4724 California: How the project at the ex-Petco site is evolving

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Tomorrow, the Junction development at, and known as, 4724 California will mark a milestone, officially applying to the city for its Master Use Permit.

That step was enabled by its preliminary approval from the Southwest Design Review Board at the Early Design Guidance meeting two months ago (WSB coverage here). And while its second, and potentially final, design review isn’t expected till fall, the project team has just put together a look at how its design is evolving as of this “waypoint.”

The update was shown to and discussed with a small group of community members late last week. After hearing in advance about the planned informal discussion, we requested, and received, permission to cover it. In addition to a look at the in-progress design, we also learned new details about the overall plan and timetable.

First, backstory in case you hadn’t heard about this development:

Petco closed this location last November and moved to Capco Plaza at 41st/Alaska. The California SW space was empty until Sound Advertising Group moved in a few months later, while making it clear that it’s an interim tenant for the space. In April, a reader tip led us to a filing for a 7-story development at the site (first story here) with about 100 residential units. In the ensuing week and a half, we published followup stories with development representatives (here) and an executive of The Wolff Company, which is buying the site (here).

A month later, they took the project to the Design Review Board. And some of the recommendations have already found their way into the interim design, as shown by the project team, which outnumbered the community members – three from architecture firm Weber Thompson, three from the development team, one from Wolff, and Jeanne Muir, serving as a facilitator/community liaison.

The “here’s where we are in the process meeting” was led by architect Jeff Bates from Weber Thompson, who showed a few of the in-progress views – including this one:

They chose to give up “some leasable space,” the project team says, to add some features: A loading dock so the retail tenants can be serviced from the alley; ground-level setback for some public space, possibly coffee-shop tables, on a 16-foot setback (10 feet more than the rest of the building’s California frontage); a 10-foot setback for the third floor and higher, past the “tower” element on the northwest side of the building, and the top story has an additional two-foot setback. The two-story-high “retail space” will feature bricks. The “tower” section is not angled.

The 5,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space, with 15-foot ceilings, hasn’t been officially divided, but three-fourths of it will appear from the street as if it’s three “bays” of 1,200 square feet each. The developers stressed, “We don’t want to put a national tenant in there” – they are hoping the spaces will be right for locally rooted businesses. The building facade along the future storefronts now has a canopy (as shown in the rendering above).

The rest of the retail space, under that “tower” on the northwest, would be something special, the developers hope, perhaps a coffee shop or something else that would encourage “connectivity with the sidewalk,” and with the mid-block breezeway. Here’s another view:

They’re expecting to have a full rooftop terrace with a hearth, barbecue, trellis, and herb garden, plus at least part of the building’s top would hold a “green roof.” Back on the ground, the breezeway may have overhead lighting – something casual, festival style. Nearby, behind a wall of windows, the residential lobby space – with an entry off the breezeway, instead of the street, something requested in earlier discussions with local residents. It was shown with a “sweeping staircase” as an element visible even through the windows from the street or the breezeway. It could, Bates said, have a door to the back of the corner retail space, if a tenant were interested.

The breezeway will likely have a “reclaimed wood” wall and some landscaping, too, likely some hedging. Landscape architect Catherine Benotto was at the meeting to discuss that aspect of the project, and mentioned “columnar beech trees … which grow narrow and vertical” were likely there. Trees in stormwater-retaining yard-high planters are also envisioned atop the “setback” area on the southwest front of the building.

“This is not a finished, locked-down design,” they stressed over and over. It won’t be anything close to that until they go back to Design Review in mid-to-late October.

But they also displayed some of the materials they are mulling. The tower is envisioned with “cementitious paneling” rather than brick, though brick is planned for the rest of the building – no color commitment yet. Blackened-steel trim is being considered. One attendee suggested the windows by the corners should wrap around it.

Other points:

-The garage entry is planned on the southeast side of the building.

-They’re no longer planning some live-work units fronting the alley, though they’re still part of the plan for the building’s second floor (13 of them, taking up that entire floor)

-The apartment plans are continuing to take shape, though their details were not discussed at this gathering, aside from an expected average size around 725 feet – larger, they say, than the current market, and they may have some 1,000-square-foot units. They said they’re not expecting to have studios, but rather a mix of 1- and 2-bedroom units. They’re considering balconies for some of the 1-bedrooms overlooking California.

In all, the developers say, their plan has thousands of square feet of potential buildable space less than it could – including the setbacks and the midblock pass-through, as well as their decision not to add the eighth floor that zoning would allow – but they consider it “do(ing) the right thing.”

