Design Review doubleheader, project #1: Board OK’s 4535 44th SW

In the first of two reviews tonight, the Southwest Design Review Board has just recommended final approval for the design of 4535 SW Alaska, an apartment building to be known as Lofts at The Junction.

All five regular board members were on hand for this meeting – chair Myer Harrell and members Todd Bronk, Laird Bennion, T. Frick McNamara, and Daniel Skaggs – along with planner Tami Garrett from the city Department of Planning and Development.

Though this project has been a source of controversy, fewer than 20 members of the public were on hand – perhaps because its most controversial point, the lack of parking, is not in the scope of the Design Review Board’s authority. (Dozens more attended a special neighbor-requested meeting about non-design concerns last month – here’s our coverage.)

Tonight’s review began with NK ArchitectsJin Lee presenting (see the packet here) the latest design for the project, Lofts at The Junction, which as he put it is on “a truncated triangle … one block from the heart of The Junction.” It is proposed for five stories with 36 apartments and two live-work units on a site with significant west-east slope between Glenn Way to the west and 44th SW to the east.

Visual points of the project include a 20′ x 15′ mural envisioned for one side of the building; Lee said “we are currently reaching out to local arts groups for proposals.” It would NOT be a historic mural, unlike others in the area, he said. Planter bays along the Glenn Way side would be planted with fountain grass; the 44th SW side also will have planters, as well as a bike rack. On that same side, looking over the street, will be 17-foot-wide and six-to-nine-foot-deep balcony landings, with table/chairs for tenants, and that feature drew questions from board members.

The lighting scheme was also shown, including “festival lighting” on the northeast side:

PUBLIC COMMENT: One person, Tom Sheldon, offered a comment. He called the building”brilliant in the sense that it is simple … I’m impressed with the fact that they are using real brick on the building, and metal,” and lauded other features, including the plan for a mural, and the “deck part of the stairs.” He said he thinks it will “be a great addition to The Junction.”

Another attendee asked questions about the windows – whether the industrial design of the windows is to let light into “tiny units,” and whether street-level windows would have any privacy features. Lee said the former was just a contemporary design point, “an artificial narrative … a design device.”

BOARD DELIBERATION: The meeting was less than an hour old when this point was reached. Bennion described the design as “elegant.” McNamara praised its functionality. Bronk said the design was “much improved” from the previous presentation but he also noted the two facades of the building would be better if they were more similar. Bennion said he agreed and also voiced some concern about the top of the building, including an overhang, which he described as reminiscent of “a gas station.” Overall, though, he said he “like(s) the building a lot.” Harrell wondered if the distracting rooftop feature would be that visible; he was reminded that it’s a prominent corner for reasons including the weekly West Seattle Farmers’ Market on the nearby southeast corner of 44th/Alaska. That moved into questions of whether the stairwell should be enclosed rather than open, and concerns that the protruding landings changed the building’s mass from what was seen before.

Garrett finally pointed out that enclosing the stairwell could change the design significantly, because it’s already close to its floor-to-area ratio. So they discussed alternatives for softening the look.

The landscaping on the Glenn Way side drew some critiquing; it was suggested that fountain grass might not be the best choice, and should be replaced with an evergreen type of grass.

Board members wondered if the north side of the building – not as visible as other sides but still noticeable for those heading past it toward The Junction – needed a mural or some other treatment like the south side; ultimately, they decided no, that side might be a “big blank wall” for a while and that’s just the way it goes.

No major changes were recommended before the board agreed they would recommend final design approval for Lofts at The Junction. Meantime, while it proceeds through the permit process, planner Garrett is the point person for other comments –

14 Replies to "Design Review doubleheader, project #1: Board OK's 4535 44th SW "

  • Jason December 5, 2013 (9:02 pm)

    It’s about time we got some new apartments with corrugated metal siding in the junction area.

  • ttt December 5, 2013 (9:17 pm)

    If I lived there, I would park in the free Junction parking lot just across the street!

    • WSB December 5, 2013 (9:42 pm)

      And you would have a ticket after 3 hours. Trust me. I’ve gotten a couple.

  • CW December 5, 2013 (9:57 pm)

    If I lived there I would park in front of other people’s houses on 44th or on Glenn Way.

  • JanS December 5, 2013 (10:22 pm)

    If you lived there and had a car , you’d have to do that for real.

  • Mookie December 5, 2013 (10:25 pm)

    And as a resident on Glenn Way, lemme tell you I really, really look forward to that combined with the monstrosity with minimal parking that planned for the northeast corner of Oregon and Glenn Way.
    But gee, it’s right near a “frequent transit” line, so it’s all just…great. Feels like I won’t be able to park OR exhale here pretty soon.

  • wags December 5, 2013 (10:37 pm)

    After loving living in West Seattle for the last 3 decades it has finally started happening…West Seattle is being stripped away of it’s charm and nice small town feel…and being replaced with condos and places we don’t need to shop at. Really sad ;-( …about time to move on…turning into just another rat race…and you know what happens once there are too many rats in the cage…they start eating each other.

  • Alki resident December 6, 2013 (12:07 am)

    Keep the nitemares coming. Anyone else wanna build here, come on in let’s cram this place good and tight.

  • Brian December 6, 2013 (6:22 am)

    THIS JUST IN: The world is ending, the sky is falling, and West Seattle is being eaten up whole by an unspeakable being from the nether worlds.

  • Rick December 6, 2013 (7:54 am)

    When they tore down the beautiful old brick hunting lodge with the stone lions on the front steps on California and replaced it with the corrugated metal front townhouses all I could do is sigh (or cry). Tiring of all the developer shill comments also.

  • Born on Alki December 6, 2013 (12:16 pm)

    So long West Seattle, it’s been nice living quietly here for 50 some years.

  • Anne December 6, 2013 (3:21 pm)

    Is there a proposal for the NE corner of Oregon and Glenn way? (See comment above). a sign is up for a 5 story bldg. on the Nw corner of Alaska and Glenn, kiddie corner from the farmers market, just across from this one that just got approved.

    • WSB December 6, 2013 (3:35 pm)

      That is 4400 Alaska, have already covered several times.

  • Genesee Hill December 6, 2013 (4:46 pm)

    I is movin’ back to downtown Yakima. That place is deader than a doornail. buh-bye.

    And, no, I won’t let the West Seattle Bridge slam shut on my sorry butt…

Sorry, comment time is over.