By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The biggest West Seattle project currently on the drawing board has cleared Design Review.
It’s the two-building, 300+-unit, mixed-use project at 4722 Fauntleroy Way SW and 4721 38th SW, and the Southwest Design Review Board gave its final approval last night, after a presentation that drew no public comment. Here are the design “packets”:
All five members of the newly filled-out board were present; that meant some extra questions since the three new appointees – John Cheng, Matt Hutchins, Scott Rosenstock, all West Seattle residents – weren’t on the board when this project was first presented in the Early Design Guidance phase last July. (The two holdover members are Don Caffrey of Beacon Hill, now chairing the board, and Crystal Loya of West Seattle.) Also at the table, the assigned city planner for the project, Carly Guillory.
ARCHITECTS’ PRESENTATION: Derrick Overbay and Rob Deane with Encore Architects led the presentation. 4722 Fauntleroy SW was referred to as Building A, 4721 38th SW as Building B, and though they are being considered separately, they are to be built and managed as one project, Overbay said. The site, which has north-south and east-west alleys through it, is zoned for development up to 85 feet on Building A’s location, 40 feet on Building B’s location. Building A is proposed for 10,000 sf of retail space toward the north, 16 live-work units, 240 apartments, with residential parking entry off the north side, into two underground levels of parking. Building B is “being designed as more transitional” with 50 apartments and 1 live-work unit, 1 level of parking to be accessed off the alley, three levels of residences.
Deane also recapped Building A’s shipyard/port-inspired design concept that was described at last summer’s Early Design Guidance meeting. He and Overbay explained how it had evolved since then, showing how the massing and “rhythm” would include some spaces for courtyards and a “mid-block break along Fauntleroy,” and how exterior materials – including brick at the pedestrian level, with “warmer wood-type textures at the building entries” – and colors would play into that. The south side will be mostly hidden by the development going up to the south; the alley-facing east side of Building A has some stepped-down elements, as it faces smaller Building B. There’s an amenity space atop Building A, with a small roof deck. The entry on the retail side to the north will have a glass/steel canopy.
Building B will use the “same 8 x 8 x 24 stacks” as Building A, Deane picked up, plus some courtyard space. He showed how they had responded to EDG criticism that B was too much a small version of A. The building has more grade to deal with than the other one, so “we’ve used this grade to inform the composition,” he said. Metal paneling, wood composite, and fiber cement will all be used on the exterior. The two buildings’ parking is shared, “so there will be a connection off the alley.” The residential entry is on 38th, and there’s a roof deck. Deane also showed how they hope to create a buffer area because of all the activity they expect between the buildings.
They’re asking for departures – zoning exceptions. #1 involves a 10-foot-wide section of the garage facing 38th SW. Without it, the project wouldn’t look any different, “it would just have less parking,” Overbay said. The live-work unit would be 12′ high instead of the required 13′ if the departure #2 is granted.
Other elements they reviewed included the balconies – multiple types, using glass and/or steel – and signage – some building-mounted, some canopy-mounted signage. And since there’s a bus stop along the front of Building A on Fauntleroy, they have integrated “some lower canopies” at that spot.
Landscape architect Forrest Jammer from Thomas Rengstorf and Associates talked about their part of the project. Nine street trees were shown along Fauntleroy, which has a five-foot-wide planting space along with at least six feet of sidewalk width; there’ll be a more “accented pattern” of permeable pavers near the entries, the commercial one toward the north, the residential one toward the center. There’s a courtyard on Level 2 facing the alley – including a narrow strip running south of it – and one on Level 3 facing Fauntleroy. There’ll be a bioretention planter including some natural-stone boulders, he said, and “we want to take the water and drop it down from the roof onto the rocks, to create a little splash, a little interest.” The Level 3 courtyard is fronted by private patios and will have some “accent trees,” smaller conifers most likely, Jammer said. Some “modular green roofs” will be stacked to reinforce the architectural concept, and will have planters/plantings that vary in height; the green roof also will “serve a bioretention function,” he said.
He also addressed a question raised at the previous meeting – how does A interact with the new development going in to the south? He showed three ideas, the preferred one including raised planters.
Building B would have four street trees on 38th. A few private patios border the south-side courtyard. There’s also a 42″ bioretention planter on that side, “but we’re trying to step that down.” There’ll also be some green-roof area, similar to Building A.
BOARD QUESTIONS: Rosenstock wondered how the floor plan would work, circulation-wise – at the entries, and the alleys – how they imagine people coming off Fauntleroy and Alaska to get in. They think the west-east alley is how most people will enter, so that’s why the parking entries are on the north side. “But given the topography of the site, it was a challenge,” acknowledged Overbay. He added that they’re widening the alleys, as required. Rosenstock also asked about how Building A’s Fauntleroy south end will relate to the project next door (“The Foundry”). There’s a partial walkway between the two, it was noted, and that will include an entry to the other building’s bicycle garage. (Page 44, SDCI’s Guillory noted.)
