Design Review doubleheader, report #1: Thumbs up for 4400 SW Alaska, across from West Seattle Farmers’ Market – with conditions

Kitty-corner from the West Seattle Farmers’ Market, that image is what you’re going to see – with a few changes – if Isola Homes goes ahead with 4400 SW Alaska, 36 residential units and four live-work units that got thumbs-up from the Southwest Design Review Board tonight. As noted in our first report last May, it will replace this:

And though you don’t see it in the renderings, you will see brick, as part of the conditions laid out by the board.

Early in the review, board member Daniel Skaggs expressed some concerns about the green/white colors, and noted that Isola had been building projects all around the area and “they look just like this.” What about some brick? he wondered. Steve Fischer from Nicholson-Kovalchick Architects mentioned the nearby brick project (4535 44th SW, which passed Design Review in December) and said this one just didn’t seem to be the right kind of project for that. But he also said the project green might not be as “apple green” as it was showing on the projection screens in the meeting room.

Here’s a look at the courtyard area of the front of the building, which evolved from some suggestions given by the board last summer:

You can see the full set of renderings in this “packet”). The project passed Early Design Guidance – the first round of the city’s design-review process – seven months ago, in July (WSB coverage here).

Fischer said tonight that the materials would include an aluminum composite that bends and facilitates “a clean transition” (where you see white and black) and then “Hardie panel” where you see the green color in the design. Board member Laird Bennion pointed out via a sample that he was able to write on it using a key – raising concerns about graffiti vandalism. The project has two streetfronts, and the landscaping along Alaska will have a much different feel than the landscape off Glenn, the project team said. Bennion wondered about the “vine wall” shown up the middle – what if, like other projects, the vines fail to thrive – what would it look like?

PUBLIC COMMENT: First to speak was Diane Vincent, who said she “love love love(s) the green and … the angles,” as well as “the open stairway.” The white color, though, she’s “not thrilled with.” She echoed concern about the projected “green wall,” pointing out that Admiral Safeway’s planned green wall has never happened. But overall, she voiced appreciation for the “creative” aspects of the project.

Next, Deb Barker, who said she is “very glad to see … that this project has transitioned and addressed some concerns” from its first review. She said she hopes that retail can be successfully attracted to the spaces penciled in as live-work. She said she was “fine with the color scheme, less thrilled with the treatments along the Alaska facade.”

A man identifying himself as “living a block away on 46th” said there’s “no warmth” in the colors/materials, and “no texture … everything is smooth.” It won’t match anything in the area, he said. “I will walk by this building every day … I want to be able to enjoy it, because this is a neighborhood.” He wondered what kind of signage it would have – saying he didn’t want to see neon – and also feared the spaces are too small for retail. Offering a few comments of appreciation, he said he did like the fact it’s not a “flat facade.”

The next person to comment said he hopes the board will strongly encourage retail instead of live/work in those spaces.

“Maybe the two at the corner could be retail, and the other two could be live-work,” he suggested.

Another nearby resident said he likes some aspects including the use of wood along the stairway, the “boldness” of the green.

A man who said he was representing the developer said they are hoping to get retail on the corner – maybe even before construction so they can “build to suit” – and that there will be a beam so that a wall could be knocked out in the future for a bigger space.

BOARD DELIBERATIONS: The first major point of discussion involved the lighting that had been shown in the renderings

Board members thought the “podium level”/corner should be lit more than the residential windows. The colors came around again. Todd Bronk said at one point that if the colors were taken off, the building had the right proportion, but there needed to be more details and he thought that being entirely devoid of brick didn’t necessarily work for a building that’s part of The Junction. Other board members agreed it needed to have some brick, as part of the base getting a “finer texture, more human scale, more timeless” feel. Their recommendations also reinforced expectations that the corner spaces will be retail-focused rather than the not-so-retail uses that “live-work” have been taking on lately – at one point they were going to suggest, rather than require, but Bennion said, “Let’s go big or go home.” The “aggressive” conditions of approval, as the board put it, also include a “more substantial entry canopy at the corner to promote retail use.”

WHAT’S NEXT: Until the project gets final land-use approval, you can still send comments to its assigned city planner, Lindsay King –

33 Replies to "Design Review doubleheader, report #1: Thumbs up for 4400 SW Alaska, across from West Seattle Farmers' Market - with conditions"

  • ttt February 6, 2014 (8:50 pm)

    This won’t look too bad, except for that ugly puke flourescent green color. Ugh. It’s like that new building on Oregon and 41st– orange striped…ugly. I’m not a big fan of the painted drywall panel look on these new “modern” looking buildings…

    The trees lining the street will be nice…

    And won’t all the tenants just try to park in the junction parking??

  • Kim February 6, 2014 (8:57 pm)

    Any information about the unit mix (studio/one/two) and whether this will be for sale or for rent?

  • pupsarebest February 6, 2014 (9:05 pm)

    Truly hideous.

