(added 5:12 pm, newly released rendering of proposed western Conner project building at California/Alaska)
That’s Conner Homes boss Charlie Conner speaking briefly to the Seattle Design Commission this afternoon at City Hall, before commissioners’ third review of the “subterranean alley vacation” that’s needed for his project to have one underground parking garage shared by its two proposed 8-story buildings at California/Alaska/42nd. Any kind of “alley vacation” — allowing a land owner to take public property — generally requires the owner/developer to offer some kind of “public benefit” in return; as Conner recapped in his remarks, that’s the part that commissioners hadn’t been so sure about, though they signed off on the design concept during an earlier meeting. The extensive discussions of the previous reviews — which we covered here and here — were not replicated today; project architect Peter Greaves of Weber Thompson recapped a few elements in which he had responded to commissioners’ previously voiced concerns, and the commission gave its approval with few comments/questions. This isn’t the final approval for the alley vacation; SDOT’s alley-vacation specialist Beverly Barnett told WSB after the meeting that her work on it is not yet done, and once her department has a recommendation, it goes to the City Council’s Transportation Committee. The Conner project has an even bigger date before then – next Thursday, 6:30 pm at High Point Library, what could be the final Design Review Board look at the entire project. We have images from today’s presentation, courtesy of Weber Thompson, and will add them later this afternoon.
ADDED 5:06 PM: For starters, here’s the full Conner presentation (5 MB PDF). Also just added the first image from that presentation at the top of this report – a new rendering showing what the western building of the project might look like.
ADDED 6:36 PM: Jump ahead for more images made public today, and a few more details from this afternoon’s Design Commission meeting:
That’s a new rendering of what the storefront/sidewalk space along Alaska, western Conner building (where Super Supplements is now) might look like. That’s one of the “public benefits” detailed today — the sidewalk along that stretch. The planting strip you see in the rendering has been added, as a buffer to the buses that will be going by frequently on the RapidRide route. Speaking of which, it was explained today that part of the reason this has dragged on through three reviews is a misunderstanding regarding whether a RapidRide stop will be on Alaska alongside either of the Conner buildings; as e-mail correspondence that’s included in today’s packet (here again is that link) confirms, it’s not. So that issue was dispensed with quickly.
The other major area of the project where the plan changed a bit before today’s review, to address previously voiced concerns, is the walkway between the south side of the western Conner building and the north side of Mural, the Harbor Properties building that’s almost done in what was the Petco parking lot (and monorail property):
The walkway now leads to a hollowed-out spot on the eastern building, to “create a place that will receive you from the alley,” Greaves explained. As for the alley itself, here’s a new view, looking south toward the existing businesses on that half of the Alaska to Edmunds block:
The plantings and bollards are considered part of the “public benefit” amenities. So are hollowed “corners” of the buildings, at California/Alaska and Alaska/42nd, which aren’t retail entries and so wouldn’t have had special treatment otherwise. One concern that loomed large in our report on the second Design Commission session involved the 8-foot width of the sidewalk along California SW. The plan now includes 8 1/2 feet of sidewalk there and 5 feet of street-tree/planter – the project team says the building can’t be moved any further eastward, because it’s already been arranged so that the ground-level section will look like a four-story building, with the top four floors “pulled back”:
Other components of the “public benefit” remain as detailed in the presentation — everything from walkway canopies/overhangs, to pavers, to bike racks.
Comments before the vote were few and largely positive – one commissioner said the space looks “much friendlier, more real than before” in the current graphics, especially the alley space.
And with that, commissioners voted their final approval for the “alley vacation” component of the project – the only part they get to review, with a few minor notes, including ensuring that the passageway from California to the alley continues to “feel public” even if the eventual live/work unit residents personalize their front yard/garden spaces.
NEXT STEPS: As briefly detailed during the original short version of this report, the Conner project goes to the Southwest Design Review Board next Thursday, 6:30 pm at High Point Library. This is the “recommendations” meeting – where board members will review a more fleshed-out design for the project, and can choose to vote to send it along to the final stage of the permit process. Board members also will have to decide whether to agree to a “departure” requested to allow parking garage access from 42nd SW, instead of the alley, which is what current city guidelines would require otherwise; architect Greaves said “it won’t change the way we develop this” if permission for the 42nd access is denied. City Council approval is needed for the alley vacation, if SDOT staff recommends it move forward.