Cheng asked about the change to a more-flat facade and Overbay recapped some of the EDG feedback that then-recessed massing sections were said at the time to not be helpful in the design concept. His second question was about the live-work facades, which have smaller, steel canopies. And his third question was about a blank-wall section on the north side and how long it would be. About 64 feet, was the reply. He then asked about heights and materials for some of the planters. Possibly plastic, Renner said. Cheng also asked about lighting; Overbay said it was focused around all the pedestrian areas, and for clarity on the change that made Building B a little less of a smaller clone of Building A. Cheng also wondered if the lobby was considered for northeast-corner siting; Overbay said that was in one of the EDG concepts but the current concept was considered to be better.
Loya asked about future possibilities for subdividing the ground-floor retail space; while a rendering suggests a pharmacy (perhaps a nod to the site’s scrapped previous project proposal?), there’s nothing set so far, the architects said.
Caffrey wondered about the finish for the areas with exposed concrete – “pretty much a natural sack-and-patch finish,” said Overbay. Caffrey also wondered about lighting features along Fauntleroy; “potentially backlit … halo” style, said Overbay.
PUBLIC COMMENT: There were none, but you can still comment by e-mail – send comments to planner Guillory at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BOARD DELIBERATION: Concerns listed included from Cheng, blank wall and lighting issues on the north side. Loya also had a blank-wall issue on Building B. Rosenstock voiced concerns about street-level interaction on Building A, including the bus stop and live-work entries. Hutchins also voiced concern about “the lack of consideration for what’s going on in the alley between the two buildings” and the adjacent buildings, plus the shared plaza area, and “lack of convictions with regard to the crane (concept) which got diluted and is a little weird now on Building A.” Caffrey also wondered if they’d done enough to reinforce the parti and voiced concern about the live-work interactions on Fauntleroy. He also said there’s a lot more theme consistency since EDG. Cheng added that the crane theme is “very successful.” Caffrey recalled from the EDG meeting how they wanted the crane theme connected to the ground. Hutchins suggested that Building B appeared to have a “strange inversion,” with the entry not where you would think it would be. Caffrey observed that it’s a really difficult site to access, but Hutchins thought there would be a way to “punch up” the access from the east-west alley. “I would prefer to see that be a great alley to hang out in” especially once adjacent sites are built out. “I’m just looking for that to be more of a signified entry because I think that’s the one most people are going to levitate toward.” Loya observed that the color scheme/material placement might need a little tweaking to emphasize the entries; Hutchins said bringing the wood “down to the ground” could indeed help.
Regarding the departures, board members had no major objections toward granting them.
Caffrey noted that the alleys needed to be brought into the street-level-interaction discussion, because West Seattle’s alleys are more and more falling into that category, with people using them without vehicles as well as with them. “Some simple concrete scoring in an alley can do a lot to slow down vehicles,” he observed. Overbay said they hadn’t discussed scoring the alley to the north of Building B – they “weren’t thinking about pedestrians walking along that alley.” Caffrey said some kind of treatment could make a difference. Guillory pointed out that this was more SDOT turf since it’s right-of-way and that the board might be better served just identifying concerns rather than suggesting solutions.
Next they discussed the Fauntleroy face of Building A. No objections were raised. Caffrey said the brick facade at street level is in keeping with a “long tradition,” though others were concerned that it was “watering down” the theme because the brick was only covering one story in the design proposal. Discussion focused on whether the building should have well-defined vertical “fins.”
Loya expressed concern about the “massive” retail space, 10,000 square feet – with just one entry shown – and skepticism that a tenant could be found for something that size. She thought it might end up as three or four spaces.
Cheng suggested that a 30-foot section of blank wall be broken up with some glazing.
Rosenstock again expressed concern about the bus stop area, saying people wouldn’t necessaily want to lean against the building, especially considering it’ll be windows, so maybe seating or something else would be merited.
Regarding entrances to the live-work areas, Caffrey asked for opinions between the proposed options. Option 2 won.
On to the roofs, starting with Building A: Caffrey wondered about its main gathering space being on the east side of the building, toward the single-family neighborhood, though he said that side seemed mostly garage entrances and the like, so that might not be an issue. No other major issues arose.
Everyone was OK with the signage plan, which, it was noted, didn’t include anything like a nearby sign Caffrey gestured to which is a sore spot for some (the big lit-box sign on Junction Flats, visible out the window of the meeting room at the Senior Center/Sisson Building, even through the blinds).
The board voted to let the project clear out design review and Caffrey thanked the architects and developers for “a thoughtful, well presented project.”
WHAT’S NEXT: You can still comment (as noted above) until permits are finalized. We have a followup question out to Legacy Partners regarding when, depending on how the permit process proceeds, they expect to start work on the site.