‘Gateway to High Point,’ mixed-use Upton Flats gets final Southwest Design Review Board OK

upton

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

It’s been a question spanning many years and many plans – what will be built at High Point’s last big vacant corner, 35th and Graham?

The two-building mixed-use project Upton Flats at 6058 35th SW might be the one destined to happen. It won final Southwest Design Review Board approval tonight.

Four of the five board members were present along with the project’s assigned city planner Tami Garrett: Chair Tod Bronk, Matt Zinski, Alexandra Moravec, and Don Caffrey, to take one more look, and offer one more round of feedback on, the project with two 4-story buildings, about 100 residential units, 10,000 square feet of commercial space, and 100+ offstreet-parking spaces, now planned below grade.

Here’s the full design “packet” posted for tonight’s meeting. Much of the discussion centered on the finest of fine points, signifying this project really is ready to move on.

The presentation was led by SMR Architects, whose reps included several West Seattleites, and the declaration, “We look forward to putting this iconic building there” at the corner.

The plan has evolved over the course of its design reviews; this was its third, after meetings in June and September last year. The parking is now below grade; the building is split into two, with a pedestrian connection to the planned Polygon residential development elsewhere on the sprawling 35th/Graham site.

sortaaerial

Many of the common areas are now moved to that “pedestrian connection” for a real “focal point,” along with what they’re hoping will be a “pedestrian plaza” right at the corner.

John Putre from SMR showed the details. They see the corner as the “Gateway to High Point,” highlighted by “rich blue siding,” with a parapet and plaza. He said they believe the colors they’ve chosen tie into the adjacent commercial buildings on 35th. The 35th-facing facade also includes some brick and a steel channel. Closer to street level, they will have patios and other streetscape features to make it “inviting.” With a closer look at the pedestrian walkthrough, he emphasized that they expect it will tie together the whole site, their development and what Polygon is working on.

A closer look at the landscape plan showed it broken into multiple areas, including the streetscape, with “some nice existing trees” and a wide planting strip with a mix of plantings. Trees will include a mix of sizes, including birch and Japanese maples, to “create a variety of height, texture, seasonal color”; low plantings are planned by the café space at the 35th/Graham corner; three existing trees on Graham will stay, and a large beech tree will be added, “a gateway tree in a sense.” North side plantings will be simple, with a native-planting focus. Bioretention (stormwater facilities) is also planned along the northeast side of the project.

Lighting, benches, and bike racks were shown briefly (see the packet for detail).

BOARD QUESTIONS: Not many. Caffrey and Zinski asked about materials. Zinski also asked about the “design intent” or rhythm for the windows. Moravec lauded the architects for a “comprehensive” packet.

PUBLIC COMMENT: First person to speak was former Design Review Board member Deb Barker, who said she was “floored” that streets were mislabeled in the packet. “Guys, it’s southwest. Not south, southwest.” She suggested “deeper modulations” for the north building, maybe kicking up elements of its western facade. She is excited about the plaza planned at the project’s southwest corner, but suggested a little more separation from 35th because of its speeds and traffic, even knowing that rechannelization is ahead there.

A High Point resident said he had missed previous meetings but has talked to some of his neighbors. He complimented the architects for the packet and its great ideas. But he has a question about the SW corner – scene of protests and tributes after the death of pedestrian James St. Clair, killed in December 2013. “Many neighbors are still under the impression that there’s an ongoing plan to have that corner larger, partly because of the folklore that the ground is unstable … partly for a memorial there honoring the victims of traffic on 35th, people think the money is there, think there’ll be something more than a little plaque. I like the look, I like the plan, glad it’s going strong, and I urge you to continue to be involved with SDOT in some kind of a park.” Garrett asked him about the name of the SDOT contact, and he mentioned Jim Curtin, project manager for the 35th SW Safety project. (Later Putre said yes, they’re working to keep that space as big as possible.)

Catherine from SHA said it’s very important “to create a there, there” for this corner, to make the corner a “gateway,” to become a special place and foster a sense of place.

The next commenter offered thanks to the board, “you guys have done a great job of improving the project.” But she was concerned that page 4 of the packet is not faithful to the scale of future and current buildings. She also was concerned about the yellow-green Design Review notices not getting removed. What about service delivery to the development? There’s a trash staging area off Graham, for example, the project team replied. And would there be a hood for cooking in a business, and what about HVAC venting? Putre pointed out a space on the east side. He also mentioned venting for the coffee shop that’s expected on the corner.

