3rd time’s the charm for BlueStar’s 5020 California SW project


That’s the night view of the BlueStar project, still known as Spring Hill (but maybe changing), that just finally finished a Design Review process that exemplified how public comment and concern CAN make a difference. As some point out, the final chapter isn’t written until the building is built — but so far as this stage of the process goes, concerns from neighbors and criticisms from reviewers were not only heard, but also incorporated in the design approved tonight. Here’s a summary along with a few more views from the official presentation – plus the only real low note of tonight’s meeting before the Southwest Design Review Board:

We first discovered Spring Hill — 6 stories and 90-ish housing units — while browsing the BlueStar site late one night in October of last year. Three months later, it came up for “Early Design Guidance,” which was pretty much a disaster. Neighbors crowded the hearing room and voiced a variety of concerns, including the way the building would look to the single-family home residents behind it, to the east, and when the meeting was over, board members declared the project in need of “a fresh start.”

By the time the project returned a month later for a rare second round of “Early Design Guidance,” reviewers focused in on a design option that hadn’t even been part of the mix during the first meeting – an L shape with the longest side facing California, and a courtyard open to part of the property’s north and east sides. That’s the shape Spring Hill now has:


There wasn’t too much criticism at this session before Design Review Board members voted to recommend city approval of the design — “It’s come a long way,” noted board member Deb Barker — but more information did emerge.

Along the alley, it will have a “green screen” — Barker asked if that could possibly wrap a bit further around one of the corners:


On the south side, the different sections of the residential elevations “step back”:


And the California-fronting retail level has a canopy cover, with a “strong concrete element” over it (not shown here) containing the retail facade.


Its color palette includes a “deeper, richer color – enhanced colonial red” according to architect David Hewitt, with some greenish-beige material elsewhere, while the “concrete element” projection is lighter. Also along the front, five street trees will be preserved, as mentioned at previous meetings, and the landscape architect detailed how the planting beds around them (16 feet long, by almost 8 feet wide) will be wide enough to protect their sizable root zones.

Two loose ends – there’s still a very small zone between Spring Hill and the condo building to its north; “we are in dialogue with them about making something positive from it,” according to BlueStar’s team, perhaps a hedge that would grow five to 15 feet high. And neighbor Renato Canto, who lives southeast behind Spring Hill, is concerned that most of the design concessions went to placate those in that building to the north; his remaining worries include noise from the Spring Hill garage door, which will be on the alley as is typical for most such developments. Another neighbor to the east, Nancy Woodland — who’s been actively involved in meetings and working with developers since the project first came to light — says she’s still worried about what neighbors will be “looking into,” as their homes are on something of a rise behind the site.

But that was fine-tuning, the board indicated; member Brandon Nicholson said, “Seems like they’re heading in the right direction following those previous meetings.” Joe Hurley, who wasn’t on the board when the project first came up for consideration, lauded the project for its detail.

They had a few fine-tuning suggestions of their own, of course, including Barker’s idea to incorporate more of the red color into the front of the building, to be sure it isn’t “vanilla.” Nicholson thought the residential entry might be a bit undistinguished and also suggested a roof deck for what he estimates to be the two-thirds of building residents who won’t have a direct line to the spectacular view looking west.

The rest of the tweaking will be up to the developers and city planner Colin Vasquez; if you still have comments on the project, or on aspects that weren’t under the scope of Design Review, you can e-mail him at colin.vasquez@seattle.gov — otherwise, the developers got thumbs up from the board, including member Christie Coxley, who said, “They really listened to what (citizens) and (board members) had to say.”

NEXT DESIGN REVIEW BOARD MEETING: Two big projects on September 25th — the first look at the proposed Admiral Safeway redevelopment (which Safeway plans to unveil at a community meeting a week earlier) at 6:30 pm, the next look at Harbor Properties‘ Link (38th/Alaska) at 8 pm. Both sessions are scheduled for the Southwest Precinct meeting room, which is a relief because tonight’s venue – the upstairs meeting room at Hiawatha Community Center — has classic looks but TERRIBLE acoustics; if the board EVER meets there again, please, somebody bring a mike and sound system, because the room swallowed up the voices (and we weren’t the only ones to notice that).

6 Replies to "3rd time's the charm for BlueStar's 5020 California SW project"

  • JenV September 12, 2008 (9:10 am)

    California Ave looks dangerously tilted…

  • Krystal September 12, 2008 (9:49 am)

    yes it does! And I think the building looks better than that Whole Foods cluster…

  • Rick September 12, 2008 (3:04 pm)

    I think that’s an old visual trick to make the building appear smaller.

  • island dweller September 12, 2008 (3:13 pm)

    Maybe it’s some sort of special building material that is lighter than air, and thusly, is actually lifting that side of California Avenue up. Or I might just agree with Rick. But, either way.

  • credmond September 13, 2008 (4:08 am)

    It is kind of techno-impressionistic, almost Van Gogh-like. Does give a ethereal feel to that stretch of California – which, in the evening in the Fall is actually very much like this.

    Now, if only Rite Aid would clean up their act.

  • Deeno September 14, 2008 (7:43 pm)

    Yes, it definitely looks better in the dark!

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