Details: Petco Charlestown proposal is still in the doghouse

chaztowncafe.jpgAs mentioned below, tonight the Southwest Design Review Board took up – and spit out – the newest proposed design for a Petco store on the Charlestown Cafe site.

The meeting, in fact, started 15 minutes late, because of the architects’ tardiness. The project team “took a wrong turn,” we were told.

Eerily predictive, that turned out to be. Click ahead for a complete recap:

First, the obligatory “here’s how we got to this point”: Charlestown Cafe lost its lease a year ago; the landowner proposed putting up a new building for Petco (which is leaving The Junction because it’s losing its parking lot); outrage ensued, not just from cafe fans but also from “big-box” haters; the first Petco store design presented in January went down in flames; architects changed; picketers rallied … Then tonight, a new design from the new architects, facing the Design Review Board and an SRO crowd of cafe fans (including CC owner Larry Mellums) in the cozy meeting room at the SPD Southwest Precinct.

When all the fur finished flying tonight, the architects and developer were under orders to go make some big tweaks and come back for a third Early Design Guidance meeting — no telling when that will happen, since more than six months elapsed between the first and second ones.

At first blush — forgive us for not having the architects’ renderings to show you — the new design appeared a little friendlied-up. “More bungalow-like” was one description. Lapboard siding. Pitched roof areas instead of flat, some clerestory windows near the roofline to bring in light, two entrances on California — one for the retail area, one for the grooming business — with stairs from the Cali/Bradford corner, where the store would be above sidewalk level because of the “grade.” Tons of greenery around the store, including a row of trees along the alley in back, “color” out front, and trees along Cali, including a plan to save two that are there now.

Board member David Foster wasn’t particularly impressed by the newest aesthetics, calling some of the changes “fake elements.” He and the rest of the board had many more critique points, such as: The architects apparently prepared three design options but only presented one, the plan that bunches the whole building up against the south side of the site, at Cali/Bradford. The rest of the Cali frontage, and the entirety of the Charlestown frontage, would be a parking lot.

“It would be unprecedented for the Design Review Board to approve that type of suburban development” in an area like this, declared audience member — and former board member — Vlad Oustimovitch.

The current board seemed to agree. How can a development like this literally turn a cold shoulder to the major intersection that touches its land, they asked?

They also took issue with the general premise of the info packet they had received as background, which posited that Petco is a higher use of this property than the Charlestown Cafe. Says who? was their general reaction to that. Several board members suggested strongly that the developer find a way to create a building with room for more than one business. It seems this one has only a single story (and therefore a single business) because of lease terms with Petco; board member Jeff McCord pointed out that the DRB has no obligation to ignore design standards and community needs just because of a project’s economic terms.

Board members also agreed that Cali is West Seattle’s “Main Street,” further calling into doubt the suitability of this type of commercial development (“would fit better in University Village or Westwood Village” was one audience comment); board chair Deb Barker — who did an exceptional job running a meeting fraught with public-sentiment peril — noted drily that the applicant should “get ‘Main Street’ into their vocabulary.”

Other suggestions for the project team included looking at whether the building could be bigger — again, so it could house more than one business, which the board and audience members said would be much more desirable — if its parking were moved underground. One way or another, “hiding” the parking was advocated as a preferable alternative — one of the two designs not presented apparently featured a long building using more of the Cali frontage, with parking on the building’s east side.

So what now? As mentioned earlier, a third “Early Design Guidance” meeting is in order. If the project team comes to that with something that the Design Review Board feels better about, the next step would be for it to make official recommendations; only after all that, can the project go on to other stages of applying for permits and getting closer to construction. If you’re wondering, as we are, whether Petco might run out of patience and time — you could speculate that might hinge at least partly on how long till that aforementioned project behind its current location starts construction.

By the way, the Design Review Board did consider another project tonight, a retail/condo building at 2310 Cali, just south of the Admiral Pub — one full year after its EDG meeting. Tonight, it got “thumbs up.” We’ll write more about it sometime tomorrow.

10 Replies to "Details: Petco Charlestown proposal is still in the doghouse"

  • t August 10, 2007 (8:50 am)

    Good morning, I have been meaning to post this for a while, here is as good a place as any.

