By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The next major project in the pipeline for the intensively densifying east edge of The Junction has moved on to the second phase of Design Review – two buildings with a total of nearly 300 apartments, plus retail and live-work spaces, at 4722 Fauntleroy Way SW [map] and across the alley at 4721 38th SW.
The sites are being developed together by Legacy Partners, and so were presented together last night to the Southwest Design Review Board. Three of the four current board members – chair Matt Zinski, Don Caffrey, and Crystal Lora – were there, as was fill-in (and former) board member Robin Murphy, and assigned city planner Carly Guillory.
This was the Early Design Guidance phase, which meant the focus was on “massing” – size, shape, placement on site – rather than specific aspects of the design itself. The site has history – it went through two SWDRB meetings when CVS planned a standalone drugstore, under different (potential) ownership and architects; then that plan was scrapped last year. We first reported on the emergence of the new plan last December.
The meeting unfolded with one format change – double the time (40 minutes instead of 20) for the architects’ presentation, since they were covering two sites:
ARCHITECTS’ PRESENTATION: Derrick Overbay and Bryan Bellissimo of Encore Architects, on behalf of the project team, led the presentation. Here’s the “design packet”:
(Or see it in PDF here, on the city website.) Overbay explained that the project is in two parts because of the alley between them, but “designed as a cohesive project.”
As the architects explained for starters, their site is in a relatively rapidly redeveloping area, with The Whittaker (WSB sponsor) across Fauntleroy, the future Foundry to the south, and another project under construction kitty-corner on the SW corner of Fauntleroy and Edmunds. They also went through the topography, saying the 325-foot-long Fauntleroy site has a 17′ change – “quite a bit of grade difference” – and the site on the alley has a 12′ change.
Their first-floor plan is for a mixed-use building with 10,000 square feet of retail space in the north half of the larger building, 17 live-work units on the first and second floors, and 240 apartments, 7 stories above grade, 2 levels of below-grade parking. The smaller building would be mostly residential – 4 stories with ~48 residential units and one live-work unit. The primary entry would relate to the future midblock connection on Fauntleroy between Alaska and Edmunds. There would be parking accessed from the north-side alley; commercial parking would be accessed from the alley behind the main building. The parking for the smaller building would all be accessed from the alley to the north.
As is required at this phase of Design Review, they showed three possible massing options; “Open Corners,” “Aligned Blocks,” and “Shifting Stacks” – the latter was identified as the project team’s preferred option.
Describing that one, Bellissimo says they were “really inspired by the shipping yard, and boiling it down to an architectural standpoint,” showing photos of the cranes at the Port of Seattle, and saying that the stacks of containers were an inspiration too. “Applying this to this massing concept, thinking about this two-story base being the stage for what happens above … it relates to the neighboring commercial live-work uses along that street, and then we can start to activate that.”
He showed elements with nicknames including “The Tall Ones” and “Skinny Stacks” that were incorporated into the composition, saying they were “pulling in some infill elements” and saying the intent was to have a two-sided building, with a courtyard facing east from the third floor. Overbay pointed to a break in the building that relates to the break in The Whittaker at the midblock point.
The building would have two courtyards, including one facing Fauntleroy from the third floor. But the main views looking north and south along Fauntleroy would show the repeating elements.
Overbay pointed out that the repeating elements break up the facade without the more-common stepback/setbacks you see on projects.
For the second building, Bellissimo said Option C, also dubbed “Shifting Stacks,” was preferred, with a theme similar to the larger building. He said that they realized they wanted to “marry” the two buildings’ themes, so this building’s live-work unit would be on the northeast corner, and there would be a south courtyard. Along 38th SW, it would look like “more of a carved mass,” he said. Overbay noted that this is a “zone transition” area – with single-family homes to the east – and the smaller building has to deal with that, as well as offering “stepping of mass … as you move from north to south.”
The landscaping concept was presented by Tom Rengstorf. “Dog urine is the #1 issue we’re dealing with” in landscaping around West Seattle, he noted. Raised planters will help with that, he said. They have not yet decided whether to “get into stormwater infrastructure” such as raingardens. The smaller building might have an indoor-outdoor courtyard spilling into the leasing office. Both buildings would have roof plantings, with angled trays, he said – that helps them maximize the relatively small amoung of gathering space they’d be allowed, and points toward the best views. Beehives are in the plan, too. And he addressed privacy issues where the two buildings have units facing each other, for example, on floor two – a planting area on the northeast side of the larger building would deal with that. Going to the third floor, screening was shown for individual patios.
BOARD QUESTIONS: Loya asked for clarification about the preferred entry side for the smaller building; it would be on 38th. She also wondered about what looked like columns and was told no, they won’t be standalone. Caffrey wondered about the residential entry and retail entry on the larger building; the former would be at midblock, the latter would be on the NW corner. He also asked about required alley improvements; they’re dedicating 5 feet to the east-west alley (which will become 15′ wide), and 2 feet on each side of the north-south alley (which will become 16′ wide). Murphy asked about the live-works on Fauntleroy, separate units between 1st and 2nd floors, asking how the second-floor units would function. “More of a home-office type of … business,” was the reply. Murphy also wondered if they looked at an option going all the way up to the 85′ maximum allowed by the zoning, instead of the 7 stories in the plan. The architects say that didn’t make sense financially. Zinski wondered if the second building is meant to be a “mini-me” for the first. Basically, the reply was – yes, and that would provide a “cohesive feel to the project.” Zinski also asked about the architects’ repeated use of the word “asymmetry.” Reply: “It just felt more dynamic, picking up rhythm, as you’re coming down the street” while perceived differently by drivers/riders and pedestrians. And Zinski wondered about the choice of a port crane for an inspirational element – asking why, and what’s so important about it, “how are we really seeing that here?” Overbay said it wasn’t the crane “in a literal sense” so much as the “shipyard” itself, “constantly shifting pattern and … motion,” with containers moving about, too.
