contractor—W.G. Clark—came on very early in the design process so they could provide input and share their experience in working out a pretty intricate building.

Simpson Housing, the owner, was also very active in design. They did a great job of telling us what their needs were and bringing ideas for solutions.