Concluding an four-hour doubleheader meeting much less contentious than their previous one last month, the Southwest Design Review Board has just given thumbs-up to 4745 40th SW, an eight-story, 150-unit, 116-parking-space building on the southwest corner of 40th and Edmunds, south of land the city has just purchased for a future park.
The previous session was for 4535 44th SW (here’s our report). Four regular board members were the panel for this review – chair Myer Harrell, Daniel Skaggs, Todd Bronk, and Laird Bennion; also at the table, Bruce Rips, the city planner for this project. Like the earlier project, this one drew about 15 members of the public.
Andy Hoyer from Encore Architects led the presentation; see the packet here. Hoyer said he was excited to be presenting one of the first projects developed under guidelines in the relatively new West Seattle Triangle Plan; though this site technically isn’t in The Triangle, the plan’s area extended a bit further west, including this site.
He discussed how the building will relate to the park and future “green street” features, since the site transitions to a wholly residential zone to the south, across SW Edmunds and beyond. To meet the “pedestrian-oriented streetscape” mandate, Hoyer said, the ground floor will have live-work units, as well as some commercial space adjacent to the park, a “jewel-box-type space” as described by the project’s landscape architect, Lara Normand of Communita / Atelier. That’s also where the mid-block connector (stretching from 4755 Fauntleroy) will lead. Sculptural benches “with a touch of color” are envisioned along the facade, along with “a sense of transparency,” as shown in this rendering:
Some of the existing trees along both 40th and Edmunds will be saved, and new ones including snowbells will be added.
Facing the park, a “modulated, semi-permeable edge” is envisioned; the team is working with Seattle Parks regarding “the level of privacy … and screening” that would be desirable on that north side, currently roughed out this way at ground level:
The material palate is “simple,” as Hoyer described it, mostly fiber-cement in a palate of about four colors, “popping the corners out with white corners” and windows. There will be some aluminum-storefront area in the commercial zone and the lobby area. They’re changing the color and window type at the top in an attempt to “break down the vertical scale.” He also noted the building is set “way down below the neighbors” who are in condos to the west/uphill (that side will have a fair amount of concrete but the architect says it won’t be terribly visible). The project is below its allowable parapet height, he says.
Three of the five design departures – zoning exceptions- they’re requesting have to do with the 17 percent slope along the Edmunds side. They’re also asking for slightly less setback – 8.8 feet instead of 10 – on part of the ground floor, as well as a wider lobby.
Board questions included concerns about whether the live-work signage would be visible given other street-side features, as well as clarification about materials.
PUBLIC COMMENT: Four people spoke.
The first, Andy, said he lives in the condos west of the development site, and asked a question about the windows that his condo would be facing, before saying that he’s still concerned about privacy – “there’s a lot of bedroom windows in the condos facing that side.” He said he hopes the development team will make sure “those issues are addressed.” He also said he’s concerned about safety along SW Edmunds, and whether a further setback was possible given how many vehicles would be using the alley entrances/exits while pedestrian traffic along Edmunds was bound to increase, given the addition of this building and others in the area (Spruce with LA Fitness, as well as Whole Foods/4755 Fauntleroy).
Next was another condo resident, Jake, who shared the alley entrance/exit-vs.-pedestrians concern. He said there have been some “close calls.” He and his 3-year-old son do a lot of walking in the area, as do other families, he noted, and the “hard corner” of this new building brings new visibility concerns.
Third to speak was Abdi, a Junction resident long active in monitoring local development, who lauded “the amount of thought” that had gone into the building, “particularly the frontage improvements on 40th … it’s like poetry, almost.” He also expressed appreciation for the north frontage along the park, and said the landscape/hardscape design is the best he’s seen in a long time.
Fourth was Kate, who agreed that the 40th-front design is attractive, but wondered about the exterior materials and how on one side they were “being held up” while on the other side they were “brought down to the ground.” She wondered if the two sides could be more consistent.
BOARD DELIBERATIONS: No giant issues. The live-work units’ exterior was the first topic, starting with the sign visibility issue. Lighting will make a difference, it was noted. The size of the canopies was brought up as a concern – too small? – and how the doors will be lit. Consistency of materials for the storefronts on the ground floor was requested. The condo residents’ concerns were discussed, checking which part of the units will face that side – page 22 of the packet suggests it’s mostly kitchens, board members said.
Will there be a pedestrian issue IN the alley? was one question that came up. Hard to tell, they agreed. But lighting could address the overall safety concerns at the building/alley corner. Some changes in the color scheme on the 40th SW side of the building was discussed – not in the colors themselves, but in how some of it draws toward the street. Referring to packet page 42, they wanted the residential lobby to feel a little more connected to everything else – “should be reflected more by the materiality,” said Harrell, when Rips – who has to write the city’s eventual report on this – said, “You mean more robust?”
Looking at the north side of the building, bordering the future park, board members said the screening looks good so far. The exterior materials came up as a topic of concern – something to break up the dominant fiber-cement (“Hardie” panel, though that specific manufacturer was not specified) material, “just one more material,” said Harrell. “At least,” interjected Bennion, clarifying that he wasn’t criticizing the quality, just that “the ENTIRE building” is proposed with that type of siding. (The board agreed to add that as a condition.)
Back again to the pedestrian-safety concerns on 40th SW, they agreed that DPD should point that out to SDOT as the other vetting of this project continues.
Bronk said that while he would “love to see what the building will look like going forward,” that wasn’t enough to call for another meeting. And with that, they agreed to recommend final approval for the project’s design. So, while this was the last public meeting for the project, while the permit process continues, you can send comments to planner Rips, firstname.lastname@example.org.
SIDE NOTE: Bennion noted that the packet was not available on the DPD website with enough advance time for the public to review it, “a pet peeve,” he said. He hadn’t seen it turn up at all; as reported here, it appeared yesterday, though DPD has said that it should be available at least a week in advance.