As 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.