    West Seattle Blog rocks. You have really stepped up. Over the last year I confess I thought your attention might wander, your energy wane, other obligations distract you. But instead, you have increased both the quality and the quantity of your posts, added significant amounts of photography, and really found your voice. This post is a perfect example of why you are really becoming an invaluable and essential asset to our humble little peninsula.

    I recognize that to date you have done this entirely as a labor of love – no advertising, no sponsorship, not even pleas for donations (though I would be the first in line to send you one).

    My hat is off to you, West Seattle Blog. You are truly a stellar example of the potential of “Web 2.0,” citizen journalism, and engagement in your community, and you inspire that engagement in your readers. Bravo.

  • WSB August 10, 2007 (9:21 am)

    Aw, you made us cry. Thanks.

  • Dolly August 10, 2007 (9:22 am)

    First, I will concur with the above comment. You do rock!!
    I also attended this meeting regarding the Charlestown St. Cafe site. You have done an excellent job of recapping the meeting! It is important for the community to understand that this is about more than the Cafe, but also about the tone of redevelopment in WS. This property owner owns lots of similar lots on Cali. Once there is success at building a box, how long will it be before our “Main Street” looks like Southcenter Parkway?

  • Giselle C Nault August 10, 2007 (11:06 am)

    My question is: with the improvement in our pet care needs with Mud Bay and Next to Nature, can it be proposed to abolish the large chain from our cozy community? Each time I have been to Petco in the junction, I am faced with uninformed service, rude tellers, and/or invisible management. Even when asked to speak to the manager to voice a complaint, he did not come out of his office to respond!! After waiting 15 minutes, I left with my dog in tow doubting I would ever return. That being said, I was introduced to the other stores, the staff is knowledgable, friendly and recognize my dog as their client!! West Seattle does not need to find a new home for Petco, we should be celebrating that all that square footage is opening up in the Junction for another great addition to our hip little area.

  • Tria August 10, 2007 (11:17 am)

    What are plans for the current Petco space in the Junction? The ground level footage is the same as the PCC grocery store on California across from West Seattle High School. If I remember, the Petco space previously was a grocery store, at least back around the time that the Charlestown Cafe was a Meal Fakers franchise restaurant.

    Is there any chance that Trader Joe’s is looking at the current Petco space?

  • JumboJim August 10, 2007 (11:42 am)

    I doubt Trader Joe’s would want the old Petco spot. As briefly mentioned in the story the parking behind Petco is going away. I hear there will be a building put on that site.

    While I agree with many of the Design Review Board’s concerns I think people need to keep in mind that this is California Ave. we’re talking about. It’s basically a *business* district between Admiral and Morgan (with spillover) and anything along there that’s done well (ths sticking point I guess), with the community’s interests in mind as well as the business’s interests shouldn’t be a big deal.

  • s August 10, 2007 (1:33 pm)

    Speaking of Petco alternatives, anybody know how the prices of the smaller stores compare to Petco prices? I’ve always assumed they’d be more expensive than Petco; am I correct or incorrect?

  • T August 10, 2007 (2:36 pm)

    My experience has been that the prices are pretty comparable but then again, I have to buy special food for my crazy dog and NTN carries it at a good price. I tried Petco but the experience in NTN and Mud Bay is sooo much nicer, I’d rather give them my business.

  • Flowerpetal August 10, 2007 (4:18 pm)

    I’m no big fan of big box stores but Petco has been good to us. We have never had anything but courteous and knowledgable help there. And the food we buy there is at a good price. The groomers are wonderful too and our little doggie loves going there.
    Too bad, if they were going to vacate that place that Hancock Fabrics couldn’t make it their temporary home. They are looking for a place while they are displaced from their store during construction. We would miss Hancock much more than Petco.

  • Gunnar August 18, 2007 (11:16 pm)

    My roommate went up there earlier to get some breakfast to go, and got the word that the Charlestown Cafe is going to be there for at least another year.

    One more year to watch the man of the Cloth jaywalk when he gets off the bus across the street in the morning.

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