Design Review: Link moves ahead; Admiral Safeway sent back

September 25, 2008 at 11:39 pm | In Development, West Seattle news | 2 Comments

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That’s a view south down the sidewalk along the future 38th/Alaska building that Harbor Properties has named Link. Tonight, after its second Design Review Board session, Link won final DRB approval, but there’s more work ahead for the other project on the agenda:

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One week after its unveiling at a community meeting (WSB coverage here), the Admiral Safeway rebuild proposal made its debut before Design Review Board members – who had enough concerns that they asked Safeway and its architects to come up with more options and return for a second round of Early Design Guidance. ADDED EARLY FRIDAY MORNING: Here’s the full report:

Admiral Safeway was first up on the agenda. Fuller Sears Architects gave the presentation; we outlined most of it in the report on their community meeting last week (here’s that link again). Key points are that the new store will be larger, 58,000 square feet, and Safeway proposes adding a retail-storefront building on the northwest side of the lot; the California SW entrance to the store would still be open to cars, but would have more of a pedestrian feel:

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But since this was officially the Early Design Guidance session, they had to present three options for how the project would be placed and “massed” on the site.

All three featured a bigger new store on the south end of the site, with some small differences, such as where cars would access ramp for the rooftop parking. The proposal outlined last week was based on the one that Safeway calls its preferred alternative, with more than 30 residential units along the southeast side of the site (see below). It would require city approval for zoning changes and “alley vacations”; its parking would be partly in a surface lot, partly on the roof of the store.

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In the public-comment period, Admiral Neighborhood Association president Mark Wainwright took issue with that. “Compared to some other grocery projects, seems like Admiral is getting the short end — instead of a sophisticated, urban, inspired grocery store with a mix of uses. We’re putting cars on the roof and in a surface parking lot, and we did that thirty years ago. This needs to be a solution (that will last at least) the next 25 years, and it seems to fail (that test).”

Longtime Admiral community activist Dennis Ross, though, declared “I fully support this project … it contributes to the ambience between the park (Hiawatha) and the business district.”

When time came for the Design Review Board members to have their say, they voiced a lot of concern that this Safeway project not turn out like the store-plus-residences project at Jefferson Square. Brandon Nicholson, a Junction-based architect, noted that in the Admiral neighborhood plan, this site is “meant to be a neighborhood hub, not necessarily a larger grocery store … To just see a suburban model dropped down, to have it come out anything less than a neighborhood core with vibrancy is a loss.”

Nicholson also noted that the proposal came nowhere near maximizing the site, and that “everyone else in West Seattle is moving away from surface parking.”

Board chair David Foster, also a West Seattle-based architect, said the site was “underutilized in this proposal,” and that its proposal for 30-plus residential units was “vastly insufficient.”

Board member Christie Coxley, a landscape designer, offered a different thought, suggesting that perhaps the Safeway corporate structure was “putting constraints on a talented design team.”

Other concerns included the visibility of the rooftop parking, and the fact that anyone in the surrounding area living above a second floor, now or in the future, would see it.

In the end, it was suggested that Fuller Sears and Safeway try again, and bring back three options with definite differences, including one that would maximize the density possible on the site — just to see what that would look like. So they were asked to come back for a second round of Early Design Guidance, meaning there will be at least two more Design Review meetings for this project. (We’ll let you know when the date is set for the next one.)

The second mixed-use (residential/retail) project on the agenda, Link (38th/Alaska, replacing an old Huling garage and the former West Seattle Montessori School site), has also been updated here in recent days (including details revealed during a WSB interview with Harbor Properties managers). Here’s the view drivers will theoretically see as they pass the site, driving northeast on Fauntleroy:

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This was the second Design Review session for Link. The discussion during the first session (WSB coverage here) spent a lot of time on the issue of a potential new home for WSMS in the new building, and what features that require, but as reported here over the summer, that is no longer a factor – Harbor Properties says there is very little chance the school will be moving into the building. So the discussion focused on other factors, including a pedestrian corridor on the north side, some “courtyard” landscaping along the street in front of its midsection, and two different, striking treatments for the north and south sides of what will be a very long building on 38th from Alaska almost all the way to Fauntleroy – here’s the 38th/Alaska corner plan:

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In general, board members expressed satisfaction with how the design had evolved, incorporating some changes they had requested (such as scrapping plans for a sunken entrance on the south side) — with one exception: What were originally envisioned as live-work townhouse units in the center of the building, have since evolved into apartments, like the rest of the residential units. Several board members expressed disappointment about that; Nicholson suggested Harbor treat the units in a way that could enable maximum future flexibility.

Overall, though, it was a near-rave review, including one of the few public commenters, Junction Neighborhood Organization president Erica Karlovits, who was particularly impressed with the plans for P-patch-type gardening on the roof.

Board chair Foster said, “I’m seeing a project that could actually get the public excited when it is built.” And with that, board members all agreed to recommend that the project move out of Design Review and into the next phase of the permit process (its official city project page is here). Harbor Properties told us last month they hope to have Link done in spring 2010; after Mural, its well-under-way project on 42nd in The Junction, and Link, its next West Seattle project is at the site of West Seattle’s only motel, 36th/Alaska, also expected to become a mixed-use building – no name or design for that one yet.

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Next scheduled Design Review Board meeting is October 9; the High Point mixed-use project at 35th/Graham is scheduled to come back for its second “early design guidance” review, 6:30 pm, Hiawatha Community Center.

2 Comments

  1. Wow, West seattle is going to look very different after all of these big projects.

    Comment by CB — 8:31 am September 26, 2008 #

  2. It’s still early in the design review, of course, but it sounds from this report that public commentary on the proposed Safeway development was not particularly functional or productive. Did anyone cite an existing in-city grocery development they find better designed and most appropriate for a small business district neighborhood like Admiral?

    I don’t get an image from comments that Admiral needs more “sophisticated, urban” designs than what’s been proposed so far, but I’m eager for detailed public comment as the Safeway proposal advances.

    Comment by Alvis — 12:21 pm September 26, 2008 #

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