Followup: Design Review details on The Kenney, and what’s next

During Wednesday’s celebration of The Kenney‘s grand-opening centennial, attendees also were invited to look to its future as well as its past, with renderings of its latest redevelopment proposal set up on easels around the room. That proposal was presented to the Southwest Design Review Board one week ago, along with the latest layout for the Admiral Safeway project. We reported the meeting’s headlines that night but never the details – several have asked, so for starters, here’s the rest of the story on The Kenney’s review, and what’s next – read on:

That’s the latest rendering of what the now city-landmark-designated, Seaview Building would look like after being moved up against the corner of Fauntleroy/Myrtle, according to images from last week’s presentation (which you can see in its entirety here). It’s the centerpiece of the redevelopment proposal that would roughly double The Kenney’s population and add features like a “memory care unit” and expanded underground parking. Here’s a new rendering you could call truly an “overview”:

This was the fourth time, over the span of a year, that the project has returned for “early design guidance”; it’s possible for a project to go through EDG just once, before moving on to the “recommendations” phase of the process, but each previous time, board members (and the public) had too many concerns to agree to advance it.

The previous meetings, with links to our coverage:
October 2008 – story
January 2009 – story
May 2009 – story

The proposal has evolved dramatically since first word of it last year (2 months before Design Review, we broke the story here, thanks to a WSBer who e-mailed us saying they’d heard a redevelopment plan was in the works). The original plan — as noted in that very first story — would have taken down the century-old, cupola-topped Seaview and built a semi-replica instead. But along the way, after much public outcry, a Seaview-saving alternative was crafted, and then this summer the city designated the Seaview and its grounds an official Seattle landmark, which means the Landmarks Board has to sign off on the redevelopment project in connection with how it would affect the landmarked structure and grounds. (Its Architectural Review Committee is scheduled to take a look at it on November 13th – their reviews precede formal consideration before the full board.)

But the Design Review Board has to sign off on it first.

Architect Gene Guszkowski from AG Architecture, a Wisconsin-based firm that specializes in projects like these, opened the presentation by saying that moving the Seaview “has become an important part of our solution … We think what we have today is the plan we want to pursue.” He described saving the Seaview as “the eureka moment” of the process.

For context, he showed the annotated aerial map you see above, showing where The Kenney sits in its neighborhood — pointing out nearby Gatewood Elementary as another city landmark, and calling attention to five-story apartment buildings along Lincoln Park Way to the southwest, on the slope down to Puget Sound.

At preceding meetings, residents had asked repeatedly about the status of a promised tree survey, given the lush landscaping on much of The Kenney’s site, particularly the northwest corner, which you see here in our photo from summer 2008, framing the Seaview and its iconic cupola:


Guszkowski says the tree survey has been done – and pointed to that corner of the property, where the green circles represent “exceptional trees” they plan to save as part of a “preservation plaza”:

The design also moves the Seaview even further east (Jeff McCord from Nickel Bros., the firm that expects to raise it up and move it 200 feet when the time comes, was in attendance), and changes the plan for its use. At one point it was not going to have any residential units; now there will be some on its second floor, and that enabled architects to take one floor off the building that will be to its west.

Other buildings, they said, would have an appearance more in harmony with the Seaview’s historic brick exterior. And various distinctive features were mentioned such as the fact that a 10-foot wall would be required for the “memory care” unit on the property’s south side.

Architects say they are pursuing “contract rezoning” for the entire site – that requires City Council approval but stipulates that the rezoning is for a specific purpose. Here’s the overall site layout as it stands now:

When public-comment time arrived, the first came from area resident and former Design Review Board member Vlad Oustimovitch: “I think this project is going in the right direction (after) a bad start.” He, however, suggested that having the other buildings resemble the Seaview would be unnecessary.

Another former SWDRB member, Deb Barker — currently president of the Morgan Community Association, also said, “You’ve come a long way … here’s a really great example of what happens when you come back, work with the public …” She suggested it’s a great case study in why developers should not be afraid of having more than two Early Design Guidance meetings.

Neighbor Fred Madrid also lauded “lots and lots of improvements” since the first meeting but expressed concern that “it still looks awfully massive on 47th.”

Judy Bentley from the Southwest Seattle Historical Society (based at Alki’s Log House Museum) added appreciation for the decision to retain the Seaview, while asking, “Has it been determined that it can be moved?”

McCord said, “Yes, it’s very movable – it’s a very large building but … can be very carefully supported, braced with permanent bracing that can act as earthquake retrofitting, permanently.” He went on to elaborate a bit on the moving process – beams placed under the building after it’s lifted, then moved on rollers over the course of up to 3 weeks, “a long and careful process.”

An attendee identifying herself as a neighbor on 46th expressed concern about the size/massing of the buildings:

“If the apartments are still as large as I understand they were initially,” she said, “some of the massiveness could be dealt with by scaling those down. Some of the figures I heard (for apartment space) were practically the size of my house.” Her other concern: Lighting from the complex – “I can practically read in my background **now**.”

Another neighbor pointed out that while the presentation of site context had shown apartment buildings along Lincoln Park Way to the southwest of The Kenney, board members needed to remember that the area between the project site and those apartment buildings also holds single-family homes.

After public comments concluded, the board began its discussion. SWDRB chair Christie Coxley first told attendees, “Public input on this project has been amazing … I think you guys have really helped the board and helped the project.”

From member Robin Murphy: The latest design feels less institutional, “more residential in scale.”

Coxley added that she’s “really excited to see what the buildings are actually going to look like, now” – alluding to the next phase in Design Review, when architects would return with detailed drawings describing the plan all the way down to the trim materials.

Board members offered some fine-tuning-type suggestions – from Norma Tompkins, the suggestion that The Kenney craft a central entry to the complex that removed the need to use the Seaview Building as a secondary entry point; from Joe Hurley, perhaps a promenade/path around the entire property. Talk turned for a while to the landscaped northwest corner, by the relocated Seaview, where a greenhouse might be placed; board members voiced hopes that the landscaping, including the prospective greenhouse, would have “a connection to the street” and to those who walk by. They also wanted to see the southeastern section “opened up” a little.

Since they concluded by agreeing to let the project move on to the next stage, it will return to them at least once for the “recommendations” review and vote. The date for the next review is not yet set; when it is, it’ll appear first here. You can also watch the city website page for the project here. And even before (and after) the next review, you can comment on the project by contacting the city planner assigned to it, Michael Dorcy (his e-mail and phone info is all here).

2 Replies to "Followup: Design Review details on The Kenney, and what's next"

  • Buddy Lane October 30, 2009 (9:48 am)

    per the image “looking east on Othello from 47th St.” I am led to believe that the Kenney structure there will be no higher than two stories per the scale presented. One wonders if such is the case.

  • WSB October 30, 2009 (9:51 am)

    If you look at the presentation, which is linked early on in this story (and was linked here as soon as it was posted online a couple weeks ago), you can get a full-scale look at almost any detail of the project that interests you – the second-to-last image in this story, for example, is from the presentation, and has on each of those buildings how many stories it’s supposed to be. If you can’t view PDFs let me know and I will look it up – TR

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