(Looking south on 40th from Alaska, at project’s northwest corner)
The next Southwest Design Review Board meeting has been scheduled for the 4755 Fauntleroy Way megaproject – 370 apartments, ~600 parking spaces, Whole Foods, a still-unnamed drugstore, and more – 8 pm July 11th, Senior Center of West Seattle. The date appeared on the city Department of Planning and Development website late today, just hours after the Seattle Design Commission took its fourth – and ultimately, final – look at the parts of the plan in which it has jurisdiction.
That meeting at City Hall downtown ended with commissioners voting to recommend that the city approve the “alley vacation” requested for the plan.
First, they reviewed an updated presentation – now posted to the city website in its 59-page entirety – about the “public benefit” that the development team is offering, which they calculate is worth more than $2 million.
Here’s how things unfolded before that:
West Seattle-residing landscape architect Andy Rasmussen of Weisman Design Group began by going further into the “West Seattle: water’s edge” theme that’s been incorporated into the project. He also described improvements including the pedestrian connection across Alaska (to Spruce, the former “Hole” that’s now resumed construction).
At the street level of the project itself, Rasmussen said there’s “more going on than almost any other project in the city.” That includes a wayfinding kiosk like the ones you’ve seen around West Seattle for the past few years. The artwork by sculptor Troy Pillow, also a West Seattleite, has been refined, Rasmussen said. They’ve also reworked the plazas on the corners – Rasmussen noted that 30 people had been involved. Lighting will be set into the paving at the “Gateway Plaza” (formerly known as the “iconic corner” at Fauntleroy and Alaska) to match lighting in the artwork.
There’ll be a water wall and deciduous vine-maple trees meant to be an echo of the trees you see in eastern West Seattle as you drive toward the peninsula – since this is the east side of the project. It’s also the corner that will be the spot from which people cross to the RapidRide station across Fauntleroy, on Alaska, headed outbound.
Along 40th SW, they’ve refined the linear view for people who are on the street level. That includes some landscaping improvement around what Rasmussen described as nice street trees already in place along the southeast side of the block, by the Masonic Lodge, which is not part of the project site. “We are basically completing the Triangle Plan recommendations for this entire half-block … so I think that’s a real positive thing.” On that side of the building, they also have pulled the sidewalk away from the building, with trees lining it on both sides (see photo at top of the story). At Alaska and 40th, there will be outdoor seating next to the Whole Foods entrance.
On Fauntleroy, there are two smaller plaza spaces, which Rasmussen said have been “pulled away” from the retail frontage, so that they will feel more “public.”
Architect Bill Fuller picked up the overall public-benefit overview, distributing the list that summarized the “public-benefit matrix” and assigned it a total price tag of $2.4 million, not including the cost of “voluntary setbacks” for the building at street level. Almost half of that is from “expanded public amenities along Fauntleroy and Alaska, including widened public sidewalks and landscaping, on-street parking and new bus pullout, all made possible by removing existing power poles and undergrounding utilities.” And the improvements “off-site” along 40th, including landscaping by the Masonic Temple and regrading their parking lot, total more than $93,000.
COMMENTS FROM CITY STAFF WHO WERE ON HAND: Beverly Barnett from SDOT, point person on street/alley vacations, said, “The refinements have really cleaned up … it really looks a lot better to me, and I’m really able to understand, if I live in West Seattle and walk around the project, what I’ll experience.
Chip Nevins of Seattle Parks, which is buying half an acre for a new park across the street – to which this project is contributing $25,000 for outreach and some of the design – expressed support.
PUBLIC COMMENT: The first person to speak suggested the public and developer needed to have direct conversations with each other before a decision on whether the “public benefit” was adequate. She also noted that while the developers pointed out the difference between what they had to do and what they were going to do, she hadn’t heard anything about “mitigation” for environmental effects of the project.
The second speaker expressed appreciation for the raingardens while wondering aloud about whether the art had a concept developed, rather than being simplified.
Third, identifying himself from Puget Sound SAGE, said the city had the ability to make requirements going beyond the basic types of “public benefit” discussed here.
Josh Sutton from the West Seattle Y (WSB sponsor) said he’s “most excited” about the new crosswalk on Alaska, as well as the other pedestrian improvements. “I’m frankly very happy with what we’re going to be getting in the Triangle area as a result of this project.”
West Seattleite Ann Martin expressed concern about the pedestrian situation of the pass-through – fearing it wouldn’t seem friendly, with vehicle traffic and emissions.
Steve Huling, previous owner of much of the project site, read from a prepared statement, and noted that he had been on the Triangle Advisory Council, “where all this started … I believe the mission and vision of that council has been met” with the pedestrian/bicycling components of the project. He notes that the project has more parking and less density than allowed for the area.
A West Seattleite who noted she had been to many of the meetings said she has been happy to see the evolution of the project, particularly the crosswalk between Spruce and this project, so that she could perhaps go to the gym at Spruce and walk over to Whole Foods.
Nancy Woodland, nearby resident and West Seattle Chamber of Commerce board member, said that the project team has “done an amazing job of responding to public concern,” including some sort of meeting yesterday on short notice. For project attributes, she expressed appreciation for the variety of plaza attributes as well as the crosswalk across Alaska, the undergrounded utilities, and the forthcoming bike lane along Fauntleroy (since, she noted, her husband bikes to work):
A Morgan Junction resident asked next about what’s been discussed regarding traffic flow on Fauntleroy.
Dave Montoure, board chair of the WS Chamber of Commerce and member of the Triangle Committee, said this project “exceeds expectations” from that standpoint. As a lifelong West Seattleite, he said, he remembered hearing about the alley vacation and having been previously unaware there even was an alley on site.
A West Seattle woman said next that she’s concerned about neighboring residents who might be affected by traffic increases, etc., and what will truly be a “public benefit” for them.
The next person to speak voiced support for “gorgeous” landscaping and art but said she had a hesitation as a resident about the true “public benefit,” not seeing how it would benefit residents, aside from those involved with the project. She pointed out that Trader Joe’s presence nearby for the past year-plus has already increased traffic pressures in the area and thinks this will further do so.
Commission members’ concerns included a stronger connection to the park on the other side of 40th – a crosswalk, the city has said, would not be possible, though. Another commissioner declared himself “deeply annoyed” by that and suggested further conversation with SDOT might be in order.
In formulating its decision to approve the “public benefit,” the commission had no major new recommendations, but added some caveats – including “administrative review” of a few components including the project’s art “as it develops.” They also formalized the recommendation that SDOT “be more open-minded” about a possible midblock crosswalk on 40th – their recommendation of approval for the alley vacation is a recommendation to SDOT anyway, so the agency is already involved.
Public comment is still welcome, until SDOT makes its decision. Contact information is in our story from February, when the alley-vacation application officially came in.
Other previous WSB coverage of this part of the process: