Design Review doubleheader, report #2: 1307 Harbor debuts

“This has the potential to be a really, really good project,” Southwest Design Review Board chair Laird Bennion told the architects of 1307 Harbor SW, as the board approved its Early Design Guidance proposal on first look during the second part of last night’s SWDRB doubleheader at the Senior Center of West Seattle.

Keep in mind, Early Design Guidance is just for the project’s “massing” – size and shape – and that’s what’s reflected above. Meeting details ahead:

The project’s toplines:

– 100,000 square foot mixed-use structure containing approximately:
– 21 residential apartments, totaling about 25,400 square feet
– 11,800 square feet of commercial office space
– 7,500 square feet of light manufacturing
– 6,700 square feet of ground floor retail
– 4,200 square feet of restaurant
– 41 parking spaces below grade, totaling approximately 14,400 square feet

PROJECT TEAM: Miller-Hull architects’ Brian Court noted that their project is “on the famous Alki Tavern site, (and the) former Embers.” They said they had thought about the site and the “opportunities” it posed – figuring out how to take advantage of the hillside view as well as the “grand, spectacular” city skyline view on the other. They also wanted to take advantage of California Way and the “main arterial” on Harbor Avenue, with so much activity, including the nearby Don Armeni Boat Ramp and Seacrest Park/Boathouse. They also found foot paths to and through the site that led to inspiration. The architect showed a wide variety of ways in which they insisted their building would not affect nearby views.

He explained the Environmental Critical Areas on the site and said they are applying for a variance; he also explained how their zoning is allowing a building that will be 70 feet above the street.

They showed four options. Their preferred version, D, has the breezeway/hillclimb; there would be 3 floors of cafĂ© and restaurant on one side of the building. The residential is mocked up in blue, office in yellow, “light manufacturing” in orange, a 32-foot breezeway, a parking-access ramp on the north side of the site.

BOARD QUESTIONS: Todd Bronk asked if they were saving trees; all the “heritage” trees, replied Court. Questions arose about the Environmentally Critical Area issues – involving the slope; planner Shelley Bolser said she would be doing that review before the project came back to the board. Chair Bennion asked about the “light manufacturing” area; the owner of the building is developing it, and it’s a “research and development” prototyping floor. “It’ll be sort of a design studio,” Court explained. Bennion also asked if the tree situation had resulted in an arborist report yet. Not yet, but before they apply for their master-use permit, they will survey and also check the size of the trees.

PUBLIC COMMENTS: Bolser said they’d been asked to summarize public comments received before the meeting. She said they had received two, including the height, zoning, parking, which is not in Design Review purview, but she’ll be reviewing the issues; about private views possibly affected, she said the city doesn’t regulate those, but will check Hamilton Viewpoint up the hill. There also was a question about the utility pole in front of the site and where it will go.

Deb Barker had praise for the architects for actually showing true massing options rather than just three or four barely varied shapes and sizes. She said she would like to see as much residential as possible, though she understands that the owner needs a specific use (the “light industrial”); she is worried that specific use could lead to blocked windows.

The next person to speak wondered why this building was at least one story taller than those on its sides. He said he liked Option D and the hillclimb/breezeway concept.

After him, a neighbor wondering about the height difference between the buildings – about 40 on each side, 68 for this – and how much “light industrial” square footage. 7,000, was the reply.

Next speaker wondered if parking would be undergrounded for this site, as it is for adjacent sites. He also wondered if there are different design standards for condos vs. apartments; the architect said the developer’s intent is to own the building, so at this point they’re considered apartments.

Nearby resident Rhonda said she’s concerned about the hill; her building has had tons of trouble with stability of the hill, “a liquefied mess held together with mud,” and this proposed building worries her. The building in which she lives is only 12 years old.

Diane Vincent said, “It’s so refreshing to have an architect come in with … 4 distinct options.” She said she “loves” the breezeway, “which could be a great public benefit,” and the idea of jobs – “more places for people to work in West Seattle.”

Nearby resident Barry echoed the concerns about stability, and planner Bolser said she’d like to have those questions/comments in e-mail so she could route it to the geotechnical reviewers.

BOARD DELIBERATIONS: They agreed Option D was their preferred version too. (Deliberations in the Early Design Guidance phase are hard to chronicle because they are just going through a checklist of attributes and agreeing those attributes should be considered.) Some concern about the breezeway site was alleviated when the architect said the house that’s there now would be removed.

WHAT’S NEXT: As part of this falls in the official shoreline area – even though it’s on the inland side of the street – that review will be done by the city, with the state as the ultimate arbiter. The developer/owners are now clear to apply for their Master Use Permit, once last night’s approval is finalized by the city, but they will be back for at least one more Design Review meeting – we will report the date as soon as it’s set.

COMMENTS? You can send them at any point in the process to planner Bolser,

2 Replies to "Design Review doubleheader, report #2: 1307 Harbor debuts"

  • sna April 4, 2014 (6:20 pm)

    The stairs up to california way would be a welcomed addition. This certainly wouldn’t impact views ay Hamilton Viewpoint.

  • Kaly April 9, 2014 (8:06 am)

    This building could well be one of Seattle’s world class structures, West Seattle and Harbor Avenue would truly gain an asset. It seems to combine all the elements urban planners dream of. I hope the City of Seattle and the design review team will see the beauty and potential that this vision can add to our area and allow Plan D,by permitting necessary variances and departures.

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