With the permit filing expected this Wednesday, and a second Design Review meeting not expected before mid-October, the project team says construction at this point might not start until next summer, with the building finished in late 2014. That would be a change from a widespread perception that most of the construction would happen concurrent with the Equity Residential buildings up the street at California/Alaska/42nd, a project that might go into the demolition phase within two weeks (according to what the developers told us recently).

If you have suggestions or questions for the developers in the meantime, you can use the “contact” option on the project website.

44 Replies to "4724 California: How the project at the ex-Petco site is evolving "

  • Jojofrenchfry July 31, 2012 (12:56 pm)

    What’s the total count of units coming to West Seattle over the next few years? It seems like every week there is a new building in for permit!

  • bonbon July 31, 2012 (1:16 pm)

    Inevitable, but sad.

  • not a fan July 31, 2012 (1:26 pm)

    from the article: “no color commitment yet”- please don’t make a WT signature BROWN building.

    and please don’t recycle the concepts/ details from the California/ Alaksa/ 42nd building. oh wait, too late. the California Ave elevations are almost mirror images of eachother… great- blandness multiplies down the street.

  • JN July 31, 2012 (1:47 pm)

    This developer seems to be doing a lot of community outreach and taking a financial hit to make a more fitting, attractive building. Major kudos.

  • bsmomma July 31, 2012 (1:53 pm)

    Thank Goodness they’re doing the right thing and not adding the 8th floor! Phew!….. said the bitter 30 year WS resident in all sarcasticness. Boo.

  • quiz July 31, 2012 (2:02 pm)

    Good for the developer for having some transparency and allowing WSB to do such thorough reporting. Thanks WSB!

  • sw July 31, 2012 (3:05 pm)

    This is really going to have an impact on Port traffic.

  • jiggers July 31, 2012 (3:34 pm)

    Wooohooo $2,000 a month one tiny bedroom apartment for rent coming soon…

  • NimbyNator July 31, 2012 (3:50 pm)

    Nimby Nimby Nimby!!! If I call everyone Nimbys it makes me right!You guys are just Nimbys and should LOVE this new development. Actually looks better than the buidling planned for the corner.

  • Mark July 31, 2012 (3:56 pm)

    Not sure why this upsets people. The building there is an absolute wreck and so freaking ugly… this is at least well thought out and will add value to the neighborhood.

  • A July 31, 2012 (4:00 pm)

    UGH. Our cute little “main street” area is turning into a Bellevue-esque concrete canyon. Disgusting. New apt buildings are ok if the demand is there, but I hate the idea of them along this strip.

    Has anyone been to Cap. Hill recently? It’s like seeing and old friend who’s had massive cosmetic surgery and is only slightly recognizable somewhere beneath it all. Don’t do the same to West Seattle!!!!

  • Sharon Akers July 31, 2012 (4:23 pm)

    West Seattle has a special appeal…I guess it is only inevitable that Urbana will reach in and change the landscape….sad but true…..and of course inflate the price of living

  • datamuse July 31, 2012 (4:39 pm)

    If what’s there now constitutes “cute”, all I can say is A’s got a way different definition of cute than I do.

  • BCB July 31, 2012 (4:42 pm)

    What’s the value it’s going to add to the neighborhood? Another overly priced apartment building? This is stupid and I hope it fails miserably.

  • My2Cents July 31, 2012 (5:04 pm)

    YUUUUUUUCK! I’m going to miss W. Seattle and I don’t have to go away to do it.

  • MacJ July 31, 2012 (5:04 pm)

    I like it. Much better than the sad building that’s there now. As somebody who lives in the Junction, I think this will be a improvement for my neighborhood. Some new businesses and even a little off-street area will be welcome. And new neighbors means new customers for existing businesses.

    Pretty fun to watch the Nimbys try to reclaim the n-word, though.

  • Anonymous July 31, 2012 (5:18 pm)

    The problem is that there still is such a high demand for more apartments in West Seattle. I’ll agree that I’m not too thrilled about the location of this one….right in the middle of the junction….. but until the demand is met, the prices can’t go down. Once there’s more new development the price will start dropping. Just basic supply and demand unfortunately.

  • G July 31, 2012 (5:37 pm)

    I’m already feeling nostalgic since I grew up in West Seattle and California Ave has always had the small town, low-slung storefronts. But change is inevitable, some we like, some we don’t. C’est la vie.

  • Christopher Boffoli July 31, 2012 (5:46 pm)

    I welcome this development. It looks good to me.

