“This building’s going to be very visible,” one Southwest Design Review Board member pointed out during the board’s first look at early-stage plans for 4400 SW Alaska, a 37-unit building kitty corner to the home of the West Seattle Farmers’ Market (see the design packet here). It was one of two projects reviewed last Thursday night (we’ll cover the other separately), and that visibility shaped the discussion:
Nicholson Kovalchick Architects‘ Steve Fischer led the presentation for this 37-unit project – 33 apartments, four live-work, and six parking stalls – on a 7,900-square-foot site. It’s in NC2-40 zoning in what’s basically a patchwork of zoning west of the Junction business area, a transitional zone between business and residential, but now densifying as zoning allows.
The developer is Isola Homes, which already has a project in the area – the five-townhouse Junction 5 “rowhouse” project that is just now going on sale at 45th/Oregon/Glenn.
This one, Fischer said, has the potential for Puget Sound views from the southwest corner, and also for people-watching as it faces the Farmers’ Market corner of 44th/Alaska.
Given the building’s somewhat-prominent location, they decided to – for the developer/architect-“preferred” massing (size/shape) option – go with a courtyard facing south (shown in the rendering above, appearing as sort of a notch in the building shape), and the live-work units at street level facing east, toward The Junction’s commercial area. It would have a rooftop amenity area, too.
The live-works form a sawtooth pattern along Glenn, and open onto the courtyard on the other side:
The exterior would be “contemporary,” yet “warm,” with possible influences including the aforementioned Junction 5, shown on one page of the meeting “packet” presentation.
One zoning “departure” is requested – one unit facing SW Alaska would be closer to the sidewalk than code language requires.
Asked during the board’s question period if they had thought about retail space on the Alaska/Glenn/44th corner instead of live-work, Fischer said they were a little worried it’s a bit too far from California SW to be a sure bet. As so many architects/developers are saying these days, he said it could certainly evolve to true retail if the market and economy permit it over time.
About the parking? “We’re presenting a building that’s not parking-reliant, a young, professional person that doesn’t want to live in Northgate, that wants to be in the city, in an urban environment, in close proximity to the bus … that’s the urban-village strategy.”
The building would have a staircase that would be covered at the top but open-air on the sides.
In public comment, former Design Review Board member Deb Barker had praise for some components and also suggested that along with contemporary decor, there could be touches respecting the “adjacent structures,” such as stone or brick to match what predominated in previous decades. “I’m excited to see this corner develop (for) a great anchor to our Junction,” she wrapped up.
Local resident Diane Vincent, noting she’s a “lifelong renter in a fourth-floor walkup,” expressed appreciation for the open-air staircase proposed with this project.
A third speaker expressed concern that the project includes “a lot of very small spaces … a lot of tiny spaces … small studios and 1-bedrooms, small live-works.” He also said some of the “grade issues” from the site seemed to be unresolved.
In board deliberation, member Todd Bronk wondered if the building was trying to be more urban or more residential, given the transitional zone it’s in. Chair Myer Harrell thought a few features from other options might be worth incorporating – such as a rooftop deck proposed in Option 1 as looking toward the Farmers’ Market.
The configuration of the ground level came back around, and how the corner will be viewed by people in the area. Board member T. Frick McNamara flatly declared that corner “a cluster.” In the end, they supported the Option 3 massing, but wanted to see a re-envisioning for the corner when the project returns for the next round of Design Review. “High-quality materials especially at the base” were also a focus chair Harrell urged, with a “timeless” quality.
WHAT’S NEXT: Since the board recommended passing this project to the next stage of Design Review, its developers will be able to apply for their Master Use Permit, while getting ready to bring it back for that next meeting. No date set yet. You can comment on the project’s design, environmental impact, or other aspects at any time during the process without waiting for that next meeting – e-mail the assigned planner, Lindsay King, at firstname.lastname@example.org.