(Rendering by Nicholson Kovalchick Architects)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Junction Landing – the apartment building proposed for 4417 42nd SW – will have to come back for a third Southwest Design Review Board meeting.
Concerns about consistency of exterior-material use were a big part of what led to the 4-1 board vote tonight to require another review.
The project plan has 58 apartments and 4 live-work units in a 4-story building, and 29 off-street parking spaces beneath it. It was reviewed by all four members of the current board, chair Matt Zinski, Don Caffrey, Alexandra Moravec, and Crystal Loya, plus past and fill-in board member Robin Murphy. In attendance from the city Department of Construction and Inspections was the project’s assigned planner, Sean Conrad.
ARCHITECTS’ PRESENTATION: Steve Fischer and Chie Yokoyama from Nicholson Kovalchick Architects presented the project (see the design packet here). As Fischer noted, the same local owners/developers built Junction Flats on the same block (separated from this site by the West Seattle Eagles‘ east parking Lot).
Fischer mentioned rows of trees on the street that give 42nd more of a “quiet pedestrian” nature rather than “screaming out for retail,” which the building does not contain aside from that potential use of the live-work units. Speaking of trees, there are three “exceptional” trees on the site – along with three old houses – and they are slated to be removed for the project.
Yokoyama explained how the building’s massing – shape and size – developed, now with three bays in front, two on each side.
Their landscape architect talked about how they are planning “urban habitat” for bees among other things, with natives and other flowering plants. There’ll be bioretention on site too for stormwater. On the roof, there’ll be greenspace too, and more bioretention, including an “urban farm” so tenants can “get involved with gardening – cut flowers, tomatoes, etc.,” he said.
Fischer added that there’s an enclosed room for solid-waste containers, so “no dumpsters on the alley.” The live-work spaces all connect to the sidewalk, he said. The project is not seeking “departures” – (zoning exceptions).
BOARD QUESTIONS: Zinski asked about exterior materials – they will include brick and “Reveal” Hardie board, the architects replied, and metal paneling. Asked how they would avoid problems such as “oil-canning,” the architects said they would use heavier-gauge materials. Moravec asked about the trees shown on the site in the packet – whether they would go in at the size shown, or whether that represents maturity at some point later. The latter, replied Stark. Caffrey asked if there would be any large size signage like Junction Flats; the owners/developers in the gallery said no – just signage over the front entrance. Zinski asked his trademark closing questions about what makes this a great design: “It’s not a high-profile location,” Fischer began. “We’re letting the churches (on the block) dictate the architecture – it’s a little more of a background building … that said, it’s subdued … it’s really about being quiet.” What’s the most important thing about the design, then? asked Zinski. “The simplicity on the 42nd side – it’s simple but it’s not a box -” Fischer at that point referred to WSB commenters having described it that way. “I could show you a box,” but this isn’t it, he said.
PUBLIC COMMENT: One question from the public – what sort of power service is planned? It’ll come in from the alley; there’s a transformer below grade in the garage, Fischer replied. There are transformers on a pole in front of the site, and while they won’t serve this building, they will remain.
BOARD DELIBERATIONS: Issues included “blank walls” – addressed by the architects earlier as they pointed out the site is bookended by lots that will be redeveloped in the future, likely taking those walls out of public view – and exterior materials. Zinski was concerned about inconsistent use of where the brick would be, vs. where the Hardie board and other exterior materials would be. Murphy felt “the bay resolution is not quite there.” Zinski said the bays need to “consistently express themselves” with the masonry materials. The east and south facades are the most important, he said. Murphy said he was also concerned about the “blank wall” on the north side – which borders a single-family house – and he suggested some modulation changes that would break it up. “We’re not asking for it to be a showstopping building that’s iconic, but it needs to be refined,” Murphy added.
Zinski wondered if the “habitat” proposed on the roof would really be enough to replace what’s being lost on the ground (including the three significant trees and four others). Murphy noted that they’re planting street trees that don’t exist now, but still … the Early Design Guidance meeting had included a “bargain” that there would be significant habitat in exchange for the loss of trees on the site. Stark said they’re trying to balance creating habitat and not overloading the roof with weight – there would be some edible landscaping such as blueberries and crabapples. Zinski said he’d like to see “a lot more flowering on the green roof.”
THE VOTE: Zinski and Murphy were first to say wanted to see the project come back addressing their concerns, rather than just leaving it up to the DPD rep to enforce “conditions.” “There are a number of issues here that go around the building,” said Murphy. In the end all but Moravec voted to bring the project back. Zinski said they would like to see the exterior include more of the metal that’s being used outside the live-work units.
IF YOU HAVE A COMMENT ABOUT THE PROJECT: Not just design, but also environmental aspects – noise, traffic, etc. – send it to email@example.com, and/or come to the next SWDRB meeting for the project – date TBA.