  • NimbyNator July 31, 2012 (6:01 pm)

    That’s right! Darn Nimbys! The developers from Chicago know what’s best for this community! Nimbys need to bud out!

  • kgdlg July 31, 2012 (6:07 pm)

    @A, “If the demand is there” Newsflash, the housing rental market is super tight in Seattle right now, and the demand is definitely there. This leads to higher rents, and this is why so many new buildings like this are going up. Capitol Hill is a perfect example. A building next to my office just opened with studios at 1400 a month and it is 90% leased. All those google, microsoft and amazon engineers have to live somewhere :) I say this in jest but it is true, Seattle has had strong job growth in certain areas and these buildings are responding to it.

  • kgdlg July 31, 2012 (6:15 pm)

    As an affordable housing developer, this also means that urban villages will, on balance, become a lot less “affordable” as these new buildings open. Even if there is brief over-supply, rents will eventually move back up. It would be great to see a strong non-profit developer like the Y or Bellwether develop a building in the Junction, so that low-income working folks have a chance to live here too (close to shopping, bus lines and amenities). Currently it is VERY difficult to find an affordably priced apartment in West Seattle.

  • westseattledood July 31, 2012 (6:18 pm)

    It would be interesting to see one of these possible perspectives with *both* projects overlaid together. At a glance, it looks to me like the north wall of this bldg. will not have windows? What might the south wall of the north project look like with our dwarfed Elliott Bay, Talarico’s and dentist buildings? Any talk of giant wall murals, or *some* kind of inspired, innovative architectural detailing on vast, monolithic expanses. And “concrete panels” on this north tower wall sounds like a bland cost-cutting measure on a highly visible wall. I think bricks on that surface would add some kind of implied, cohesive design. I think integrating that wall with some of the same materials -bricks- might be the right thing to do, too. imho :)

  • anonyme July 31, 2012 (6:26 pm)

    It could be worse.

    FYI, columnar beech trees are thick with aphid goo all summer long. The entire breezeway will be a sticky mess. Beautiful trees, but not in a pedestrian corridor.

  • bsmomma July 31, 2012 (7:17 pm)

    I totally agree that the building as it is now is ugly. But I HATE that so many condos and apartments keep going up. I do not like all the new 5+ story buildings are going up. I do not like how much longer it takes to get around WS. I do not like the bridge traffic. It wasn’t like this before. I know change is going to happen. I don’t have to like it. But this is my home. And I guess I’ll have to just deal with it. Thank Goodness for the WSB……where I can vent, complain and share my thoughts. You don’t have to like it. :)

  • petcopete July 31, 2012 (9:17 pm)

    Reality is they have maxed out the height achievable with wood per code. It is the “right” thing to do financially

  • Elizh July 31, 2012 (9:52 pm)

    Is there information in the archives similar to this report about the plans for the Equity Residential project? Someone should be thinking about the cumulative effects of these two buildings, and how they will jointly affect the look and feel of the neighborhood, and the traffic capacity of the shared alley.

    • WSB July 31, 2012 (9:59 pm)

      If you search for Conner project – which is what it was when it went through Design Review – our past coverage will come through. It was approved literally years ago, then like so many others, stalled after the boom went kaboom. I can’t look up a story right now, about to rush off to something, but we covered it every step of the way including Design Commission meetings downtown that had to do with the “public benefit”… TR

  • Christopher Boffoli July 31, 2012 (11:20 pm)

    Rather than another bland “pedestrian breezeway” that smells of urine and cigarette smoke, I wish there were a way planners could design more of an arcade of micro shops or kiosks. These seem to work very well in some compact spaces in central London. Available space might prevent it here. But it makes for a much more vibrant streetscape than a simple pass-through.

  • Amy Thomson August 1, 2012 (7:28 am)

    While the petco building is not the prettiest structure on the block, I’m concerned about two things, one is the loss of the alley space behind the current building, which serves as quick overflow emergency parking for those of us dropping our kids off at Kathy’s Studio of Dance.. Since the demise of the Petco parking lot, the area has gotten seriously tight for parking. And I’m also concerned about the bulk and scale of the development. One thing I’ve always loved about the Junction is its small-town in a big city feeling, which is crumbling rapidly in the face of development.

  • Mightymoh August 1, 2012 (9:51 am)

    It makes much more sense to put these new developments near the transit corridor (Rapid Ride, etc.) and walkable business district than further up or down California. I feel sorry for the folks who rent out the proposed apartments at Andover and Calfornia. This Fall’s bus service changes will mean a lot more bus transfers to get anywhere — and people will just drive and make California busier than ever.