  • DTK February 6, 2014 (9:10 pm)

    36 apartments, 4 live-work, and 6 parking stalls = 40 or more cars parked in the free lot across the street taking away from local business. Good luck with that…

  • GenHill February 6, 2014 (9:16 pm)

    I hope it’s not this green. Yuck! Something mellow. Nice. Easy to look past instead of something to stare at.

  • WTF February 6, 2014 (9:22 pm)

    Lime green. Really?!

  • Christopher Boffoli February 6, 2014 (9:43 pm)

    I like the design and I’m happy to see something a little bolder on a corner that will be a focal point. I support the bolder color too. I routinely see similarly bright colors in Europe, especially in Holland where they have a lot of overcast skies, and it always works. The comments of the color-averse here are testament to why we tend to see so much beige blandness in West Seattle.

  • dcn February 6, 2014 (10:11 pm)

    Add some blue, and you could have a Seahawks-themed building.

    • WSB February 6, 2014 (10:56 pm)

      DCN, someone actually described it (not an official presenter) along the way as “Seahawks green”!

  • Seattlite February 6, 2014 (11:17 pm)

    Totally heinous, unappealing stone cold architecture that does not blend in with the Alaskan Junction. Shame.

  • WSgal February 7, 2014 (7:23 am)

    The colors look tacky and the design looks cheap… And seriously, why the heck would you choose lime green. And 6 parking stalls.. right. Great idea, yet again.

  • Yuck! February 7, 2014 (7:27 am)

    That is a terrible looking building.

  • JoAnne February 7, 2014 (7:36 am)

    This freakish, faddish design will look dated in only a few years, while the original brick building, though much more modest, still looks classy.

  • Jeff February 7, 2014 (7:42 am)

    I guess I’m not with the crowd on this one. I like this design, especially compared with many of the others that have shown up lately. I wish they had more parking, but come on! That ship (and the density ship) sailed 20 years ago. At this point you sound like my grandma who just can’t believe that Clinton beat Bush in 1992.

  • steve February 7, 2014 (8:16 am)

    I like the bright color. So tired of beige, cream, off white, lt. brown, dk. brown, medium brown…

  • David February 7, 2014 (8:43 am)

    I agree, I LIKE it. It just makes me smile. Design (like art in general) is ALL subjective. I think it’s very cool, very 21st century. Doesn’t look sad and depressing like many run down districts. Has a sense of vibrancy and life to it. I can’t take one more “brown” or “beige” building. Ugh. I agree brick will ALWAYS be “in” (just line jeans and tee-shirt) but SOMETIMES you want SOME variation. How super horribly boring if EVERY single building is a brown brick building. Nice enough, but BORING. I don’t want every building to look the same. Cities are cool because not EVERY building is art-deco, or granite, or brick, or glass-wall…but a combination of all of them. Or you can hate it, all subjective.

    Again, bit low on the parking side for sure. I wouldn’t worry about the “free lot” across the street. You can’t park there all day. It is limited to 3 hours. You can sure TRY, but you’ll get ticketed. You think the city doesn’t like giving out tickets? :)

  • heather February 7, 2014 (8:48 am)

    Ooohhh! I really like the design. The emphasis on the corner, the roofline, the bright color…I think it will be a great addition to WS. I especially appreciate the bright color, I agree with Christopher, it has worked well in other locations with overcast sky.

  • kris t. February 7, 2014 (8:52 am)

    I am leaning towards LIKING the green does lend a energy to the area. I think we are toooo
    stuck in the shades of brown but will like the little bit of brick when added. IKEA like structure is not my fav but i guess thats the way it’s going lately.. I think West Seattle (and other areas)haven’t changed architectually for so long that now it’s really hard to swallow.

  • CandrewB February 7, 2014 (8:55 am)

    No complaints on this one except for the parking. I wish DPD would realize their fantasy of a world without SOVs is not realistic. In the future SOVs may be graphite-constructed two-seaters powered by human waste, but they will exist and be in-demand for the simple fact we like the flexibility to go anywhere we want and at anytime.

  • vincent February 7, 2014 (9:40 am)

    I am disappointed that the structure isn’t bigger, with fewer parking spaces and some street front retail/office space.

    Just because every change averse nimby believes everyone has to drive and store multiple cars doesn’t make it an edict for everyone ( it isn’t ).

    The selfish desire to raise costs by forcing private parking only exists because the haves ( current residents ) are worried they will have to share public resources ( free parking ).

    A good fix would be to add meters to west seattle and zoned parking to all L3 areas. The impression that growth can be stifled with endless meetings and complaining needs to be abated.

  • Pahrk the Cahr February 7, 2014 (9:42 am)

    The love affair with boxes continues. Do they even teach in design school anymore? Yuck. I miss New England. I’m with JoAnne.

  • westsider February 7, 2014 (9:48 am)

    1. Echoing what others have said: anyone who thinks that only 6 of the people who live in this building will have cars that need parking is smoking crack or getting paid off by the developers who profit from this sweet deal for them. If they really believe these people won’t have cars then better start funding mass transit that doesn’t get stuck in the traffic on the bridge, paid for by the money the developers are making by not having to provide parking in these new buildings.

