Two sites to update in North Delridge — one more mysterious than the other. That would be the one shown above, right behind the DSHS/Kidney Center building. Its official address is 4040 26th (map), and we got a few notes after that fence went up around it a week or so ago. No activity has ensued — yet — and its official city webpage doesn’t show any recent permit-granting; most of the applications were from a few years ago, save a “phase III” construction permit application last May. In the original 2005 application, for which a land-use permit was issued in 2006, this was proposed as a “six-story, 154-unit apartment building with 2,500 square feet of retail and 11 live-work units.” We contacted Anka Developments, listed as the applicant on most of the DPD pages, and a spokesperson wrote back that the company is no longer involved with the site, noting that it was sold a year ago. The purchaser, PortVue LLC, has the same address and phone number as Woodinville-based Sierra Construction, where we have left an inquiry that has so far gone unanswered; we’ll keep working it. Meantime, there’s a fuller picture of information about this nearby site:
From the corner of Delridge/Dakota, that’s a look across the street toward the site that’s in city records as 4106 Delridge, subject of its first “early design guidance” meeting this past week – reviewers told the architect they want to see the project for a second round – read on to see why:
Only two of the five members of the Southwest Design Review Board were on hand for Thursday night’s look at this project, which preceded a review of The Kenney‘s proposed redevelopment (which as we reported here, also was sent back for a second “early design guidance” session).
Those two members were David Foster and Joe Hurley, both architects, who remarked in the early going about how seldom they see the presentation method used that night by 4106 Delridge’s bow-tied architect Jim Barker of Kirkland — hand-drawn sketches and blueprints.
Here’s the official city page for the project; it’s proposed as 5 stories, with about three dozen residential units over about 4000 square feet of retail on the ground floor. Behind all those trees in the photo above, the lot is dramatically sloped, with its backside about 26 feet higher than the front, so a considerable amount of digging will be involved.
At “early design guidance” sessions, architects are supposed to present at least three distinct options for development of a site; the major complaint Foster and Hurley had about this one was that the “three options” didn’t differ enough. They included a few courtyards in the interior of the site, with only slightly varying siting. Even Barker acknowledged when presenting his sketches, “No matter what we were doing, we were kind of coming up with the same thing.”
Foster said it would be important to see other options since otherwise it “makes it difficult for us to evaluate the site’s potential.” Also unusual about this review, the fact that Barker included a sketch of what the building might eventually look like, which usually isn’t shown till a later stage in the design review process; his sketch posited exterior materials such as shingling on the first floor and wood or metal siding, as well as a color scheme that we could best describe as “cinnamon.”
A major part of the plan included asking the city for the right to use the undeveloped Dakota street end, shown in this photo:
Barker said the development might seek to “improve” that and have cars enter from it, rather than right from Delridge. A few other “departures” were in his plan — which would require city approval — and one neighbor on hand to comment about the project, former Design Review Board member Lisa McNelis, didn’t seem favorably disposed: “The departures seem to benefit the building at the expense of neighborhood lots – I don’t see anything being offered back to the neighborhood.” She expressed an overall concern about making sure it would be a quality development: “My fear is that Delridge has become the dumping ground; developers have done some not-so-admirable things.”
She and North Delridge Neighborhood Council co-chair Mike Dady, who commented next, both spoke of a nearby building they saw as an exception to that — a building whose “spirit” McNelis said she admired – this one at Delridge and Andover:
Dady also recalled the original upzone request for the land that is now the subject of the 4106 Delridge proposal, and the fact he supported it. “I don’t know much about large-scale architectural designs, but I know ‘bad’ when I see it – on paper, this is not nearly as interesting to me as the Andover building. I’d like to see a much more imaginative, Northwest appearance type, like the one at Andover, which I think is the best such example in West Seattle.”
Dady also wondered if a “stairstep pocket park” might be a better use of the Dakota street end than a “big cut .. with a driveway and retaining walls” for the 4106 Delridge project.
Area resident Michael Taylor, commenting next, also echoed the praise for the Delridge/Andover building, in comparison: “It makes you smile, just looking at it, which you don’t do very often in this city.” He also observed that some of the other area buildings have brick facades honoring the area’s history, like the renovated Cooper School (now Youngstown Arts Center) and the small commercial building on the other corner of Delridge/Andover that houses teriyaki and tax businesses. He also supported the idea of some public use of the Dakota street end, and possibly even having the 4106 Delridge development front some of its retail space along it, rather than having it all face Delridge.
In the end, design reviewers said they needed to see more options. As Hurley put it, “There are other logics that might work on this site, and I’m disappointed not to have had the chance to consider them.”
Foster added, “I want to be convinced that this is the best solution to this site, and what I’m seeing right now, I’m not really convinced of it … At this stage, what I’m really expecting to see are options, and we’re really not seeing that.”
Hurley also said he viewed it as “an important site – I didn’t notice it before since there’s nothing there, but I think it’s going to be prominent as you enter West Seattle through that gateway.”
Foster also tried to discourage Barker from proceeding with one of the proposed “departures,” having the retail space 28 feet deep instead of city-required 30: “At our last (design review) training, it was stressed that departures should only be granted when there is a clear public benefit. I don’t think the board should be inclined to grant departures simply because they’re being asked for.”
Said Hurley at that point, “The argument for departures is when I see a great building, and it’s explained that the departures contribute to it.”
So 4106 Delridge will have at least two more design-review sessions; if its next “early design guidance” meeting goes well – the date is not yet set – then it will advance to the “recommendations” round, at which time developers can apply for the next level of permits.