Project Overview

Vibrant Placemaking for Kirkland, WA

The City of Kirkland has and continues to see rapid growth, including many young professionals for whom the city’s quieter quality of life and proximity to Lake Washington and urban amenities of Seattle is a perfect blend. The Boardwalk mixed-use development serves as an important hub in an increasingly vibrant downtown core. Our firm saw this project as on opportunity to help affirm Kirkland’s emerging mid-size urban identity and align its primary public plaza according to the concept of the “10-Minute City”. The street level plaza serves as a versatile public amenity that anchors the corner of this neighborhood and strengthens the relationship between the Kirkland Performance Center and the waterfront, Peter Kirk Park and numerous surrounding civic destinations. In collaboration with the design team, we created numerous tiers of rooftop space, courtyard space and street level plaza, all saturated with lush planting and gathering spaces. The scale of these spaces preserves intimate moments through private exterior corridors, a residential courtyard with large mature trees, and views to Lake Washington and Olympic Mountains.


Kirkland, WA


Baylis Architects

Design Partner

MRM Capital LLC


2023 Certified LEED Platinum

2023 Washington Association of Landscape Architects Merit Award – Residential

The population of Kirkland, WA has grown 14% in the last three years alone, and represents an attractive housing market for young families and young professionals, including work-from-home tech workers. Building additional housing is urgent in this community to prevent it from becoming unaffordable to so many of its newly arrived residents. Building housing for commuters to Seattle can be accomplished quite quickly and easily, however what do these type of developments contribute to their immediate neighborhood? It was with this question in mind that our design team approached a new mixed use in downtown Kirkland.

How can we affirm Kirkland as a place to live, play and stay?

Site Analysis / Spatial Guidance

By analyzing surrounding civic amenities and destinations, it became apparent that Boardwalk and particularly the southwest corner could serve as a major node of the area by opening up the west in the direction of Peter Kirk Park, the Kirkland Performance Hall, the Kirkland Library and the waterfront as well as north to an additional park entrance along Parkplace Court, eventually linking up with the Central Way thoroughfare and Kirkland Urban to the north. With a regional bus bay located across from Peter Kirk Park and within walking distance, Boardwalk could contribute to the positive trend of transit-oriented development and help shape a new future for the city. Viewing the building’s public space in this way guided us in the spatial layout of the plaza as well as the diverse potential programming.

Corner Plaza

Our firm designed the southwest corner plaza as a series of angular wooden steps radiating out from an interior amphitheater space. The steps wrap a raised steel planter with a signature Honey Locust tree, and reach out towards the right of way, inviting passersby to stop and watch the action. It was the design team’s intention that these steps could be places of rest, observation, gathering and exchange as well as places for impromptu performance in front of an expected achor retail space. With the cherished Kirkland Performance Hall across the street, this urban amphitheater and retail café seating provide great opportunity for young musicians to perform to public audiences.

At the heart of the plaza, a vertical water feature draws in passersby and masks the traffic noise of Kirkland Way, while serving as an attractive solution to significant grade change between the retail entrance and the sidewalk frontage above. A wide, perennial-filled planting strip provides a sense of enclosure while announcing the starting point of the promenade-style connection created along the building’s west frontage. Pedestrians can admire historical signage describing local places and figures. Previously, this connection known as Parkplace Court felt akin to a service drive thus the design team prioritized improvements that created a more urban residential experience as pedestrians walk up towards the Peter Kirk Park east entrance or the Kirkland Urban Office Buildings. Along the building’s south side, two-stories unit entrances reminiscent of Brownstones are fronted by abundant landscaping to echo the expected ambiance of the approaching corner plaza and its activities.

One only needs walk by in warm months to observe the spectrum of buzzing activities that spring forth in Boardwalk’s corner plaza, one by one helping to build an identity and place for this emerging and densifying Pacific Northwest city.

Live, Play, and Stay

For the Boardwalk residents, the architects carved a large triangular courtyard with several surrounding upper stories. To prevent this space from feeling like a canyon and as an alternative to filling the courtyard with stark raised planters, our firm created lush landscape beds that emerge at grade out of stepped pavers and tilt up at the backsides. These more natural-appearing, sloped planting beds act as a stormwater capture feature while also creating deeper soil areas for trees and larger shrubs. Shade-tolerant Japanese Maples and Stewartias arise out of generous swaths of forest grasses, ferns and hosta, accented by finer grain textures like wild ginger and black mondo grass. The cumulative effect is that of a secret garden, albeit shared by many. A hummingbird was even found recently nesting in one of the Japanese Maples.

We carried this highly-landscaped approach throughout the numerous terrace levels. Exterior corridors that lead to private unit entrances are lined with raised planters to soften the hard materials and create miniaturized front yards. Bands of geometric-shaped sedum plantings are striking when viewed from upper residential units, both beautiful and functional stormwater feature. Indeed wherever possible, we substituted hard roof materials for sedum green roof blends, whether as a small patch of “lawn” on a private terrace or as large swaths viewable from shared amenity spaces. At the communal roof level, café seating, a custom barbecue, pizza oven and raised tree planters sit under string lights and lots of warm wood surfacing and porcelain tiling. With stunning views to Lake Washington and the Olympic mountain range, the rooftop experience befits the vibrant urban experience we wanted Boardwalk’s amenity spaces to represent.

Our firm, in collaboration with the architect, responded to the client’s interest in an eco-friendly and vibrant multi-use development by creating a dynamic and versatile public space in combination with numerous private and shared residential spaces that feel at once secluded and calming yet robust and expansive. At the same time, this LEED-platinum certified building and landscape captures the majority of its rainwater through green roofs. Low SRI pavers, tree canopy and a highly efficient irrigation system makes this a notable project in terms of sustainability.