(4801 Fauntleroy Way rendering by David Foster Architects)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The Southwest Design Review Board gave its final OK – with conditions – to the first of two projects it’s considering tonight.
This was the second and final review for 4801 Fauntleroy Way SW (just south and across Edmunds from the south side of The Whittaker). It passed each of the two Design Review phases on the first try – Early Design Guidance back on July 23rd, the Recommendations phase tonight. Primary concerns involved the colors and materials proposed for its exterior, since it has such a prominent spot in the Junction/Triangle transition zone.
All five board members were present for tonight’s review – chair Todd Bronk, Matthew Zinski, T. Frick McNamara, Don Caffrey, and Alexandra Moravec. (Read more about them here – click “Southwest” to open the list with photos and short bios. Board members are confirmed by the City Council and are uncompensated volunteers.) Planner for the project, Katy Haima, was present as well. The full “packet” with design renderings is on the city website here.
Here’s how the review unfolded:
ARCHITECT’S PRESENTATION: West Seattle architect David Foster – a past chair of the Design Review Board – recapped the results of the first meeting last July, in which “Scheme B” emerged as the favorite, massed as if it were two buildings – finer features on the west side, facing a residential neighborhood, with a more-commercial facade on the east side, along Fauntleroy.
13 of the building’s 53 planned units are SEDUs (microhousing), Foster said. The building does not include any offstreet car parking, but will have 20 stalls for bicycles. It will “pay special attention to the corner of Fauntleroy and Edmunds.” (That’s what drew the most scrutiny later in the meeting.)
At ground level, there will be retail fronting on both streets, both “fairly small,” likely to “support neighborhood-based businesses.” There’s one live-work building facing Edmunds. Building services would be along the alley on the building’s west side, and “that’s one reason why we’ve chosen not to provide parking,” said Foster – if they had to – which they don’t under city rules because of RapidRide’s proximity – it would have to be underground.
It includes “quite a bit of green roof” as well as an eight-foot “opportunity for courtyards” setback on the south side of the building. The facade will be masonry, charcoal gray for the commercial spaces’ streetfronts, with black metal elements, and painted fiberglass windows on the upper levels, plus some stained-cedar highlights. “Much of the facade is treated with canopies, but they’re not continuous,” said Foster – partly because of the sloping sidewalk on the Edmunds side, where three separate sections of canopies are called for. The canopy is eight feet deep at one point, proposed for detailing with an “open, fin-like structure.”
They’ve worked to increase the amount of window coverage for the SEDUs, which are along a setback on the south side. On the alley, the massing has been “mixed up a bit,” Foster said. To downplay the area for the services, it’ll all be painted – including doors – in the same color. Back on the front, the signage will take advantage of the canopies, and will be no longer than 3 feet. That goes for building-address signage – with foot-tall, backlit numbers – as well as business signage.
The building’s residential entry will be off a courtyard to “guide users into the building.” It’ll have some ground-level wood accents.
BOARD QUESTIONS included:
McNamara asked about the decision of where to put the “active” rooftop – why it was on the busy Fauntleroy corner rather than further back, where the green roof is. Foster said they wanted to capitalize on the views of downtown which they were expecting (looking across and over the future low-rise CVS, apparently).
Zinski wondered about the type of cement board planned to be used, and whether the gutters might be “thicker gauge” – yes to that, said Foster, with a 3″-diameter downspout. He also asked about the color “logic” – what has driven the choice, and the placement, looking at how its “hierarchy” is dictating the transitions. “We have three colors on the building, not counting the wood accents.” The green is intended as an accent color, he explained – though he acknowledged it was a little more prolific than “accent” on the back side of the building.
Bronk wondered why the retail storefront look wasn’t wrapping all the way around the busy front – suggesting some disconnect on the street level. Zinski offered a different interpretation of the same question – how the ground floor reinforces the “two different building” look and feel. Foster said the canopy treatment figures into that, and that the three-story scale seemed to work. Bronk and Moravec wondered about the “single live-work unit” next to the retail front. Foster said they wanted some “more residential functions” for that section of the building.
Moravec wondered what would be the buffer between this building and the existing one to the south. Foster pointed out the courtyards and landscaping screening. Moravec also requested more detail about the alley-side services plan; Foster added something he hadn’t mentioned, that the laundry room is on the alley too.
PUBLIC COMMENT: The only person to speak was the project’s developer, Joe Parr, who said he’s been happy with the “constructive” nature of the Design Review process: “We’re really happy with the building we’ve ended up with.”
BOARD DELIBERATIONS: Bronk said he was concerned about how much Hardie board was planned for the building’s exterior, and about how much of the exterior will be green, worrying the public might consider it a “green monster.” In particular, its prevalence on the building’s proposed south-side look “has gotta go,” Bronk opined.
Zinski expressed concern that the materials of the building’s north and east sides don’t suggest it’s “turning the corner onto a major (street),” Fauntleroy. When that came up for more discussion, Bronk suggested there might be too much white along the corner, echoing Junction 47‘s eastern building, which he said “seemed to have been forgotten about” (it went through Design Review long before the current members were on the board). McNamara suggested what they were saying was that the three-story mass on the corner was appealing but using Hardie board all the way to the ground there was not.
Some sentiment was voiced for more wood on the exterior, and developer Parr agreed to change some of the green to cedar.
Bronk, Caffrey, and McNamara wondered about the placement of units next to the residential entry, including a small apartment that seemed “awkward.” Zinski summarized it as a suggestion to re-examine whether they could create a more-expansive residential lobby.
They weighed the possibility of asking the project team to come back for a third meeting – or whether they could put enough conditions on the project to send it out of the process – given the prominence of the corner. In the end, board members decided that wasn’t enough to merit a third meeting, and spelled out conditions for having the corner’s look address their concerns.
WHAT’S NEXT: While this was the last public meeting for the project, planner Haima will continue to review it, including non-design aspects such as traffic and noise. If you have a comment, send it to her at firstname.lastname@example.org – she’ll be writing the official city report on the meeting, finalizing the board’s recommendations.