By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
That was a side note to a discussion with the team from SMR Architects, returning to West Seattle to discuss the 66-unit Delridge Supportive Housing project for the first time since the second and final Southwest Design Review Board meeting two months ago.
Instead of a presentation followed by Q/A, the presentation was punctuated by the half-dozen community members in attendance engaging the architects in conversation about various features of the building and site.
Much of the discussion focused on its back side (lower left view in image atop this story), as had been the case during the second Design Review Board meeting. The architects showed a tweaked version of the four-story building’s view from the alley, including yellow paint for much of the first two floors, and red on the set-back top two stories. Asked if they’d done enough to answer the DRB’s concern that the building’s back facade seemed “listless,” the architects thought they had, with touches including varied types/sizes of panels around the windows, as well as new landscaping details.
Those details updated since the Design Review meetings included trees and shrubbery along the rear of the building, as something of a “green screen” for neighbors (alley is at top of image over this line). Trees will include Japanese snowbell – expected to max out around 35 feet in height – and magnolia – projected to 24 feet. There’ll also be a “densified” cluster of “large shrubs.”
The courtyard on the southwest side of the building, anchored by the large cedar tree that DESC is under city orders to preserve, will include a raingarden to receive storm drainage from the roof. Along the street, the architects say they’re “still proposing salvaging existing street trees,” and the parking-strip area that is now “lawn” will be replaced with “simple ground cover.”
They said they’re still working on the lighting plan for the front and south side, where a “lantern” scheme had been envisioned – exterior lighting toward the top of the building might be a maintenance challenge, they noticed. One DESC facility, Canaday House, has “inset spotlights that highlight certain trees,” but the architect team isn’t so sure that would work for the large cedar that will take up much of the courtyard – “putting lights up the tree might be weird,” it was observed.
That big tree, by the way, will have to undergo some preparatory work before construction starts, it was explained – limbs that are too low to the ground will have to be removed for example. “What if the tree is irreparably harmed” during construction? asked advisory committee member Vonetta Mangaoang. There’s an “extensive protection plan,” replied the team, with fencing, mulch, and plywood. Hobson said they were committed to the plan and quipped that he would not want to see DESC “sent off to eco-concentration camp for destroying an exceptional tree.”
Asked if the community could use the courtyard, Hobson mentioned a DESC project where people from a nearby seniors’ community do come over and interact. However, there could be security issues – a “landscaped fence” is currently planned along the courtyard.
The discussion turned to how the building’s deliveries would be made, and how many there would be. DESC’s committee representative Nicole Macri said they would expect Costco deliveries and probably a meal provider – Hobson said they expect to contract with Fare Start – maybe also occasional office-supplies deliveries, and of course, the commercial tenant’s deliveries too.
Much of that was expected to happen in an area set aside on the northeast side of the building, but a parking pad remains in the plan on the southeast side (at the upper right of image above this paragraph), and that drew some neighborhood concern from residents who say it is currently used often for drug activity, and if it is a little-used parking pad, that might just continue to facilitate such use. As for whether that parking pad could be removed from the plan, the project team will discuss that with city planners, since it was an element favored by the Design Review Board, to avoid having all dropoffs/deliveries made at one spot behind the building.
That’s where Hobson mentioned that, although DESC had said at the last minute that it expected to apply for the building permit in August, it instead will be doing that next month – no precise date yet, could be early June, could be late – and therefore there’s “urgency (for) getting clarity” on final design tweaks, like this would be.
That discussion segued into the condition of the alley, which DESC will be improving as a requirement of the project, including paving and drainage, though the extent of that work hasn’t been decided yet, and the existing drainage is apparently in imperfect shape – the project team explained that they tried to use a special camera to investigate it, and “the first try didn’t go well,” so they’re planning to bring in a different type of camera.
One more issue: How will it be clear to pedestrians and others that the commercial space on the northwest side of the building is exactly that, and not just part of the housing complex? it was asked. Reply: Windows, different pavers, and possibly signage, though that would have to be discussed with the tenant, likely to be the Delridge Produce Cooperative per ongoing discussions. Concern was expressed regarding the notion that the windows would be expected to convey the business atmosphere – what if they were blocked by what’s in the business? DESC’s Hobson said that as landlords, they would closely monitor what was placed or displayed along the facade, and have done so at other buildings they own/manage.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE COMMITTEE: Members will tour DESC properties on June 4th – Hobson said he believes they’ll go to the two that North Delridge community members visited last September, Rainier House in Columbia City and Canaday House in Cascade (we covered that tour – here’s the story). Then the next public meeting at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center is scheduled for 6:30 pm June 12th, including a debriefing on the tour.