A tree played a big role in the Southwest Design Review Board‘s latest look at mixed-use Junction project 4532 42nd SW.
(From the project “packet,” a rendering of building massing if the tree were kept)
The meeting was a second round of Early Design Guidance for the newest proposal for the site right behind Capco Plaza – 6-stories, ~75 apartments, 3,813 sq.ft. of commercial space, offstreet parking for ~63 vehicles (though this is in an area where projects can be built without any parking because of the proximity of “frequent transit”).
This location was approved for a different project under different ownership back in 2009.
That stalled until West Seattleites Mark and Susan Braseth bought it for $3.3 million this past February and brought forward the new proposal. A big old house, once a hospital, was demolished on part of the site in 2008, north of a structure that will be torn down to make way for the project but has in the meantime served as construction offices for Junction 47 nearby.
Thursday night’s meeting ran more than two hours – theoretically the 6:30 pm review on Design Review Board nights is supposed to end by 8, regardless of whether a second review follows – and the tree was the big issue.
When the project came before the board for its first EDG meeting last July (see the city’s official report here), the board told the project team they wanted to see options preserving the tree – a Western red cedar on the northeast corner of the site – but since then, the developer and architect said, they had found via consulting with multiple arborists that the tree does not meet the standard for being an “exceptional” tree; their reports show its trunk diameter at midpoint is 29.7 inches, while 30 is the baseline for the city’s definition. They also said the tree would not survive if the parcel north of this site, which has different ownership, were ever developed.
With that, NK Architects presented a treeless option. The project team says saving the tree would have effects including 16 fewer parking spaces, and that point brought out local businesspeople to say that’s vital to The Junction – restaurateur Dave Montoure and real-estate executive Mike Gain both spoke to that point, while two other local businesspeople, Jack Miller and Rob Wunder, spoke to the Braseths’ character and the importance of local ownership.
But the meeting was about the design. Board member T. Frick McNamara said that it’s within the board’s rights to consider the tree status regardless of whether it’s exceptional or not.
Another issue that emerged: The alleys along this site, to the south and east, were brought up by commenters included René Commons from the Junction Neighborhood Organization. The project’s ingress/egress has to be considered in the context of the alley behind Capco Plaza/QFC, she said, as that one already is challenged. Other neighbors voiced concern about a trash problem in the alley that they link to Oregon 42 to the north. Alley parking access is a point of concern too.
In the end, the board decided to let the project proceed to the next phase of Design Review – provided the tree stays. That conditional approval means they can apply for a master use permit but will have to go through at least one more meeting with the SWDRB, in the “Recommendations” phase. A date for that will be set later.
In the meantime, you can comment on the project by e-mailing planner Katy Haima – firstname.lastname@example.org – be sure you refer to project #3019962.
NEXT UP FOR THE SOUTHWEST DESIGN REVIEW BOARD: 6:30 pm November 19th, 4106 Delridge Way SW, “a five-story structure containing 3,700 sq. ft. of retail at ground level and 36 residential units above in an environmentally critical area (with) parking for 36 vehicles” – details and docs here.