By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Tomorrow, the Junction development at, and known as, 4724 California will mark a milestone, officially applying to the city for its Master Use Permit.
That step was enabled by its preliminary approval from the Southwest Design Review Board at the Early Design Guidance meeting two months ago (WSB coverage here). And while its second, and potentially final, design review isn’t expected till fall, the project team has just put together a look at how its design is evolving as of this “waypoint.”
The update was shown to and discussed with a small group of community members late last week. After hearing in advance about the planned informal discussion, we requested, and received, permission to cover it. In addition to a look at the in-progress design, we also learned new details about the overall plan and timetable.
First, backstory in case you hadn’t heard about this development:
Petco closed this location last November and moved to Capco Plaza at 41st/Alaska. The California SW space was empty until Sound Advertising Group moved in a few months later, while making it clear that it’s an interim tenant for the space. In April, a reader tip led us to a filing for a 7-story development at the site (first story here) with about 100 residential units. In the ensuing week and a half, we published followup stories with development representatives (here) and an executive of The Wolff Company, which is buying the site (here).
A month later, they took the project to the Design Review Board. And some of the recommendations have already found their way into the interim design, as shown by the project team, which outnumbered the community members – three from architecture firm Weber Thompson, three from the development team, one from Wolff, and Jeanne Muir, serving as a facilitator/community liaison.
The “here’s where we are in the process meeting” was led by architect Jeff Bates from Weber Thompson, who showed a few of the in-progress views – including this one:
They chose to give up “some leasable space,” the project team says, to add some features: A loading dock so the retail tenants can be serviced from the alley; ground-level setback for some public space, possibly coffee-shop tables, on a 16-foot setback (10 feet more than the rest of the building’s California frontage); a 10-foot setback for the third floor and higher, past the “tower” element on the northwest side of the building, and the top story has an additional two-foot setback. The two-story-high “retail space” will feature bricks. The “tower” section is not angled.
The 5,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space, with 15-foot ceilings, hasn’t been officially divided, but three-fourths of it will appear from the street as if it’s three “bays” of 1,200 square feet each. The developers stressed, “We don’t want to put a national tenant in there” – they are hoping the spaces will be right for locally rooted businesses. The building facade along the future storefronts now has a canopy (as shown in the rendering above).
The rest of the retail space, under that “tower” on the northwest, would be something special, the developers hope, perhaps a coffee shop or something else that would encourage “connectivity with the sidewalk,” and with the mid-block breezeway. Here’s another view:
They’re expecting to have a full rooftop terrace with a hearth, barbecue, trellis, and herb garden, plus at least part of the building’s top would hold a “green roof.” Back on the ground, the breezeway may have overhead lighting – something casual, festival style. Nearby, behind a wall of windows, the residential lobby space – with an entry off the breezeway, instead of the street, something requested in earlier discussions with local residents. It was shown with a “sweeping staircase” as an element visible even through the windows from the street or the breezeway. It could, Bates said, have a door to the back of the corner retail space, if a tenant were interested.
The breezeway will likely have a “reclaimed wood” wall and some landscaping, too, likely some hedging. Landscape architect Catherine Benotto was at the meeting to discuss that aspect of the project, and mentioned “columnar beech trees … which grow narrow and vertical” were likely there. Trees in stormwater-retaining yard-high planters are also envisioned atop the “setback” area on the southwest front of the building.
“This is not a finished, locked-down design,” they stressed over and over. It won’t be anything close to that until they go back to Design Review in mid-to-late October.
But they also displayed some of the materials they are mulling. The tower is envisioned with “cementitious paneling” rather than brick, though brick is planned for the rest of the building – no color commitment yet. Blackened-steel trim is being considered. One attendee suggested the windows by the corners should wrap around it.
-The garage entry is planned on the southeast side of the building.
-They’re no longer planning some live-work units fronting the alley, though they’re still part of the plan for the building’s second floor (13 of them, taking up that entire floor)
-The apartment plans are continuing to take shape, though their details were not discussed at this gathering, aside from an expected average size around 725 feet – larger, they say, than the current market, and they may have some 1,000-square-foot units. They said they’re not expecting to have studios, but rather a mix of 1- and 2-bedroom units. They’re considering balconies for some of the 1-bedrooms overlooking California.
In all, the developers say, their plan has thousands of square feet of potential buildable space less than it could – including the setbacks and the midblock pass-through, as well as their decision not to add the eighth floor that zoning would allow – but they consider it “do(ing) the right thing.”
With the permit filing expected this Wednesday, and a second Design Review meeting not expected before mid-October, the project team says construction at this point might not start until next summer, with the building finished in late 2014. That would be a change from a widespread perception that most of the construction would happen concurrent with the Equity Residential buildings up the street at California/Alaska/42nd, a project that might go into the demolition phase within two weeks (according to what the developers told us recently).
If you have suggestions or questions for the developers in the meantime, you can use the “contact” option on the project website.