Long “early design guidance” meeting tonight — almost 2 hours — for the proposed mixed-use building we told you about last month at 4502 42nd SW, southeast corner of 42nd & Oregon, east edge of The Junction, where these small old homes now sit:
Discussion and concerns centered on two aspects of the project: Its size, and how traffic for the building will flow. At meeting’s end, Southwest Design Review Board members took the somewhat-uncommon step of telling the architect to come back for a second “early design guidance” meeting, meaning the project will ultimately go through at least three design-review meetings.
At “early design guidance” meetings, the architect is not expected to present a full-blown design, but instead some general outlines, concepts, and directions. One of those involves so-called massing studies. And this building has mass, any way you slice it — 2 1/2 levels of underground parking topped by 10,000 square feet of commercial space and at least 83 condos (architect Mark Travers says the landowner wants 90 but so far 83’s as many as they have managed to rough in; he also mentioned there’s “some interest in the commercial space already”).
This page on Travers’ site will give you some idea of what’s involved here. While the building’s west side along 42nd will face toward the back side of the developed Junction business area, its east side will face a residential zone that slopes rather steeply downward, and that had board members offering many thoughts tonight on what that side should look like. Board chair Deb Barker said she doesn’t want the building to look “scary” to those driving uphill from the Fauntleroy/Oregon vicinity, hoping instead that it can present a “graceful” roofline, since it might well be visible that far southeast.
Erica Karlovits from the Junction Neighborhood Organization (JuNO) echoed concerns about the building’s bulk, saying she would like to see “a lot less lot coverage … that is an absolutely ENORMOUS building for the neighborhood.”
The board members asked Travers to come back for a second EDG meeting for reasons including their need for more information on how the size of the project might relate to others in the area, which he acknowledged he had not yet closely studied, plus more building configuration options — tonight, he presented what they considered to be three versions of the same building, varying only the position of its large courtyard. In his preferred option, the courtyard would face east, but some board members wondered if removing or shrinking the courtyard might give the building more flexibility for design elements “stepping” the transition between its east side and the residential neighborhood across the alley.
The alley itself also was a major focus of discussion. Right now, all vehicle traffic to the building would use the alley, which also is the only access for the residential neighbors to the east whose homes front 41st but don’t have parking on that street because of the lots’ pitch. Travers said they are trying to place the building’s vehicle access as far south along the alley as is possible; the alley will have to be widened during the development process, as it is currently only 16 feet wide.
Linked to the discussion of the alley is the not-inconsiderable matter of how busy 42nd SW could become, if traffic to and from this project was routed there, as well as traffic from the QFC/Office Depot megaproject at 42nd/Alaska, and another mixed-use building in the works directly north of that. Omni Construction co-owner Paul Cesmat, at the meeting to represent neighbors east of this project, proposed making the alley a southbound one-way, emptying onto 42nd at the middle of the block between Alaska and Oregon.
Of course, there was talk about what this building eventually will look like, whatever its size and shape; Deb Barker asked Mark Travers what “neighborhood themes” were brought into his thinking about the project, and all he offered at the time was some intention to use brick, since so much of it is evident in nearby structures. Barker wasn’t satisfied with that and asked, “I guess I’m just trying to understand the design behind this, beyond ‘fill up my site’.” Travers went on to mention a plan for a “quiet, restrained palette.”
Bottom line to all this: Next step is that aforementioned second Early Design Guidance meeting, date TBA, so it’s truly early in the process, but one thing’s for sure — whatever it looks like, a lot more people and traffic are coming to 42nd/Oregon, as the east edge of The Junction continues to build out.
One side note: In previous discussion of this project, some readers wondered about the fate of the small old houses on the site (photo here from the architect’s project page). At tonight’s meeting, board member Jeff McCord noted, in the traditional prelude where participants disclose such things, that he works for a company that moves such houses — Nickel Bros. House Moving — and would be interested in possibly getting involved with these, before the demolition crews eventually move in.