That’s the dramatically different new design just unveiled by Junction-based Nicholson Kovalchick Architects for the mixed-use project at 3811 California SW (map), currently the site of the 80-year-old brick fourplex known as Charlestown Court:
It’s been 14 months since we first told you Charlestown Court was marked for teardown, and two months since we brought you the city Landmarks Board‘s decision that it didn’t merit landmark status, which seemed to open the door for demolition. But instead, a surprise twist last night, as we briefly mentioned earlier — full details ahead:
The project has its next, and ostensibly final, design review this Thursday night, 6:30 pm, Madison Middle School. But NK representatives briefed the Admiral Neighborhood Association on the new plan last night, and that’s when they revealed it had been revised in a big way, to preserve the most distinctive aspects of the old building — its two front side units, or “wings,” each with a swooping roof and side arch. Here’s a county photo from about 10 years after its 1920 construction:
With NK principals Brandon Nicholson and Shanna Kovalchick watching as ANA meeting participants, NK architect Michael Godfried explained the new plan.
After the Landmarks Board’s 9-3 April vote against landmark status, Godfried said, “we were at a point where we could have gone forward with what had been designed for the site … (But) at that point we really realized there was a lot of community support for this building. To give the developers credit – they said, there is some interest, maybe we can craft some solutions – they stepped up to the plate – and we came up with a win-win solution.”
Here’s what that “solution” involves:
-Preserving the two front “wings” of Charlestown Court by jacking them up and rolling them about 12 feet forward
-Making each of those units a condo – current floor plan intact – with a retail unit below
-Creating a “really lush” circular/oval courtyard between the “wings” and the rear structure
-Demolishing the rear, rectangular part of the existing building
-Recycling the bricks from the teardown section, to reuse them on the new ground floor beneath the preserved “wings,” which would extend the existing design elements, such as the front chimneys, windows, and arches (see rendering atop this report)
-Putting up a big new building on the back of the site, with 12 condos and four “live-work” units; this rendering shows what the structure would look like on the alley-facing side:
-Entries for the front retail units will be on the north and south ends
-The parking garage entry will be from the alley, on the north side (adjacent to the 7-11)
One hitch is that, according to Godfried, this new plan would require more than a few “departures” — deviations from city code. Even the existing building, he explained, is “non-conforming.” But “these front two ‘wings’ and the courtyard are what people enjoy,” he reiterated. “This takes the courtyard-style apartment and brings it forward to a new adaptation.” He said some of the inspiration came from viewing classic “courtyard apartments” during the landmark-consideration process for Charlestown Court (see the documentation here).
Moving the “wings” will be something of a delicate process, involving Nickel Brothers, a house-moving company whose local rep is West Seattle developer Jeff McCord (who also was a Design Review Board member until recently). It will involve putting the structures onto rollers.
After Godfried’s presentation, it was clear several meeting attendees were impressed.
“It borders on heroic,” said ANA president Mark Wainwright. “This is a great project.”
Diane Vincent said she was relieved to see the new design, because, knowing the project was on the agenda and had been rejected for landmark status earlier this spring, “I was afraid I was going to come tonight and start crying.”
“The developer cares about quality,” Godfried said at that point. “They were open to this.”
WHAT’S NEXT: The Southwest Design Review Board meeting on 3811 California SW is at 6:30 pm Thursday, Madison Middle School, followed by the same board reviewing 4532 42nd SW at 8 pm (another mixed-use proposal at the site of a building with some history – it was one of West Seattle’s first hospitals). If all goes well, Nicholson estimated last night that 3811 California construction could start in six months, and last a bit longer than a year past that. It was also noted at the meeting that it’s important to attend the Design Review session if you want to show support for the project’s attempt to preserve sections of Charlestown Court, because of those “departures” that will have to win approval from design reviewers and city planners.
OTHER ADMIRAL NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION MEETING NEWS: Two items of note, a playground proposal and the group’s decision on whether to oppose the potential West Seattle jail sites — our report on both, with other miscellaneous notes, is coming up later.
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