Where did the Upton Flats name come from? was asked at the end of public comment. The architects said it didn’t seem right for them to claim all of High Point by putting that on their building, so the project has its own name. (“What does it mean?” wasn’t answered.)

BOARD COMMENTS: Bronk opened by saying that he was pleased to see how the massing had evolved. The southwest-corner plaza needs to evolve more, he said. He also wanted to hear observations about materials. Moravec said she thought the corner is “elegant and understated.” Caffrey said most of his remaining concerns were “minor materiality” issues. The corner remained a center of discussion: Bronk likes the detailing and the simplicity but “it feels a little flat” otherwise, though he likes the color and “how it punches out.” But “the plaza and sidewalk don’t speak to each other … and that’s a missed opportunity.” Zinski took up the concern about the corner paying tribute to pedestrian safety. They continued to discuss whether certain materials were appropriate for the corner. Zinski said he also had concern about the flatness of the materials on the corner – board, for example, and the trim detail. Maybe instead of using hardie board, they could use something creating a shadow line and some depth, he said. “If we’re going to use one of the cheapest materials out there, we want to see it done really well,” said Zinski.

Regarding landscaping, Bronk offered a few minor points, including a suggestion to use a more-solid material in spots that are going to be lit. For landscaping lighting overall, he was concerned that what they were using wouldn’t hide the light source at all, “so people just go walking through and they’re getting blinded,” instead of creating “a glow.” And he warned about a “big concrete slab” for the plaza, because if the commercial space doesn’t go as envisioned, it could be a big dead space, like California/Charlestown. But overall, he thinks it will be a “great building” for High Point.

COMMENTS? If you have something to say, there’s still time up until the city gives its final approval to the project. E-mail planner Garrett, tami.garrett@seattle.gov

28 Replies to "'Gateway to High Point,' mixed-use Upton Flats gets final Southwest Design Review Board OK"

  • KISS April 8, 2016 (8:52 am)

    That is a nice looking self-storage facility.  Not as nice as Public Storage’s self-storage building in South Lake Union but almost.  I approve.

  • Steve April 8, 2016 (10:12 am)

     ‘Upton Flats’ is the best name they could come up with?  And then they plaster it on the front?  Ugh.  They might as well name it ‘Potter’s Field’ or ‘Dreary Downs’.

    • KM April 8, 2016 (1:16 pm)

      Sudden Valley or Moland Springs have my vote.

    • David Kerlick April 8, 2016 (2:34 pm)

      Upson Downs?

  • Robert Poor April 8, 2016 (10:34 am)

    At the meeting last night I talked about the plans for 35th and Graham, and the neighborhood response  following the deaths of James St. Clair and others. Rallies and meetings led to the Department of Neighborhoods Park and Street Fund grant (2015-118, $62,400) to SDOT for traffic safety improvements. More will be needed for the aesthetics and safety of the corner, and if you are interested in helping make this a safe and beautiful place, let me know — Bob Poor, robertpoor@gmail.com

    • Oakley34 April 8, 2016 (1:02 pm)

      The constant stream of illegal Left turns from Graham onto Northbound 35th is a continuing hazard.  This building will only increase pedestrian traffic at this intersection, and I fear only a matter of time before another incident (if this goes unaddressed in the rechannel and continues to receive zero enforcement).  If the cops wanted to make some coin all it would take is a surreptitiously parked cruiser on 35th to nab car after car ignoring  the Right Turn Only sign.  

  • HelperMonkey April 8, 2016 (10:54 am)

    that corner needs a grocery store. 

    • Speed April 8, 2016 (12:40 pm)

      Me, too!

      I’d love to know the real story behind the rumor to bring a Trader Joe’s to this space a number of years ago.

      • WSB April 8, 2016 (12:45 pm)

        Trader Joe’s was rumored for just about every patch of dirt around here that could possibly hold a small specialty grocer … it was an endless topic even before our site turned into a news publication two years after we started it. Admiral, Morgan Junction, High Point … then finally, it found a home. Whether TJ’s or not, the 35th/Graham held a lot of hopes for a grocery store until the Housing Authority finally declared in 2011 that no grocery store was interested. Before and after that, the site had different proposals … this 2011 story might have some backstory of interest: http://westseattleblog.com/2011/01/high-point-showdown-housing-authority-boss-apologizes/

        • Speed April 8, 2016 (1:00 pm)

          Thanks, WSB!

          I remember a comment on a story stating Trader Joe’s turned down an invitation to come to this space because their semi-trucks would or could not be accommodated. I’ve never seen or heard of this rumor since. I tried looking for the story/comment but so far I’ve come up empty.