  • DB Coop August 1, 2012 (2:46 pm)

    Please don’t Ballard-ize West Seattle!

    Also: What a shame all those people that paid extra for a view condo on 42nd across from Safeway. Kind of SOL now. Pity.

  • dawsonct August 1, 2012 (6:45 pm)

    Amy, there’s a parking lot, which is almost completely empty whenever I see it, right across Edmunds from Kathy’s. I bet you could park there without paying for an emergency pick up/drop off more often than not.

  • dawsonct August 1, 2012 (6:49 pm)

    When purchasing a view condo, make certain your view doesn’t begin by looking over an alley. TS.

    Make a deal with your new neighbor and run a laundry line between the buildings. Lemonade.

    • WSB August 1, 2012 (6:55 pm)

      Just to say this again. Not that the sentiment isn’t the same re: renters but … none of the new buildings are condos. Not Mural, not Link, not in-progress Nova or Oregon 42, not soon-to-be-built Equity Res. project or 4724 California. For what it’s worth, the same goes for homebuyers, though. We had a better view when we bought our house 19 years ago but we knew the folks across the street could put up a second story (which they did) or grow trees (which somebody else did) … And there are trees/hedges in our yard that in turn block somebody’s view behind us. Just trying to say it’s a factor in single-family neighborhoods too … and if the west side of the street develops to its full height, people in these new buildings will lose THEIR views … and so on … TR

  • Dick August 1, 2012 (11:31 pm)

    Who cares about the number of condos/apartments, we’re getting another coffee shop! Sweet!!!

  • JetCity August 2, 2012 (10:00 am)

    So THAT’S where all the silhouette people on the crosswalk signs live! Looks like we’ve got a jumper on the roof of the 2nd picture.
    I want to echo Christopher Boffoli’s great point above about designing for a vibrant streetscape with arcades of microshops and kiosks. Excellent suggestion!

  • george August 2, 2012 (10:40 am)

    Anyone would recognize that any new tennant of the Petco building would redesign the street front. So it wouldn’t take a 7 story development to “pretty it up”. Look at Elliot Bay Brewery, a beautiful cleanup without the canyon effect. Agree about having built a transit corrider on Alaska, use it!

  • dawsonct August 2, 2012 (6:11 pm)

    That’s coming too, George.

  • Susan August 3, 2012 (12:00 pm)

    I live in the apt. across the alley and my major concern is access into & out of the parking garage. Presumably the new complex will also be alley access which is already dicey at times with delivery, garbage and recycle trucks, plus residential traffic for the Mural bldg. Although, my apt. faces east, I will miss the unhindered view from the rooftop patio… By the time they are built though, my lease should be up so, if there’s great deals, maybe I’ll just move across the alley…

  • harriet benjamin August 3, 2012 (12:19 pm)

    I strongly question was these developers consider “affortable housing?” and how many of these projects are getting real estate tax deferrments and for how many years?

  • anonyme August 4, 2012 (1:49 pm)

    I happened to be in Ballard yesterday, and can see what another commenter meant by “Ballardize”. The more I look at this, the less I like it. What happens over and over again in Seattle is that a handful of developers have a couple of building plans. As a result, almost all new buildings that go up look exactly alike. What’s worse, they don’t age well physically or stylistically, and they begin to disintegrate in a only a few years.

  • Don't Build This August 10, 2012 (12:08 am)

    I also live in Mural. Delivery trucks frequently block both ends of the alley already, making it impossible to leave for work. I can’t imagine how horrible it will be with construction parking and then another hundred tenants trying to drive through. This is a very bad idea that will degrade the quality of the neighborhood and only serve to make money for some developer who will disappear and leave us with a unbearable situation.

  • Dan August 13, 2012 (2:33 pm)

    The locals disliking changes in the neighborhood: An argument that has been going on in West Seattle since the day the Denny Party arrived. I am a long time, although not native West Seattle resident. When I arrived in 1995, The Junction was a tired assortment of so-so restaurants, thrift shops and used book stores. I recall business being so bad the WS Chamber pressured SDOT to remove metered parking to encourage traffic (now we probably need to bring it back to encourage parking spots to turn over). The scarcity of street parking is NOT the result of increased density, but due to the fact that The Junction finally has an assortment of businesses that people actually want to patronize. I much prefer the vibrant assortment of restaurants, stores and boutiques anchored by ArtsWest to what was in the area back then. It is true we are having growing pains, but the alternative of a moribund economy with falling property values is not a pleasing alternative. Let’s work to develop growth so that it enhances our community rather than just railing against it.

Sorry, comment time is over.