And another major scheduled event from Tuesday night: The JuNO meeting with updates from two major Junction-area developers who had some new info to share:
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The Junction Neighborhood Organization — JuNO — welcomed its biggest crowd yet, with neighbors and community leaders eager to hear the latest on three major Junction-area projects.
Two are under the wing of one developer — BlueStar Management plans to build Fauntleroy Place and Gateway Center on the north side of Fauntleroy, across 39th from each other at the many-cornered intersection with Alaska. The other one is a single project featuring two buildings by one owner/developer, Conner Homes, planning the first major new construction in the heart of The Junction at California/Alaska/42nd. (For a complete look at all known sizable projects, and real-estate offerings, in The Junction and Fauntleroy Triangle areas right now, check our clickable map.)
BlueStar took the first half of the meeting, with a fair amount of backstory preceding the following news toplines:
Fauntleroy Place’s groundbreaking date could be announced before the end of this week; BlueStar executive Eric Radovich reiterated that some final loose ends with Hancock Fabric (which will have a new store in the new building, as one of only two retail tenants, along with Whole Foods) have led to a little slowness in this stage of the process. (The demolition permit has just been granted, we discovered this morning while checking city records.)
As we’ve reported, some site-prep work already is under way, and Radovich says you will see more next week — on Monday, he says, “we’re going to pull some tanks out, but that won’t be our official groundbreaking; that will be in mid-June.”
Radovich says the residential units planned in both Fauntleroy Place and Gateway Center — proposed for the ex-Huling showroom site across 39th — are currently scheduled to be “higher-end apartments.” Gateway Center is likely to have two floors of retail; no one’s locked in yet but of the potentially interested retailers, the name Sur La Table came up more than once; it also was noted that a restaurant is highly unlikely because of venting incompatibility with upper-floor residences, and that BlueStar had been approached by drugstores but wasn’t particularly interested.
Radovich yielded the floor to project manager Easton Craft – whom he called the “captain” of Fauntleroy Place. Craft had new information about the emerging effort to ensure that development of the Triangle/Junction areas addresses the fact this “gateway to West Seattle” needs a major facelift. He mentioned a meeting earlier this month involving key players including City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen (we reported his interest in this issue one month ago), and noted that, with the Gateway Center project as well, “the overarching goal is to create more of a boulevard feeling on Fauntleroy.” (Sharonn Meeks from the Fairmount Community Association was in attendance and noted that a cleanup for the Fauntleroy end of The Bridge, including Walking on Logs, is still on the drawing board for later this year.)
Another issue of beautification: BlueStar says it’s contributing $25,000 to Junction Plaza Park, which as noted here needs a few hundred thousand more to move from park land to true park.
JuNO members and attendees were keenly interested in finding out how much parking these new projects will include; Craft said Fauntleroy Place will have about 1.25 spaces per apartment, more than the city currently requires. Its units will be a mix of studios, 1-bedrooms and 2-bedrooms, and, he added, “We redesigned some of the interior, so there will be a couple of loft spaces in there.” What about room for Whole Foods/Hancock employees’ parking? According to BlueStar, they all will park in the building. As for another vehicle issue – where the construction trucks will stage – the company says the Gateway Center site will be used for Fauntleroy Place construction staging for quite some time.
Next up to speak at last night’s JuNO meeting was Conner Homes, represented by project manager James Miller and company rep Alison Conner. With their two-building project for Alaska/California/42nd returning to Design Review in two weeks, after receiving many suggestions in the first “early design guidance” meeting last month, Miller said they’re just now reviewing new drawings. He added, “We got the message” from Design Review regarding “setting back” the residential floors of the project, so they don’t rise straight up from the street — but he also reiterated several times that the western building is proposed at 30% below the size/volume that zoning would allow.
Unlike the BlueStar projects, Miller said, the Conner project’s residential units are being proposed as condos. He says they will average 710 square feet, ranging from about 400 to 1,700 sf. And they’re planning even more parking — an average of 1.5 spaces per unit, Miller said, averaging out to “1 parking stall per bedroom.” He said the latest plan is for at least 80 parking spaces for the retail in the building, which for the presentation at the April Design Review meeting was mapped out in spaces like this:
If you’re wondering what stores you’ll see in those spaces — Miller had a few things to say: They’re still offering space to the current area retailers, while acknowledging the rental rates will rise. So far, he said, there’s been one “no” – or at least, tentative no – from Rocksport. And he also acknowledged the difficulty for those stores of moving out for two years when construction starts (likely 2010). Later in the meeting, when one person lamented the potential loss of “the retailers we’ve been doing business with for years, and in some cases, generations,” Miller countered, “New retailers can be fun and exciting too.”
And he asked the JuNO attendees the same question the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce posed a month ago here on WSB (with more than 90 comments so far) — what do YOU want to see? The first reply: Clothing for families or for “mature” people, was a popular answer.
Miller said the retail spaces are currently planned at 1200 to 3900 square feet — but, he said tantalizingly, a Trader Joe’s type operation needs 14,000 square feet (more than twice the space Super Supplements has now, for example), and a space like that could be created with the removal of some walls, since they’re not “load-bearing.” But he was quick to say that Conner is not even negotiating with any retailers at this point.
Lots of information, but concerns linger, particularly around how the Conner project will change the face of The Junction — Karlovits said, “I’m still very concerned about the bulk and scale of this project.”
WHAT’S NEXT: As mentioned, the Conner Homes project returns before the Design Review Board on May 29. BlueStar expects to break ground on Fauntleroy Place in mid-June. No Design Review meeting scheduled for Gateway Center yet. Radovich noted that BlueStar is a “title sponsor” for Summer Fest in The Junction again this year and will have a major presence including a chance to get the latest information on its projects, which include the Spring Hill mixed-use building just south of The Junction. JuNO’s next meeting is July 8th; before then, its members (and any other volunteers who care to join them) will gather for their quarterly Adopt-a-Street cleanup (free coffee and treats!) 9 am May 31st,