Zinski asked, “Why is this a good design?” Overbay said it takes cues from other projects around the neighborhood, “taking what we see around us and going to the next level …” The 300+-foot facade has to have “this level of modulation.” Bellissimo added that this is sort of a transition between The Whittaker to the left and the lower, less-dense zoning to the east. Zinski also asked, “What’s essential to this building … that you can’t live without?” Bellissimo said the “assembly of these parts” and “layering” were key.
Murphy asked about the distance between the property line for this project and the project planned immediately south (The Foundry), observing that the two will be very close.
PUBLIC COMMENT: While the room was fairly full, only one person wanted to stand up and comment – a member of the family that is selling the sites. Mike Campagnaro, saying he grew up in one of the single-family houses along 38th and still has family there, said they are “really excited about this project, and about Legacy (Partners) … we think this proposed project really fits the Junction and Triangle vision that the West Seattle community has … we’ve seen some of Legacy’s other developments and … are ready to see both sites developed. We’re ready to go.”
BOARD DELIBERATIONS: The meeting had only lasted an hour by the time this started. Murphy opened by expressing appreciation for the crane metaphor and building blocks, and the packet images that show the steps of development, calling it a “well-informed concept” for the area. But then, he said, they were watered down, and he said the smaller building didn’t seem to express the concept as clearly, and seemed to be just “thrown in there.” Caffrey said he too was concerned about the relation of the two buildings, given the “lack of exposure” of the smaller one. He also said planning for the future of Fauntleroy and the alleys was an important part to consider. Loya also expressed concern about the Fauntleroy street presence and the retail plan. She wondered if the space identified as 10,000 square feet could be broken up, and where the doors and divisions would be.
After hearing those concerns, Zinski guided the discussion to the big building’s distinctive “gateway” nature. He said that as a purist, he would push the design to be even more like what it’s aspiring to be, but as an urbanist, he wouldn’t want the building to compete so much with the “other gateway buildings over there.” Asked by Loya to elaborate, Zinski said that if the building pushed the shipyard-hierarchy aspect even further, “I don’t know if that’s going to become a Pioneer Square brick building that’s simple and contextual … or let that be a jumpoff point.” He added that he didn’t want to see a cartoonish post-modern building. Murphy said he agreed, with the building needing to fit into the neighborhood fabric without becoming Disney-ish. And he reiterated the importance of cohesiveness if the two buildings are not just being presented as one project but also will be built and decorated as one. The smaller building, therefore, might not have to have a “crane” look so much as a “shipping containers” look, said Zinski. So the smaller building could be more of a shipyard component than a “Mini-Me” to the larger building. Murphy said the two buildings should have more of a relationship, if so. He added that the “unusual circumstance” of two buildings being designed as one project by the same team in a transitional site like this provided a lot of opportunity. Caffrey noted that he didn’t want to “push too much onto the shoulders of the small building.”
Murphy observed that it’s a good thing that the clustering of the parking entries is away from the single-family homes that will remain in the area, to the south.
They also discussed how the alley can be addressed by the two buildings, including how the courtyards should relate to each other across it.
Hoya said she was still concerned about defining how the 10,000-foot retail space and its entry/ies would relate to the elements of the building facade above it. “So ground-floor expression needs to relate to the overall massing strategy,” summarized Zinski, going on to say what’s happening inside the building will need to relate to what’s happening outside the building.
“And I would caution against a cut corner for the main entry for the retail,” added Loya.
Murphy reiterated his concern about the south-side units looking into The Foundry to the south, “because they’re looking at each other directly.” He also said the diagonal roof garden “needs a little more roof” because it would be a “dramatic” change at that level – “with absolutely no relationship to the building” – so “a more-subtle situation might be better.” Loya agreed. Zinski said he felt the diagonal garden looks “very striking” and he didn’t think it would be “so strongly expressed” that it would be a problem. Caffrey said he’s “okay with it.” So overall, Zinski summarized, the board wants to see the “roofscape more interrelated” to the theme of the project’s facades.
They discussed various guidelines that will apply to the site, as the project team works on further developing the design. Most related to points they already had brought up in their discussion, including “cohesive architectural concept.” Some of the guidelines won’t be addressed until the second stage of the process, such as signage.
They voted unanimously to move both parts of the project on to the second phase of Design Review. For the smaller building, they want to see “more rigor in the massing expression,” as Zinski summarized it, and he wanted to see more nuance in the taller building’s massing. And they want to see the two buildings’ design relate more to the theme – conceptually tied together. Everything else they recapped is what was mentioned above.
WHAT’S NEXT: The project will have at least one more meeting, date TBA – watch this page (and watch our coverage here on WSB, in the development category). In the meantime, you can send comments on the project’s design and other aspects to planner Carly Guillory, firstname.lastname@example.org.