By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Hugs and handshakes last night from friends and family of Husky Deli proprietor Jack Miller, after the Southwest Design Review Board gave unanimous approval to the project that will be his business’s new home.
It’s not the final step, though, in the permit process for the project, which Miller says could start construction in about a year (depending on how it fares in the city’s infamous backlog).
But it’s an important step. The board had no major critiques in its second and final look at the project, one year after its first. Here’s how it went:
The gallery upstairs at the Senior Center/Sisson Building was full as the meeting began, a now-rare board meeting as city rule changes significantly reduced the types of projects that need this level of review.
City planner Joe Hurley – who took over the project since the first meeting – laid out the process and observed, “Great to see a big crowd out for this interesting project.” Four of the five volunteer board members – chair Crystal Loya, Scott Rosenstock, John Cheng, and recent appointee Alan Grainger (all West Seattle residents) – were present.
PROJECT TEAM/ARCHITECTS’ PRESENTATION: As they had done at the July 2018 review, project partners Ed Hewson and property owner Miller spoke first, both reiterating their deep local ties. Hewson said the project had been three years in the making. Miller told the 87-years-and-counting story of Husky Deli. “The store’s badly in need of remodeling” after 50 years at is current site. “We want to do it right …it’s a very important project to all of us … We want to keep the flavor of Husky. … It’s really going to be a nice project.” Here’s the design packet (or here, on the city website):
The architect, Jenny Chapman of Ankrom Moisan Architecture, is also a West Seattle resident and said she’d been a customer of Husky Deli since 1980. “When I went into architecture, this is the kind of project I dreamed of having.”
73 units, 45 off street parking spaces, ~5,000 square feet of retail are the project’s current stats, and Chapman said “we want to create an amazing retail experience for our primary retail tenant, Husky Deli.”
She mentioned that HALA Mandatory Housing Affordability had upzoned the site to 95’ but the project is staying at the planned 7 stories (two fewer than the new zoning would allow). Her presentation focused on how the architects had responded to feedback from the first review a year ago. She also noted that this is an infill site, meaning the lots north and south of it are likely to be redeveloped someday.
The residential entry facing California has been scaled down and a curved element has been added that will include part of the Husky Deli storefront. The upper levels are being set back so the street focus is on the storefront. The building architects are working with Husky Deli’s space designers. The sidewalk will be at least 13 1/2 feet wide. The seating will all be on the property, not spilling into the right of way, said Chapman, but there will be a walk-up ice-cream counter enabling ice-cream service to continue into the night without requiring the entire store to stay open late. She also showed lighting elements both natural and artificial, from a skylight created by the residential floors’ setback, to a pathway with light from the store helping illuminate it.
The alley will have a better rear entrance for Husky – double door – than the current location.
A second-floor amenity space (whose location was frowned on by the board last year) has been eliminated in favor of an expanded 7th-floor space, but it’s still 500 square feet more than what’s required, Chapma said. She also described the exterior details – a mix of dark and light – all the way down to a brick she said reminded her of “Husky Flake” ice cream. Some of the exterior’s “crisp diagonals” echo the “half-timbering” of Husky’s current facade, she noted.
Landscape architect Karen Kiest said they’ll be adding a street tree, “tons of bike racks” to conform with the city’s changed requirements, and planters. The rooftop amenity area will have planters too. Also at the ground level, Chapman added, the chandeliers and “original Husky (neon) sign” are “coming with us.” One more note – while Husky purple is too “saturated” to make sense, some lavender will be part of the alley-side touches.
BOARD QUESTIONS: This part of the meeting included Grainger – a new SWDRB member – complimenting Chapman on the packet’s excellence. Loya asked Chapman to answer “What makes this a great design?” Reply: “It both honors the spirit of the West Seattle Junction … with a crisp scale and a more modern approach … a simple design but one that is extremely edited, extremely tapered.”
What’s essential to the design? Reply:”Borrowing design cues from (the current) Husky Deli … an interpretation of the spirit of Husky Deli.”
PUBLIC COMMENT/QUESTIONS: Only a few, despite the big turnout. Is Husky occupying the entire 5,000 feet? Miller said there’ll be another tenant for the southern 2,000 square feet.
What about the residences? “Mostly 1 bedrooms, a few studios, one 2-bedroom,” said Chapman. The commenter said that didn’t seem to be likely to result in a diversity of residents. The reply explained that the site was not so big: “It’s a layout-of-the-building (issue), that’s how it worked out.” How many of the 45 parking spaces are committed to retail? “None.” Loya reiterated that parking is not under the board’s control. Planner Hurley said the project is code-compliant.
Since the zoning has changed, why not add another story? The architects explained that one more story would affect the way the building had to be built.
Local business owner John – a few blocks south – said “thank you” anticipating his employees will be walking up to have lunch.
Former Design Review Board member Deb Barker noted the project is deviating from the Junction’s two-story-base design guidelines, by presenting a one-story base. She encouraged them to keep th alley garage door “as pedestrian-friendly as possible.” She also urged application of CPTED principles. But she said she’s disappointed in the top of the building and would have liked to see cornices – as designed, in her view, it’s “vanilla, bland … does no service to the building, owners, product …” She also encouraged adding larger residential units.
Architect and new West Seattle resident Jess Zimbabwe said it’s a great project and commnds “what it contributes to the urban pattern.”
Neighbor John, who lives across the alley from the project, asked about garbage/recycling.”It will all be inside, staged on the alley on pickup days,” replied Chapman. What about privacy? “There’s 49 feet between the buildings,” she replied. “We studied the relationship between these buildings very carefully.”
DELIBERATIONS: First it was noted the city was recording audio of the meeting – as of just a few months ago. (We’ve been covering SWDRB meetings for 12 years and that’s a first!). No major criticisms arose in the first time around the table; Rosenstock acknowledged the unit-size-mix concerns are valid but not really in the board’s purview. The board disagreed with the public comment that the top of the building was too bland. They discussed the color mix a bit; they’re recommending a “more graphic treatment” on the building’s back side. Cheng and Loya voiced concerns about “quite a lot of layers” happening in the trim that will be visible to pedestrians; Grainger thought they would be concentrating more on the canopy. He also observed that the brick is being used more like “tile” – so a majority of board members voiced support for using brick “above the canopy (along California)” too – “more unified materials for the whole base,” as Loya summarized.
Other points of discussion: Signage – should Husky have two blade signs? “That doesn’t bother me,” Loya said. Miller noted from the gallery that they also could consider gold-leaf window signage such as the current shop has. … The walk-up ice-cream window and street furniture – maybe that area should be furniture-free so that there’s room for people to line up? Miller clarified that the outside window wouldn’t open until late at night – maybe even starting at 10 pm, running into the wee hours. The SWDRB recommended that the architects review the space allotted for queueing. … For the mural on the south side of the building, they liked the black-and-white-photo-inspired rendering. On the back side, they feel the envisioned color scheme needs some work. “A more creative way to integrate color” into that side, is how they summarized it. … They support the material palette as proposed. … Overall, no significant point of contention emerged, and they unanimously approved advancing the plan out of the design-review process.
IF YOU HAVE COMMENTS … on the design or any other aspect of the project, you can email them to planner Hurley at firstname.lastname@example.org, who will continue to work with the project team, including preparing the final report on this decision.
PROJECT TIMETABLE: We spoke briefly with Miller after the meeting. Construction could start in a year if all the permits are in hand. It will likely take about two years, so you can expect at least three more years in the current location for Husky Deli. Miller says he hopes to plan a fun way to move – he imagines some of the store’s components moving down the block in a community chain of shopping carts. But there’s lots of time to plan.