  • coffee April 8, 2016 (10:55 am)

    Agreeing with Kiss, box and ugly.  Apparently Design Review Board missed the first word in their title….as it lacks design.

  • trickycoolj April 8, 2016 (10:57 am)

    Gateway to High Point…. maybe High Point Gateway would be a better name.  This whole thing makes me think of Thornton Creek up at Northgate somehow.  Upton what?  My only guess is they wanted a neutral name so the business tenants they try to attract don’t know it’s High Point.  I say we should be proud of High Point and name it as such.

    • AMD April 8, 2016 (11:55 am)

      The irony of “High Point Flats” would be amusing.  : )


      I don’t like the name either.  “Upton Flats” sounds pretentious to me.  That’s my opinion.  Like instead of Downton Abbey in England, we’ll have the Upton Flats here in Seattle.  High Point has a lot going for it and is a good name in and of itself.  “Graham Square” would be accurate, as the building is both on Graham and square…  I don’t know.  That name just sounds so much like a building trying to be something Seattle isn’t and doesn’t care to be.

  • ehyi April 8, 2016 (11:10 am)

    If there isn’t some history or reason behind the proposed name, they might as well call it Model Shoes. Or Nouveau Generique.

  • Diane April 8, 2016 (1:14 pm)

    good to see I’m not the only one questioning “Upton Flats”; wth?  appreciate comments here re potential reasons for the name

    in addition to mislabeling (as Deb pointed out in her comments) SW as S; they also mislabeled Bridgepark Senior Housing, Providence Elizabeth House, Neighborhood House; and wth is #25 “South Seattle Market” listed on their map, but the #25 was on what is actually Neighborhood House; I’ve never heard of a South Seattle Market anywhere in WS

    agree on lack of design; I started going to design reviews 8-9 yrs ago out of interest in process and love of good design; seems only one out of maybe 20 projects actually show up with good designs; everything else, boxes, boxes, boxes

    • trickycoolj April 8, 2016 (1:51 pm)

      Is South Seattle Market trying to refer to the gas station on the corner of 35th and Morgan?  I *think* it might be South Seattle something, but for the life of me I can’t picture the sign right now in my head.

      • WSB April 8, 2016 (1:56 pm)

        South Seattle Market is the official name of the gas station/minimart at 35th/Morgan, yes.

    • John April 8, 2016 (9:25 pm)

      Diane,

      After so many meetings and so many boxes, I would like to hear about the non-box designs you mention.  

      Did they get built?

      What designs pass your muster?

  • Mike April 8, 2016 (4:18 pm)

    Looks like a storage locker complex.

  • John April 8, 2016 (5:03 pm)

    Looks like it came pre-assembled on a barge in Elliott Bay

  • miws April 8, 2016 (5:10 pm)

    Being French, this may sound a bit pretentious as well,  but I’m gonna toss it out there anyway: La Boîte Ennuyeuse.

    Mike

  • ACG April 8, 2016 (6:41 pm)

    Mike,

    What does that mean when translated?   (I’m not French)    ;)

  • Jet City April 8, 2016 (6:50 pm)

    Love it

    translation: Box Boring

    c’mon Lets please raise the bar for developers with same old formulas.

    you can ask for more Design Review Board; better materials, sense of place please

    thank you

  • miws April 8, 2016 (7:03 pm)

    Thanks for giving the translation, Jet City. :-) 

    ACG, me neither, and I don’t speak French, so had to cheat and use Google Translate. ;-) 

    Mike

  • ACG April 8, 2016 (9:40 pm)

    Love it, Mike!!!

  • Bea Donovan April 11, 2016 (8:00 pm)

    I have no objection to the building. It is what it is. But that name is just cornball. What’s wrong with calling them “apartments” and using a normal name? (i.e. the developer naming them after his/her kid or something?) 

  • Marianne April 14, 2016 (9:00 am)

    Upton Flats IS pretentious … if it’s a trailer park in tornado alley.  Ick !

  • StringCheese April 14, 2016 (9:39 am)

    Anyone else bothered by the fact that they have only included ONE retail space? All of the HP residents I’ve talked to were envisioning shops, a coffee house, a restaurant… One maybe restaurant and a bunch of offices. Blech. Any chance of this being changed? 

    Why in the world would anyone care about the “plaza” if there is no reason for anyone to be there in the first place? Without a reason for people to come and go on a regular basis, I don’t see anyone other than loiterers using that space for, well, loitering. After all, it will be nicer than their current hang out in front of the mini-mart and Walgreens. Shops and restaurants would create a healthy flow of people.

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