    2. Whomever is allowing all the new development without a firm and funded plan for increasing traffic/transport throughput to and from West Seattle should be held accountable. It seems that the people making these decisions don’t live out here and don’t understand it. Each one of these new developments should include a fee that goes towards putting in light rail or otherwise increasing throughput out of the peninsula to destinations everyone is headed to (downtown, the eastside, etc).

    These are the two real issues IMO, quibbling over the color/design etc are nothing in comparison.

  • BJG February 7, 2014 (9:49 am)

    Last May the project was described as 33 residential units with 4 live-work (??) units and 6 parking spaces. Now the description is for 36 residential units without any added parking. We are going backward. The facade is in no appreciable sense more neighborhood-friendly. It has a pre-tenement look. Nowhere is parking addressed and we neighbors will be accommodating parked cars across our driveways daily. I for one am tired of calling traffic enforcement. They are tired of responding to illegal parking. It just gets worse in our Junction neighborhoods. Stop it!

  • j February 7, 2014 (10:40 am)

    nothing like calling more attention to an already unattractive building.
    there needs to be more parking available. just because the building is built on a bus line does not mean the residents will not have cars. cars that will compete for already limited parking spaces.

  • Diane February 7, 2014 (12:09 pm)

    BJG; parking was not addressed because it’s not allowed to talk about in Design Review meetings; but it is a HUGE issue; this architect (NK) is building micro-apts across the street from this project with ZERO parking; these 2 projects are going to cause major hardship to this area due to only 6 parking spaces between the 2 apt buildings; unfortunately the DRB can’t do anything about it, not even allowed to discuss it; these meetings are only about design; but you can and PLEASE do write letters about how the lack of parking impacts our neighborhood; send to the city planner in charge of this project; Lindsay King –; and write letters to City Councilmembers; they are the ones who passed the zero parking law that is allowing all these developments to be built without any parking; and of course developers will take advantage of the zero parking law; it’s an enormous profit maker for them ($20,000+ per parking space they are not building goes into their pocket); pretty sure developers will not be living in these buildings or live nearby to deal with lack of parking impacts; please people, write letters to the city, or we’ll keep getting more of these projects with zero parking; oh, and btw, bus cuts coming soon; great job city planners

  • Janine Rees February 7, 2014 (2:54 pm)

    A nasty color. Kind of like the stuff you blow out from a sinus infection.


  • JVP February 7, 2014 (2:55 pm)

    I love it! It’s interesting, a bit different, bold. The way they stepped it back along the angled street is brilliant. The green is bright, but in a fun way.
    I disagree with the DRB forcing brick on this. I LOVE brick buildings, but I also like design the pushes the envelope. How do you make a brick base work with an edgy modern design? Just because you add brick doesn’t mean you have a better design.

  • KBear February 7, 2014 (4:06 pm)

    “Just because you add brick doesn’t mean you have a better design.”
    Exactly. And good architecture should not necessarily “blend in” with the neighborhood, but rather complement it. The main thing wrong with this design is the lack of parking. The dozens of additional cars this represents will neither blend in nor complement our neighborhood.

  • bolo February 7, 2014 (8:57 pm)

    What IS a live-work unit? Can someone please explain it? Would it be more precise and truthful to call it residential?

  • BJG February 8, 2014 (10:36 am)

    Definition of live-work units from City Council news release dated 6/23/2003.

    “Under the legislation, a live-work space is defined as combining residential and nonresidential uses in one space, if the occupant has a valid business license for the business operated in that unit. The business must be in the front of the unit, with the residence in the back. Such units will be allowed in all commercial zones of the City and in some neighborhood business districts, although street-level live-work units will be prohibited in pedestrian-designated zones.

    The new rules will hopefully increase opportunities for mixed-use developments, where commercial and residential units are combined to boost housing by making the project more profitable to developers.”

    The new rules were unanimously agreed to by the Council to: “allow artists, architects or other workers to live in ground-floor commercially zoned space as long as that unit is also a work space.”

    Apparently these business owners will never need to drive or have any customer traffic.

  • Lura February 9, 2014 (8:11 am)

    In practice, I think it means that they are mostly residential units (apartments), but they are designed so that they will probably convert to being small businesses at some point in the next 50 years. It lets a building meet current demand for rental housing while still fitting into a future business district.
    I love the color. Very fresh and lively. I was surprised when a new house on my block used that color, but it looks great.

  • BJG February 9, 2014 (8:42 pm)

    Lura, I don’t see that there is a code allowance for a possible future business “in 50 years” but residential use now. That would be in violation of the intent and reason the financial advantage is extended to developers of live/work units in the first place. These are to be ground floor street-facing business spaces with apartment living in back.

  • phil dirt February 10, 2014 (5:09 pm)

    The developers are destroying West Seattle with the help of our elected city government. People are wondering why crime is escalating? Just wait.

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