(Renderings by PB Architects)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The planned Clearview Eye Clinic at 7520 35th SW won approval from the Southwest Design Review Board last night, after major design changes in response to previous critiques.
“They listened, hard,” observed fill-in board member Jill Kurfirst, who also had filled in during an earlier meeting on this project, “and hit it out of the park.”
The board still had suggestions, of course. Here’s what they saw, and how the meeting went:
(The design “packet” for the meeting)
ARCHITECT’S PRESENTATION: The clinic, run by three opthalmologists, is currently housed at Westwood Village. 20-25 staffers will be employed there when it starts, and the doctors expect to be headquartered there for the two decades plus of practice they foresee ahead. The clinic is expected to “significantly activate the neighborhood,” said Michael Shreve of PB Architects, adding that the biggest challenge of designing this building has been fitting in space for everything that would be done there, from eyewear retail on the ground floor, to surgery. Different parts of the business will have different entries.
On board direction from the previous two meetings, the design took a “90-degree turn” with the parking no longer taking up much of the 35th SW frontage. The bulk and scale “emulate the apartments to the south.” They’re planning a landscaped rooftop deck and a solar array; windows are on the east and west facades, both of which also have voluntary setbacks. More retail space has been added at street level since the first version of the plan. The alley will be screened, landscaped, and fenced. They’ve already coordinated the streetscape plan with SDOT (see the packet, above, for details).
While planning the entrance’s new configuration, they talked with local transportation services including retirement centers that might bring patients by bus. None of the pedestrian pathways will have curves – they’re working to make it as accessible as possible, said Shreve.
The shadow studies show no impact on the nearby single-family homes, the architect added, also noting that their traffic-flow studies show their solution will work well with the expected rechannelization of 35th SW.
BOARD QUESTIONS: T. Frick McNamara wondered if, with 20-25 employees and 29 parking spaces, they had a plan to encourage transit. Reply: A lot of the staff currently do come by public transportation, so they expect most of their spaces to be available for customers. The original plan had 40 spaces, but now with the 29 spaces, they expect to schedule appointments without as much overlap. McNamara also voiced concern about the green-wall plan and what’s envisioned to keep it from turning out like the anemic “green wall” spaces at Admiral Safeway. Variety in the types of vines envisioned for the green walls would likely hold off the problem, said the architect. Alexandra Moravec wondered about all the angles on the front of the building.
Kurfirst wondered about fencing material. Answer: They haven’t settled on it yet. And she asked about lighting – for some elaboration on the lighting plan in the packet, which she said gave her the feeling that even more lighting figures into the project. “Talk to me about what’s really going on.”
Obviously in the hours when the building is closed, it’s about safety. For the apartments next door, the light sources here will be recessed so they don’t have anything harsh shining into their living spaces. “We’re not trying to make this a bright parking lot – just a soft glow.” Some of the envisioned features “light the path,” he said, and in some spots there will be “accent lights” up-lighting trees on the site.
Acting board chair Matt Zinski wondered about signage plans. It might be something more than what’s shown in the renderings right now, Shreve allowed.
PUBLIC COMMENT: One nearby resident attended the meeting and offered comments. Signage was what she was concerned about, for starters, as she observed this is a transitional neighborhood. She thought a large sign saying CLEARVIEW might suggest that the neighborhood itself is called Clearview, as it’s “one marquee in the neighborhood, overpowering, rather large … It’s a rather large marquee for a residential neighborhood that wants to be pedestrian-based on the weekends.” (The neighborhood is actually Sunrise Heights.) She also wondered about possible water backsplash and UV fade where the north retail area seems unprotected. Shreve agreed that’s “a great point.” He said that “all the cladding is a rain-screen design.”
BOARD DELIBERATIONS: This is where Kurfirst said, “I think they listened really hard and hit it out of the park.” McNamara said the fencing needed some tweaking near the main entry, and she still had concerns about lighting and the vine walls. Zinski also wanted to talk about landscaping, lighting, and signage. The parking lot, in his view, should be “highly lit,” for security. McNamara said her concern centered especially around winter, when it gets dark so early. Kurfirst also thought lighting should illuminate the on-site bioswale, so that nobody falls into it if it’s full from a rainstorm. McNamara thought an artistic metal might work for the fencing in the area, echoing some of the metal on the building. A discussion of the fence’s height ensued, and what height it would be to at least cover vehicles’ headlights.
The board said that they like the big blade-sign idea, and would rather have the lettering CLEARVIEW on both sides rather than the logo shown on the north side (the logo could be on smaller signage closer to the street, they suggested). The developer’s planned material palette worked for them, though, for example, the red highlighting material showcasing the street-side floor and the sign-blade zone might even be taken further, possibly toward the back parking area (where none of it is currently shown). The “dark mass” section of the building was a subject of some discussion – they want to “see consistency” in how the darker materials are treated; its use on the 35th side is preferable to the use on the east side. Also, some fine points of the entryway were discussed – one of the benches by the entryway could be better located, for example, instead of where it seems to be blocking the path of someone getting dropped off. The benches should all be perpendicular to the street, the board agreed. McNamara had a few other landscape/streetscape points – the vine maple and barberry seemed too small, for example. They approved all three of the requested departures (exceptions), which are detailed in the packet.
WHAT’S NEXT: Since board members voted to allow this project to advance, it’s up to the Department of Planning and Development to finalize their recommendations. If you have something to say about the project, you’re still welcome to e-mail the assigned city planner, Tami Garrett – firstname.lastname@example.org Timetable for the project depends on how the permitting process goes (if you still can’t place the site, it includes the former home of Red Star Pizza, but NOT the John’s Corner Deli building at the 35th/Webster corner).