By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
It was a Southwest Design Review Board meeting unlike most.
This one spotlighted the proposed mixed-use project’s future commercial anchor, whose proprietor is the property’s owner: Pre-meeting, a time-lapse clip of customers inside Husky Deli – whose next home will be inside the planned building at 4747 California Avenue SW – played continuously on the big screen.
The board and attendees heard a quick history of the iconic deli from proprietor-turning-developer Jack Miller. And even the lead architect shared a few memories.
But the business of project review got done too – and without much controversy or critiquing, the four board members voted to send it to the second phase of Design Review. Crystal Loya chaired the meeting; other members present were John Cheng, Scott Rosenstock, and Matt Hutchins, plus the designated city planner for the project, Allison Whitworth.
Here’s how things went:
ARCHITECTS’ PRESENTATION: Jenny Chapman with Ankrom Moisan Architects opened by saying Husky Deli is where she – and her two daughters – had their first ice-cream cones. Miller then stood up to offer Husky Deli history – did you know they didn’t start making sandwiches until the ’90s? – “The Junction has changed more in the past six years than it did in the first 80” of Husky Deli, he noted. The current home of his business is “tired” so it’s “time for a change,” he said. “We’re going to put a building together we’re going to be proud of.”
His business partner in the development, Ed Hewson, pointed out that he too is a West Seattleite who also had his first ice-cream cone at Husky Deli. He also is an apartment developer and has built (mostly in North Seattle) for some time now. “I didn’t want to do a project in my own neighborhood unless it was a great one,” Hewson said.
Then it was back to architect Chapman, who said a key goal is to create an “anchor” to draw retail energy further south on California Avenue SW. Colleague Katie McGough noted that the site is in “the heart of West Seattle” and also pointed out that HALA MHA upzoning would rezone their site to 95′ (it’s 85′ max now). She noted the mural on the site and promised they had ideas for how to “replace” it. She discussed a lot of other context for the site, which you can see in the packet.
Chapman presented the three massing options – at this phase of Design Review, it’s required to show at least three, though the project team usually identifies one as its “preferred” scheme. Theirs in this case would have 74 apartments, 54 offstreet-parking spaces, and a “strong one-story base” with the top six stories set back. None of the proposed massing schemes would require zoning “departures” (exceptions). (See the packet for all three possibilities.)
The city-blessed West Seattle Design Guidelines call for a 2-story base, Chapman said, which option #2 would deliver, but they don’t feel that’s right for their project/site.
About the preferred option, there would be a residential entry on California on the north edge of the property. The residential property over the commercial space would be set back 10 feet. The “entry court” would include more retail frontage. In the residential space, they’re maximizing window possibilities, even where it’s not required.
Though this is not the phase in which materials are usually discussed, they hope to take the inspiration from Husky Deli’s spirit, including some wood elements, Chapman said, adding that unlike most mixed-use project, “retail design is really driving this project.” The project also would have two terraces for residents, including one that would take advantage of westward views.
It was a friendly crowd – the end of the architects’ presentation brought applause, which also is not a regular feature of meetings like these.
BOARD QUESTIONS: Hutchins asked a question about material similarities between base and top levels of the building. Chapman said a goal is to “let the retail shine” and they will work on “vertical integration” to make sure of that. Rosenstock wondered about the alley side, which didn’t get much mention. Chapman mentioned that they plan to keep the Junction tradition of alley entrances. There also are a lot of utilities on that side, she noted. Cheng asked about more storefront detail; Chapman noted that it will be broken into three bays, but there are lots of details yet to be worked out as design continues. Loya asked about the “festival street” terminology the architects had used for California SW, and it was clarified that’s not a formal designation, just a description given all the events that are held in the street. Next question: Are they pursuing that extra height HALA would bring? Hewson said, “We’re sort of ignoring (it)” in part since the City Council review process is “not moving very fast.” Rosenstock wondered about the trees shown in the renderings. Existing street trees, said Chapman. Next question: What about the roof? There’s a dog run envisioned, “a really minimal space” – but otherwise amenities are a bit further down. Loya asked about the mural’s future – “initial conversation is to replace it in the current site” on the new building, said Chapman.
PUBLIC COMMENT: Javier – who identified himself as a West Seattle resident, Husky Deli customer, and architect – said he lives at semi-new 4730 California across the street, and urged this project’s team to visit its roof deck and see what an amazing amenity it is. Bob, another local resident, asked about parking spaces – up to 54, per plans, was the reply. “How many parking places (in local buildings) are used on a daily basis?” He said he wonders about the alley, since it’s so busy. Hewson replied that, as a developer, “we don’t want to lose one potential tenant because they had a car we couldn’t accommodate in the building. … We found that the magic number is something like .6 per tenant,” so they think they’re proposing maybe a few more than they’ll ultimately need. “If we thought we needed more, we’d go down another half a floor.” Next, Shanna said she really likes thoughtful development and is “throwing my support behind how this is being done.” Then Dave, another Junction resident who said he lives across the alley from this site, congratulated Miller on the “very exciting” development before voicing a concern about the alley not becoming too congested since residents have medical reasons to need to get in and out. Mike said he and his family are Arbor Heights residents and Husky Deli customers. He thanked the design group “for putting parking in.”
Then Deb Barker, former Design Review Board chair and retired professional land-use planner, offered comments: She was glad to see the three massing options really do differ, though she noted “it’s a challenge” that the preferred scheme, as noted, is at odds with the West Seattle guidelines. She supports that scheme but “I hope you realize it’s precedent-setting.” She also encouraged “extensive use of brick to strengthen this building’s connection to existing buildings in The Junction.” She also wanted to be sure that the board and project team are aware of the mural’s history and will involve many in vetting its future. And she encouraged seating and balconies, as well as a ‘strong rear entry” for the building. She was followed by Amanda, a Junction resident, who said her “big request” is to “really think about sidewalk use, green(ery), how the public uses Husky Deli.” And she also added her thanks for inclusion of parking.
Planner Whitworth said one written comment was received, also from an across-the-alley resident, voicing hope that alley access and usage will get consideration.
BOARD DELIBERATIONS: The preferred massing alternative got general support. About the break with WS design guidelines – a one-story base rather than two – Loya noted that she appreciated the point that it would be a site-by-site decision. Rosenstock said he supported it but it was not something to be considered lightly. Hutchins pointed out that the modulation of balconies and other features on the retail level would be vital with this option, to keep the residential portion from being just a “big box.” They also discussed the importance of encouraging as much streetfront activation as possible, especially given how Husky Deli customers interact with the sidewalk and storefront even in their current location. Hutchins also noted the importance of the street trees. Loya made a note to ask the architects to offer options for street landscaping. Regarding the alley, the project team’s concern for access and safety was lauded. Back to the difference between the retail base and residential levels, Loya suggested there should be a strong contrast in the materials. They went through the checklist of the many things the architects should consider as they move ahead with design.
Then, the summary of key points:
-Supporting preferred option 3
-Encouraging deeper balconies in upper levels
-Supporting 1-level base if a great difference in materials from the top floors
-Would like to see streetscape/landscape studies with options, including how it relates to retail entry
-Supporting more retail spillout on street level
-Materials appropriate to neighborhood and of high quality
-Mural on southeast wall
-Want to see views from back of building
-Want to see how indoor/outdoor relationship with amenities would work
And with that, the project gets to move to the second and final phase of Design Review – it’ll be up to the city and project team to agree on a date for the next meeting. It ended so smoothly and dissent-free that someone in the back was heard to say, “That’s it?”
It is, until the TBD next meeting. Meantime, you can send comments to email@example.com.